Friday, October 07, 2011

The Fall and Rise of Dalton McGuinty

If I told you a few months ago there would be a picture of Dalton McGuinty waving on newspaper front pages October 7th, you'd have assumed it would be on the Sun, directly below a "GOODBYE! GOOD RIDDANCE!" headline .

After all, when the unofficial campaign kicked off this spring, McGuinty was 10 or 15 points down. You couldn't turn on the TV without seeing a PC "Taxman" commercial. Over a dozen MPPs saw the way the wind was blowing and decided against running for re-election. Opportunists viewed a Tory nomination as the easiest way to power.

Yet Dalton McGuinty earned a rare third term last night. How the hell did this happen?

The first, and perhaps most important, decision of his campaign team was to highlight the Liberal record. Rather than going neg in response to the taxman ads, the Liberals ran a series of crisp and clean commercials featuring nothing but Dalton McGuinty talking about his record. The ad started with McGuinty sheepishly admitting he wasn't the most popular guy in Canada, before making the case for re-election. The supporting arguments were easy to understand and were backed up with facts and figures.

The Liberals carried this largely positive tone into the fall. Important, considering the grumpy nature of the electorate and the dynamics of a three-party race - simply hitting Hudak over the head day in and out would have left Andrea Horwath free to pick up the pieces. By selling McGuinty, the Liberals were better able to capitalize on Hudak's missteps.

And misstep he did. I'm not talking about the "foreign workers" slip, the homophobic pamphlet, or Cheryl Miller's unfortunate case of honesty. Hudak's biggest mistake was his campaign message, which could be summed up in four words - "taxes bad, McGuinty bad". Yes, no one likes taxes. Yes, many agree McGuinty is the taxman. But Hudak wasn't promising to remove the HST and McGuinty wasn't promising to increase it. Sure, Hudak's platform contained a few tax cuts in it, but he didn't talk much about them and never really explained how he'd balance the books. Hudak's campaign was curiously silent on all other issues - except for the all-important issue of BBQ abilities.

The Liberal campaign was equally focused and on message, but was cooking with more ingredients. They played to the Liberal strengths of Health Care and education, while promising new jobs. Their platform was more modest than their opponents', so when the markets began to teeter, they were able to quickly pivot to the same "experienced leadership in uncertain times" pitch Stephen Harper rode to victory this spring. Let's all say it together now - we need a strong, stable, Conservative Liberal government!

Now, I don't want to oversell this - after all, the Liberal vote fell 5 percentage points, and they lost 17 seats. They barely got more votes than the Conservatives. It was a humbling result.

But McGuinty still won. He won by talking about issues that mattered to voters, and made a convincing case for why he deserved re-election. Tim Hudak talked a lot about about McGuinty's shortcomings and talked a lot about "change" - but never articulated what it was he would change.

So while the end result may be a bit of a surprise, it shouldn't be. The Liberals made a better case for why they should be in power than the PCs, and won. It's as simple as that.

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  • Re: record
    Honestly, I feel like I read more news than almost any of my friends, yet I knew next-to-absolutely-nothing about his environmental record... now I think he's pretty a-okay and I give him more credit - at least he's got some ambition I didn't see before.

    I agree McG had (by far) the best campaign... even if he wasn't an incumbent with a Green Energy Act I might've preferred him. Hudak was an epic fail and lost a perfect opportunity to seize power. Negative bitching with no single idea, total turn-off to immigrants and people who are concerned about immigrants, not to mention queer people and voters who are concerned about them. Hudak's campaign was pathetically slim on substance; he deserved to lose.

    Looks like McG will get his no-coal-by-2014 wish; if the economy turns around internationally, he may get a 4th term.

    By Anonymous Jacques Beau Verte, at 5:21 p.m.  

  • "Facts"?

    Are you kidding?

    CIHI issued a report on wait times in Canada which showed McGuinty's claim to be false, and yet the media, with the likes of highly-paid Liberal war-room manager Warren Kinsella among their midst, refused to challenge him on it.

    Of course, McGuinty could afford to "stay positive" as well, since the so-called "Working Families Coalition" had promised his buddies that they would spend about twice as much as any of the Political Parties were allowed to spend, all with the sole purpose of attacking Tim Hudak.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:19 p.m.  

  • CIHI issued a report on wait times in Canada which showed McGuinty's claim to be false

    Are you talking about this report?

    Ontario -- first in hip and knee replacements and cardiac bypass surgery.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:18 p.m.  

  • As for McGuinty's environmental record, his government has been strongly committed to closing the Nanticoke coal plant... for 8 years. The plant was supposed to be decommissioned in 2009.

    There has been a host of subsidies and feed-in tariffs for wind energy. However, the role of wind in Ontario's energy mix remains small. Ontario's energy needs run at about 33,0000 MW, whereas wind farms can produce 1300 - in theory. But in practice they usually operate below capacity (for instance, Ontario's wind farms are producing only 638 MW at the moment).

    If Ontario had a sensible energy plan (like building another nuclear plant), we could have closed Nanticoke a long time ago, without raising electricity prices. Instead, we are adding new generating capacity at a rate far too slow to meet Ontario's impending energy shortage.

