With just four months to go before the provincial election on June 7, the campaigning has already begun. The Ontario PCs are dealing with a meltdown at the highest levels of their party, with both the party Leader and President forced to resign after accusations of sexual misconduct. Then they were hit by the revelation that about a third of the party’s membership list was fraudulent, requiring about 62,000 names to be struck off and candidate nominations in two or three ridings to be reopened as a result.
Rather incredibly, this has not been the fatal blow that many Liberals in Ontario might have been hoping for, and expecting. Instead, PC support seems to be holding and local MPPs are out and about pointing fingers at the current Government in an attempt to change the focus of voters back to the long and less than distinguished record of Kathleen Wynne and her predecessor, Dalton McGuinty.
Leeds-Grenville MPP Steve Clark and Ontario PC Labour Critic MPP John Yakabuski (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke) were on the road touring the riding last week and emphasising the lack of confidence that business has in Liberal policies.
“We heard loud and clear from small businesses and industries here in Leeds-Grenville that they are suffering as a result of soaring hydro rates, growing red tape and rushed changes to labour policies,” said Steve Clark during his trip. “These are the people who create jobs and bring investment to our communities. It’s time they had a government that listened to their concerns, rather than telling them to go out of business if they don’t like what’s happening.”
One of their targets was the recent rise in the minimum wage and other business related issues covered in government legislation. The latest statistics on job losses in the Province seems to support their contention that large numbers of part-time jobs have been lost as a result of the minimum wage hike. Other workers, who have not been laid off, have nevertheless lost some benefits, been forced to take on extra costs, such as buying their own uniforms, and even having to hand over their tips in restaurants to their bosses.
To make matters worse for the Liberals, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce also released statistics showing that only 23% of businesses in the province are confident in Ontario’s economy. The confidence index is less than half of what it was in 2012. Three-quarters of those contacted by the Chamber put the blame squarely on the economic policies of the Wynne government. Fairly damning and a worrying sign for the ruling party in the upcoming election.
But the Liberals are fighting back. The minimum wage raise was meant to be part of that response, and we can expect to hear about other gifts to the voters being revealed in the coming few months. One of these is likely to be directed at voters in North Grenville, with the long-awaited announcement on the future of Kemptville College. Having successfully dragged the Municipality along in protracted talks for the past three years, it is – surprise, surprise! – about to let voters here know how much of the College lands and buildings they are prepared to let us have, and at what price.
There is some concern within Liberal ranks in this riding about running a candidate against Steve Clark this time. No matter what party you support, it is hard to deny that Steve has been a good representative for Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes. He appears to have an unassailable position coming into June’s election. Hence the Liberal conundrum about which sacrificial lamb to nominate. But perhaps there is room for an upset here? After all, Gord Brown may have won the federal election in 2014 in spite of the Trudeau victory, but his majority was greatly reduced from previous contests, and that was a surprise.
Either way, this is going to be a fascinating election province-wide, and we have a municipal election to look forward to after that. What a great year for political junkies!