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PostPosted: Tue Mar 28, 2017 8:36 am
 


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How Kathleen Wynne's Liberals can save their own skin: Cohn

If Liberals are losing the battle of endearment, they can set the terms of engagement — with policy over personality.

By MARTIN REGG COHN
Ontario Politics Columnist
Mon., March 27, 2017

How does Kathleen Wynne overcome her dismal popularity ratings?

There’s no good answer, but here’s a better question: With or without Wynne, how do Liberals compete in the next election?

Recurring speculation about the premier’s fate misses the mark. There is no saviour waiting in the wings, or walking on wings, capable of jettisoning all the excess baggage from nearly 14 years of Liberal rule.

Image is highly overrated in Ontario politics. Few people have any idea who now helms the opposition Progressive Conservatives (hint — Patrick Brown) or New Democrats (still — Andrea Horwath), yet both are flying high, personally, in the polls.

Their ratings may prove ephemeral, yet the opposition seems content to coast on negative public perceptions of the premier’s personality and Liberal criminality. That’s precisely how they lost the 2014 campaign — damning Wynne as the devil incarnate, yet inchoate or inconsistent in their own ideas.

If Liberals are losing the battle of endearment, they can at least set the terms of engagement. The challenge is to focus on policy over personality, ideology over popularity.

In 2014 they campaigned hard on a new public pension plan, targeting fears about retirement security at a time of rising economic uncertainty and corporate insolvency. It proved popular on the campaign trail and ultimately drove major reforms to the Canada Pension Plan.

That same impetus for government activism at a time of private sector paralysis can reposition the Liberals as a party of ideas in the run up to next year’s provincial campaign. Starting in next month’s budget.

While the federal Liberals produced a stand-pat budget last week, expect the provincial government to come out with a more substantive document later next month. It will foreshadow major policy thrusts to stake out a reform agenda for the 2018 campaign.

It will go far beyond the recent mantra of affordability that drove the premier’s repentance on road tolls and hydro rates. The government’s goal in both cases was to address pocketbook concerns — or at least dial down the volume — so that the rest of their agenda can get a hearing.

The Liberals aren’t counting on affordability to generate lovability, but they are keen to avoid the kind of American alienation that helped elect Donald Trump president. So far, their promised 25 per cent cut to hydro rates has dramatically reduced the static, clearing the decks for next steps.

Affordability is the flip side of uncertainty. In a precarious economy, where few young workers can count on jobs for life, what role can government play in addressing people’s future prospects and present-day problems?

As the government weighs a just-completed report on the workplace, expect the Liberals to recognize the challenges of eroding wages — and the decline of private sector unions that has accompanied it. Employment standards and union organizing rights in the new (and disrupted) economy will be key.

How can low-wage workers who bounce from job to job, lacking any company benefits plan, afford to buy their own medicines? The government’s study of a minimum annual income has attracted little attention, but could prove to be a winner if it is recast as a necessary response to the unpredictability of unemployment.

In the months ahead, the government will talk up its promise of free tuition for lower income families, which was phased in slowly and remains below the radar. And it is hinting at expanded rent controls later this spring to round out its affordability agenda.

This will be the first provincial budget to be balanced in nearly a decade. Ever since the 2008 economic crisis forced the Liberals to give up on annual surpluses, they have been tracking toward deficit elimination — incurring the wrath of public sector unions as they froze wages for years.

A balanced budget will be cast not as a fiscal end, but as a foundation to shore up social supports. A robust economic recovery has left much of the province behind, especially outside the big cities, but it has left the government flush with tax revenues.

The Liberals aren’t alone in going back to basics on policies. To their credit, the third-place NDP has rediscovered the merits of a higher minimum wage, public ownership of hydro, and rent controls as an urban vote-getter.

By contrast, the Tories have so far steered clear of major policy pronouncements. A promised hydro plan hasn’t materialized, and a planned policy conference has been deferred to November.

As long as Brown remains a political unknown, we can’t know how voters will react to his (so far) invisible personality — or lack of policy. He reaches out tirelessly to new groups of people, but the suspicion remains that he will try to be all things to all people.

Even if Wynne can’t make a miraculous comeback in her personal popularity, her party can at least bounce back with a public policy agenda. Ahead of the next election, expect the Liberals to contrast their emerging ideas with the submerging platform of the PC leader.

Or in political terms: a full policy suite versus an empty suit.


Martin Regg Cohn’s political column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. mcohn@thestar.ca , Twitter: @reggcohn


https://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark ... -cohn.html


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 28, 2017 8:48 am
 


If the Liberals do come up with a plan it will be too late. They have been in power too long and shot their bolt.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 28, 2017 9:00 am
 


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Last edited by Lemmy on Fri Apr 28, 2017 10:51 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 28, 2017 10:45 am
 


The liberals have been buying votes for years. This hydro announcement is just a continuation of the theme while pretending to listen and care about the needs of the province


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 28, 2017 10:59 am
 


%


Last edited by Lemmy on Fri Apr 28, 2017 10:51 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 28, 2017 2:16 pm
 


Lol didn't say that. I have worked hard to keep our consumption down but even watching it our bill still goes up. I was almost even with equal billing last year like 20 bucks out. My equal billing is 12 bucks a month more that just pisses me off and reminds me that resistance is futile

I don't trust the liberals and don't think they really give a flying fuck about anything but getting back in. The timeing makes me think they are trying to buy votes. I will take the reduction but will not vote liberal. Won't vote ndp either. So if the conservatives don't come up with anything I will spoil the ballot or vote for an independent.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2017 5:09 am
 


$


Last edited by Lemmy on Fri Apr 28, 2017 10:51 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 15, 2017 1:08 am
 


I really have no interest in politics but from this post it is started to build. Thanks for such an amazing post.


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