Kathleen Wynne shocked Ontarians last weekend by admitting a blunt truth; after Thursday, the day this column is published in the paper, she will no longer be premier of the province.
It was an unusual move. Certainly it’s customary for any political leader, no matter how badly they think they might get trounced, to head into an election with war drums beating.
It was an unusual move, but a smart and strategic one. It accomplishes a few things.
First, for some it will make it safe to vote Liberal again. It is clear that most Ontarians want a change in government. However, what we are facing in this election is a pretty stark choice between the left of an NDP government and the hard-right of a Doug Ford-led PC government. By acknowledging her party is not going to win, Wynne is allowing voters who may be uncomfortable with both leftist and right-wing ideologies to still cast a centrist vote.
Wynne’s admission also sort of takes an arrow out of the quiver of Doug Ford. Ford’s modus operandi throughout the campaign has mostly been to attack the premier. By admitting she’s going to lose, Wynne has somewhat neutralized his ability to do this, and Ford has been largely silent regarding her shocking announcement.
If some polls are correct, the Liberals could do so poorly in this election that they could potentially lose official party status in the province. They need to keep at least eight seats to retain status. The point now is simply to hold on to as many seats as possible. Wynne’s approval ratings have been low for a long time, and by admitting she’s not going to win, she’s essentially throwing herself overboard, trying to prevent the red ship from sinking.
The strategy is a better one than the sorry, not sorry thing the party was doing between the last televised debate and last weekend, where the premier was essentially saying she would not apologize for the province’s low unemployment rate, the heightened minimum wage, free tuition for low-income students, or other accomplishments of the current government. Coming from the leader of a party that’s been in power 15 years, it came off as maternalistic. It was the wrong tone. An editorial cartoon in the Toronto Star depicted Wynne alongside a piece of broccoli and an enema, the caption reading something along the lines of, “You may not like us, but we’re good for you.”
While it may seem counterintuitive and while it may be disappointing to some, the resigned, defeated tone that Wynne has struck in the days before the election will probably actually yield the best possible outcome for the Liberals.
Since this column is published Thursday, the election will be over by the time some of you are reading this. We’ll know how that strategy has worked out, and we’ll know who the next premier of Ontario will be.
At this point, the only safe prediction is the one that Wynne has made herself; it won’t be her.