Viewpoint—Running against history: Tories flop in 21st century

By Daniel Velarde

Look at an electoral map of Ontario and you will spot the Blue Beast right away. Misshapen, starving, and marked all over with open, bleeding sores: Toronto, a huge, gaping wound, Ottawa, an ulcer.

The Progressive Conservative Party bled to death.

Dalton McGuinty can beam all he wants and imagine himself in a province packed with red-hot liberals. Let him enjoy his giant sham.

Ontarians re-elected a pack of mediocrities with no result but to confirm their gross disdain for provincial politics.

Nothing can be more foolish than to suppose that this month’s sweeping victory is the fruit of public enthusiasm for liberal ideas or liberal government. Everything about McGuinty and Tory was vague, shapeless, and carefully inoffensive.

The general election proved one thing only. Without a revolution to mobilize them, without a scandal to shock them, without a chief to inspire them, without war, famine, or plague, urban Ontario will always vote Liberal. Force of habit.

Who will remember this year’s campaign a month from now, apart from gushing party insiders? Was anything that was said new to us, or a surprise to anyone?

Not really, apart from a scheme to fund religious schools. It was a risky ploy, and it gave McGuinty his chance. Seven days later, the walls of Jericho came crashing down.

After his about-face on the schools project, Tory was just a slightly rounder Dalton McGuinty. And you can’t out-liberal the Liberals.

Tory approached the faithful, hands full of gold. He got nailed to a cross.

How ill party politics have become, how peculiarly atrophied the province’s democracy, when the Government of Ontario, the public trust and the public treasure, can be seized on one trivial election issue.

Is Ontario still so mighty, have the last four years been so glorious, that it can afford this voter-assisted coup-d’état? The rust belt still rusts, stretching from Windsor to Mississauga, where the auto industry runs to ruin. In its agony, it again turns to McGuinty. Will he help them? Cities, still under-funded and overburdened, are sweating hard. Queen’s Park shifted too much onto their shoulders. Caledonia is burning.

Say what you will about Bob Rae, Mike Harris, and Ernie Eves. They had no army of dupes ready to turn in a ballot on command.

McGuinty should declare himself Caesar and be done with it. Save us the millions on coronations every four years.

The election was a re-enactment of 2003. The names may change, but the age-old fault lines haven’t budged. Small-town country folk still vote Tory, shaking their fists jealously at those impregnable Whig bastions, the great urban centres.

Tory clung to his party’s rural heartland across central Ontario. But in Toronto, Ottawa, Mississauga, Hamilton, not a Tory in sight. Up north, the trade unions and First Nations upheld their ancestral loyalty to the NDP.

In Ottawa, the Liberals just barely squeezed the NDP out of the city and shoved the Tories out to the hinterlands. Yasir Naqvi carried Ottawa Centre against all odds. Maybe he struck a new alliance with the Italian community, the Liberals’ foot soldiers.

Not a bad idea. They are well on their way to carving out a Liberal fiefdom in Ottawa West-Nepean, where Jim Watson slew Mike Patton.

In the end, history was on McGuinty’s side. The last of Ottawa’s old, conservative war veteran families, Red Ensigns still waving above their lawns, are selling their matchbox homes and moving away.

The men who stormed Ortona disappear as men from Ortona move onto their lots, bulldoze their houses, and build replica Tuscan manors: Liberal citadels.

Benvenuto, dolce vita.