Premier Dalton McGuinty's bid to win the majority government he was denied last October will be decided by the voters of Kitchener-Waterloo in one of two provincial byelections Thursday that could dramatically alter Ontario's political landscape.
"I don't know of a parallel situation in Ontario's history...where one byelection could make the difference between a majority and a minority government," said Barry Kay, a political-science professor at Wilfrid Laurier University.
The governing Liberals are expected to easily win the other byelection in Vaughan, retaining the seat vacated by Greg Sorbara, the veteran cabinet minister and strategist who quit to devote more time to his other job as chair of the party's re-election campaign.
After falling just one seat short of a majority in the Oct. 6 general election, McGuinty engineered the Kitchener-Waterloo byelection by convincing veteran Progressive Conservative Elizabeth Witmer to give up the seat she'd held for 22 years to take on a $188,000-a-year job as chair of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.
"It's always a little bit easier when you have a majority to act on a mandate, whether you're trying to introduce a budget or move ahead with a 'Putting Students First' act," McGuinty said this week.
Voters in Kitchener-Waterloo appear to have been turned off by McGuinty's attempts to get a majority, said Kay.
"I thought that would play better than it has," he said. "I think they are disinclined to give the party a majority. It's not just a neutral factor. I think it's a negative factor."