The Daily Exchange: It's time for the voters to speak
For Ontarians who have not yet voted (and tens of thousands already have cast ballots) tomorrow is election day.
Pollsters are making all sorts of projections, but the voters, and only the voters, will decide who forms Ontario's next government.
As each voter sits (or crouches) behind the voting screen, he or she should be thinking about the economy, about what an uncertain future holds, and ask: can we really afford four more years of Dalton McGuinty?
It's an obvious question. Saddled with higher taxes, higher electricity prices, and broken promises not to impose higher taxes, Ontarians should be asking whether they can afford another four years of this government.
The PC campaign, and the Tory advertising team led by Perry Miele, have focused on this critical issue. For voters who can't afford higher taxes, higher hydro rates, and higher prices, there's only one choice, and that's change in the direction of Tim Hudak. Voters who don't believe Mr. McGuinty will raise taxes again, or who don't care, might as well vote Liberal.
It's worth mentioning that some voters might be asking a different question before marking their Xs. The voters might ask whether the Liberals are still in touch with ordinary Ontarians -- whether the Liberals "get" what life is like for mainstream families. Do the Liberals "get" the impact of giant wind farms on communities and on property values? Do they "get" how high hydro rates are hurting seniors and others on fixed incomes? Do they "get" why some parents don't want their five-year-olds being taught about any sexuality, whether heterosexuality or homosexuality? Do they "get" why people were mad about the sneaky eco-tax?
In short, are the Liberals so out of touch that they don't get why people are frustrated and fed up?
Everywhere the Liberals are out of touch and people are fed up, Mr. Hudak is offering sensible, practical change that will make a difference for ordinary families. In my opinion, his most effective moments during the campaign occurred when he demonstrated the contrast between his approach and that of the incumbent.
Those are the questions I would ask -- indeed, those were the questions that I did ask before casting my vote.
Elections are decided by millions of voters and we'll never know what they were asking themselves as they casts their ballots. We won't know the questions on voters' minds, but tomorrow night we will learn how they answered.
- Guy Giorno, former chief of staff to Mike Harris and Stephen Harper
Response from Erika Mozes, former senior adviser to George Smitherman and Gerard Kennedy:
As Ontarians head to the polls tomorrow, their world looks much different than it did twelve, six, or even two months ago.
The world economy is again on the brink of recession. Several European nations are neck deep in a sovereign debt crisis. The United States is facing a crisis of both debt and governance, and lashing out with protectionist policies. These circumstances have made Ontarians concerned about their own jobs. They have also dramatically reshaped our political landscape and, by extension, Thursday's ballot question.
A ballot question is an "if-then" construct. The question is built around a theme or issue and, if done right, leads voters to only one conclusion about whom to vote for. Perhaps the most famous ballot question was the one used by Reagan during his successful 1980 election: "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" Enough voters answered "no," and Jimmy Carter was sent packing.
You'll note that Reagan's ballot question had nothing to do with his own campaign promises or record. The best ones don't - they push voters to default decisions, rather than positive ones.
Every political party tries to frame the ballot question like Reagan did. The parties that do this successfully win elections; the parties that don't, don't.
Ballot questions are also circumstance-specific and time-sensitive. This is the third election for Ontarians in just 12 months, and we will see three different ballot questions.
Almost a year ago, municipal council incumbents across Ontario - most notably in Toronto - were swept out of office by voters responding to a ballot question of "do you want 4 more years of out of control municipal spending and taxes?" Six months ago, 73 Tory MPs surfed a blue tide far mightier than the vaunted "Orange Crush" into a majority federal government with a ballot question that asked voters whether they wanted (yet) another minority government.
In the lead-up to the Ontario provincial election, the Liberals attempted to use the gains made since 2003 to create a ballot question like, "Can Tim Hudak be trusted to keep/build on all-day kindergarten, our health care system, etc.?" At the same time, the PCs and the NDP developed strategies and messages to create ballot questions about "change"; “Changebook” (the PC platform) and “change that puts people first” (the NDP slogan) were tactics in pursuit of that goal. The trouble for them is that "change" is a largely positive, not default, position. This makes it a weak ballot question, and one prone to being affected by events. And that's what has happened.
Pre-campaign failures (e.g. an inability on the part of the PCs to build sufficient awareness of Tim Hudak), in-writ hiccups, and a deteriorating world economy have kicked the legs out from under the PC and NDP ballot questions. They have also allowed the Liberals to shift slightly and create a very strong ballot question of, "Can we afford to take a chance on unknown rookie Tim Hudak, or the instability of a minority government, during tough economic times?"
Recent polls suggest that McGuinty's increasing success at pushing this question will keep him in government, perhaps in historic, three-peat fashion.
Response from Jeffrey Ferrier, former communications director for the Ontario NDP:
As voters get ready to mark their ballot, they need to ask themselves:
Do I want for more years of more of the same, of families' concerns being pushed aside for short-sighted corporate tax giveaways and pay raises for CEOs, wasteful spending that won't do a thing to help Ontario weather the economic clouds on the horizon, or do I want a premier and government who will put my concerns and my best interests at the top of the agenda, for a change.
If voters want to keep the status quo, they have two choices. They can vote for Dalton McGuinty's Liberals. Voters can count on them to meet the challenges that lie ahead by rewarding their friends and well-connected insiders with billions of dollars in no-strings-attached corporate tax cuts that don't actually create jobs. If voters like this approach but also want chain gangs, they have the option of voting for Tim Hudak's PC Party.
In this election, voters can also make a positive choice. They can choose a different kind of politics. It's a choice that says we don't have to repeat the same old mistakes that don't work for families. It's a choice that says Ontario can do better, that we can make smarter choices, that we can put the needs of everyday families at the top of the agenda, that we can surmount the economic challenges that lie ahead and build a more prosperous, fair and generous province where no-one is left behind.
That choice is Andrea Horwath and the Ontario NDP.
Instead of handing out money-for-nothing corporate tax cuts that pad CEO salaries and don't grow our economy, we can create good jobs and grow the middle-class by rewarding job creators, buying Ontario, and processing our natural resources here in Ontario instead of shipping them away.
Instead of making it harder to pay the bills, we can make it easier by removing the HST from home heating and hydro, by starting to take the HST off gasoline, and by freezing college and university tuition, transit fares and child care fees. This will take the squeeze off families whose paycheques haven't kept up with the rising cost of living, something that's important during these gloomy times because when the people of Ontario are doing well, that helps our economy to do well too.
And instead of giving huge pay raises to public sector executives, and spending $1 million a day on fancy consultants, we can put the focus where families want it - on improving health care, education and other public services that everyday people depend on.
In short, this election is a choice between a status quo that doesn't work for families and won't help Ontario meet the economic challenges that lie ahead, and a strong, principled and capable Andrea Horwath NDP government that will bring change that puts people first.