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OPINION: Doug and Kathleen: a match made in heaven

Realistically, Northern issues will not be a factor in the election.
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michael_atkins
Michael Atkins, president, Northern Ontario Business

If you are Doug Ford, could you find anyone better to run against than Kathleen Wynne? 

She's a big spender and runs extraordinary deficits without a care in the world.

A chief of staff to her mentor Dalton McGuinty is going to jail for erasing potential evidence in the gas plant scandal. She just put up the minimum wage, precipitously hobbling many small businesses in the service and small manufacturing sector. She is losing cabinet ministers at a rate so accelerated she is not even replacing them before the election. She sold half of Ontario Hydro to try to pay for a deficit she still can't control and, of course, her government has been in power for 15 years, which is well beyond the best before date for Rice Krispies and politics.

Now, if you're Kathleen Wynne could you find anyone more qualified to help you to change the channel on your own failing election prospects than Doug Ford, who was a loyal soldier for his brother Rob who was, to be charitable, an unusual mayoral presence in the halls of Toronto, hanging out as he did with a variety of drug dealers and gang members and doing drugs by night as he allegedly fought for taxpayers by day. 

So far, Doug has said he will eliminate the carbon tax and, yes, although he doesn't promise to buy back Ontario Hydro, he most certainly promises to fire the president and/or the board of the company which seems a tad interventionalist for a fellow that wants to set the private sector free.

If you want to fire the board for political theatre, it seems only fair you should buy it. No doubt this talk will keep share values suppressed for years for investors. 

So far, although no doubt much will change before election day, Doug has said he can easily erase $6 billion of provincial expenditures in Ontario without laying anybody off. 

This, of course, is absurd and everyone knows it. 

It probably won't hurt him much because the Tory leader is just channelling the anger many people feel about the Liberals buying us off with our own money. He will not suffer for making promises that cannot be kept. It's more a grossly overestimated statement of intent than a plan. This is called newspeak for the Orwellians among us.

My guess is the Tories will do well in Northern Ontario. 

It's hard to know how many seats will change hands because this result has more to do with how low the Liberals' fortunes sink than how high the Conservative boat rises. Two parties share the left of centre vote in Ontario, and one has to more or less disappear for the other to succeed. 

An only half-dead Liberal party is good for the Tories, whereas an entirely diminished entity leaves lots of room for the NDP to stabilize or grow.

Realistically, Northern issues will not be a factor in the election. 

Although many of us applaud the need to rein in government expenditures, the truth is we depend on them to mitigate our lack of growth. We need hospitals not to be starved. Our universities require increased funding, not less. In a time of markedly diminished high school populations, our cities require funds to modernize and cope with the changing mix of our economy. And the high cost of electricity disproportionately penalizes our cost of living. 

And yes, of course, there is the Ring of Fire. 

Our primary issues are economic and structural.

Our communities remain defiant and determined in the face of financial decline but the last 25 years have been brutal. The collapse of the forest industry and the capitalization of the mining industry has cost thousands of jobs. Understandably, voters will take the opportunity to register their unhappiness in general, but it is unclear what any new regime will bring us.

The election will probably be won or lost on emotion and negative advertising.

It's going to be interesting but we shall be more spectators than participants. We live in a different world and a different economy. 

As always, for us, the work begins the day after the election.