    About 80% of our energy infrastructure is old and likely to be decommissioned - if we built nothing we'd have about a 30,000 MW supply gap by 2025. But instead of refurbishing, and adding cheaper green sources of energy (like nuclear power, or new hydro projects), we are adding expensive wind plants, which will raise energy costs, are unreliable (because wind varies across time), and probably insufficient to meet Ontario's energy needs (which, in practice, means we'll be importing electricity produced by coal-plants elsewhere).

    By Anonymous hosertohoosier, at 6:22 a.m.  

  • Hoser2Hoosier,

    I'm always impressed by your knowledge and I wish I knew how you maintained it...

    I'm not challenging you (I accept what you say), but I'd like to know how you know these things. What do you read to have this kind of knowledge always at your fingertips?

    I've read (slighter) criticism of the Green Energy Act, nothing as substantial as yours. Personally, I feel we're strong enough in vital areas such as security and wealth that I can vote with an environmental bent. Accepting all you say, I still don't regret voting for McG's candidate... Hudak and Horwath don't measure up environmentally. Still, I routinely wish I were better informed.

    By Anonymous Jacques Beau Verte, at 11:05 a.m.  

  • If Ontario had a sensible energy plan (like building another nuclear plant), we could have closed Nanticoke a long time ago, without raising electricity prices.....
    But instead of refurbishing, and adding cheaper green sources of energy (like nuclear power, or new hydro projects)...

    Nuclear's not cheap. It can take anywhere from and optimistic $4-9 billion (US dollars) to a more realistic $6-$12 billion to a pessimistic $26 billion.

    Part of the hydro debt charge that Hudak was planning to drop, well that's from "stranded debt from the old Ontario Hydro's nuclear program."

    And they take years to build. Shortest is 3.5, but there are quotes of 7-12. With people fighting windmills and gas power plants, expect a long and fierce battle on any nuclear plant built within 100 miles of anything.

    So, cheap and fast is out when it comes to nuclear.

    Nanticoke 's still operational, but four of its eight generators are down. Half-way there, half-way to go

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:23 p.m.  

  • @11:18, if you cite a report you should verify that it says what you claim: the report says that Ontario is third in Cardiac Bypass surgery (fourth by median). Not first.

    And the suggestion has been made that doctors have been told to only "start the clock" on hip surgeries after the patient has been scheduled for surgery, not when the determination has been made that the surgery is required - which is often many months earlier.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:34 p.m.  

  • "Ontario's energy needs run at about 33,0000 MW,"

    Hmm. Interesting stat. But incorrect.

    Ontario's (summer) peak energy demand in 2011 was 27,005 MW, recorded on Aug 1, slightly above the outlook demand forecast of 26,073 MW. (Winter peak demand is estimated approx 3000 MW lower than summer peak, according to the IESO, and summer 2012 peak is estimated slightly lower than the summer 2011 peak, despite increasing populations.)

    And @1:23, while "Nuclear's not cheap", it's certainly a whole lot cheaper than wind or solar. The problem with the stranded debt was built over decades, and arose because nuclear was priced below cost. Now, we're pricing solar and wind below cost and you're saying this is a good thing?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:44 p.m.  

  • McGuinty is spending billions of our tax dollars on a deal with Samsung for windmills.

    We should all learn from the experience in the US and in Europe, including Ireland:

    Because of the secondary effects of windmills, they result in an INCREASE in CO2 emissions.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:32 p.m.  

  • The annual peak may be 27,000 MW, but you have to produce more than that, because the energy grid is not perfect - lots of electricity gets lost in transit. The 33,000 figure was from this report: (

    And yes nuclear power has high construction costs, and will take a while to produce. However it is a far better zero-C02 workhorse than solar or wind because it is reliable. Making the energy mix reliant on a variable (the amount of wind and sun we get) is a recipe for either rolling blackouts, or expensive energy imports from coal burning America.

    For instance, wind farms were producing 628 MW during my last post. As of 6:09 Sunday, they're producing 40 (, out of a capacity of 1300.

    What is more, most of the assumptions for solar plants and wind farms are based on the fallacy of a favourable site. The more wind farms we build, the fewer favourable sites will be available - reducing the average yield on each additional farm.

    As for finding information, the quickest way is to search for likely chart headings in google image search, and then to go to the more reputable sites you find. Eventually you remember places that are good general sources, like the public accounts websites of various governments. It doesn't hurt that I enjoy finding data, especially when it forces me to update my mental model of how the world works.

    By Anonymous hosertohoosier, at 6:13 p.m.  

  • I like to update my mental model as much as anyone I know; still, your information skillz drive me mad (with envy).

    I tend to look at news-ish sites rather google... seems obvious once you say it; thanks for the recommendation.

    By Anonymous Jacques Beau Verte, at 12:25 p.m.  

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    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:51 a.m.  

  • The way things are going in the NDP race, it's shaping up to be exciting (moreso than the one Layton won).

    The Liberal race is sort of, well, "boring" (right now).

    Really wonder if the media attention the orange team will obviously garner in this contest will further plant the NDP as "the progressive party" in the public's mind, and further relegate the red team to "third party, nice to have you in Parliament to help out".

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