As Ontario teetered on the brink of its second election in less than a year, attention was squarely focused on the public spat between Dalton McGuinty and Andrea Horwath.
But to understand why the province’s minority legislature is still very much on borrowed time, even after a summer campaign appears to have been narrowly avoided, there’s no getting past the role of the party leader who actively avoided the spotlight during the past week.
For all that Mr. McGuinty’s Liberals and Ms. Horwath’s New Democrats have at various points been guilty of bluster and false bravado and overplaying their respective hands, it’s Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives who are most responsible for this legislature’s dysfunction.
Faced with a $15-billion deficit, Mr. McGuinty has decided that he needs to adopt a relatively fiscally conservative agenda. That should leave him looking to find common ground with the right-of-centre Tories. But because they’ve shown very little interest in engaging, he instead has to keep tilting left to appease the NDP. And the more that becomes obvious to the New Democrats, the more they keep pushing him away from what he wants to do, and toward impasses.
This situation began to play itself out around the tabling of Finance Minister Dwight Duncan’s budget this spring. Although the Tories now insist otherwise, it was obvious to most anyone around Queen’s Park that they had no intention of voting for it, no matter what was in it. That meant the Liberals had to table a document the NDP could conceivably be willing to support, then add various concessions – most notably a tax increase on the highest income earners – in order to get the budget motion passed in April.