Credits: Dave ThomasToronto Sun/QMI Agency
TORONTO - In politics timing is everything.
Pulling the plug on parliament, triggering an election, is a delicate manoeuvre, and one politicians must get right — or face the wrath of voters.
In 1990, Liberal premier David Peterson did just that by calling a snap election.
It backfired — and Peterson went from hero to zero — and then-New Democratic Party leader Bob Rae became premier.
In 2002, when Ernie Eves took over the leadership of the PC party from Mike Harris, he hesitated before going to the polls.
In hindsight, that was a mistake. Eves struggled through 2003, a year when the province was beset by the SARS outbreak that killed 44 people.
As if that weren’t bad enough, most of the province was shut down for several days by a massive power black-out.
In October 2003, Dalton McGuinty easily defeated the Tories — and Eves was history.
So should Premier Kathleen Wynne hang in — or should she go to the polls and get her own mandate?
The question is equally tough for the Opposition parties— especially New Democratic leader Andrea Horwath.
Should she prop up the new premier? If so, for how long?
After last week’s release of more documents related to the controversial cancellation of the Mississauga and Oakville gas-fired plants, it will become harder for Horwath to do that.
“When people say your time’s up, your time’s up,” NDP strategist Elliott Anderson told me last week.
“We’re not looking at it as precipitating an election, but can we continue to get things done in this minority legislature?” he asked.
“I don’t think people want to keep this government in power for the sake of keeping them in power.”
Even last spring, when NDP support of the Liberal budget kept the Grits in power, there were some who felt it was time for an election.
Anderson said as long as the party is seen as getting things done and making constructive gains, they’ll continue to support the Liberals.
“Not just people in our party but people who are considering supporting us want to see that we managed to get something done, and they can say that was a worthwhile thing to get done,” he said. “If we don’t pass that test, then they’re going to say you guys are just keeping these guys in office for no reason.”
Key Liberal strategist Greg Sorbara says the legislation the Liberals passed creating fixed election dates means the governing party can’t precipitate an election.
“I don’t believe, given the law we have passed, that the government any more has that flexibility. I think it’s at the mercy of the Legislature,” he said in a telephone interview.
“As I remember the legislation, it does not exempt the government from the fixed election date in the event of a minority,” he said.
While the NDP and Liberals pay lip service to working together to make minority government work, the reality is that there’s a growing appetite for change among some voters.
And that, conveniently, pushes the responsibility for pulling the plug on parliament on the two opposition parties — which can be risky for them.
Usually, there’s little appetite for another election so soon after the last one.
This time, things are different.
Since the October 2011 vote, we’ve discovered the scope of the Ornge air ambulance scandal. As well, the ongoing gas plant fiasco is enraging voters, who understand that the cancellation of those plants in the middle of an election was a costly, cynical ploy to buy votes in the middle of an election.
“If all of your readers really want an election, they should be writing their Conservative and NDP legislators to say “vote these bastards out’ and maybe they will do it, maybe they won’t,” Sorbara told me.
PC Party president Richard Ciano says there are two forks in a road to an election.
“If the public perceive that you are triggering an election just out of opportunism or self-interest they will punish that,” he told me in an interview.
“If they perceive that you’re triggering an election out of real concern about the direction of the government and the province, then they will view that much better,” he said.
He said the province needs a change in direction.
If she (Wynne) is comfortable, as she seems to be coming out the blocks, continuing the legacy of her predecessor, that’s her decision to make. That seems to be the way she’s going — just continuing with Dalton McGuinty’s policies as opposed to going to people and seeking a mandate and chosing a new direction we think is necessary for the province.
“That’s a mistake in my view,” he said.
Horwath is making an even bigger mistake by supporting Wynne, he said.
“I don’t understand why the NDP want to support her in continuing with Dalton McGuinty’s policies.
“I find that quite astonishing.”