There is a disease that has threatened the health of Ontario Liberals over the years. It is coming back strong with the provincial leadership contest. The disease is city-myopia. It is caused by the inability of Ontario’s Liberals to connect with any voters but those in the province’s major cities. The last Ontario Liberal leaders with real rural roots were Premiers Mitch Hepburn and (briefly) Harry Nixon.
Nothing shows the problem more emphatically than the first two candidates out of the starting gate for Dalton McGuinty’s job. Of course, they were both in Dalton’s cabinet and are tarred by his actions as Premier. To make matters worse, they are both from central Toronto. The fact that neither is as right wing as McGuinty would only make a difference to voters in their respective electoral districts.
For Toronto Centre MPP Glen Murray, he has a double disadvantage in that he is the former mayor of Winnipeg. Finding out about rural Ontario will require an even steeper learning curve for him. Not that we would think of his opponent Don Valley West MPP Kathleen Wynne of being a farmer’s daughter.
The voting dichotomy between rural and urban Ontario must have been noted by the federal electoral district redistribution commission. While everyone agrees that we are supposed to believe that the commission is impartial, there are too many artfully created rural-urban electoral districts in the recently proposed changes. If the provincial Liberals last long enough in office, they will need to go back to separate boundaries for federal and provincial electoral districts. And it would be in the interest of the provincial NDP to support the move.
This is not to suggest that the provincial Liberals could not start to win with rural candidates. They would first have to take a long step towards creating policies that can work for rural Ontario. They also need to learn to work with rural voters.
Hopefully there will be more candidates come forward to replace McGuinty. As things stand, the Liberal Party in Ontario is like an old truck running on empty on its way to the scrap yard. It needs a heck of a lot more than a new leader. This party needs a full makeover.
Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry
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