Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak’s pat rejection of the Liberal government’s reasonably tough, deficit-fighting budget made his party appear as if it has little interest in working constructively in the overall interests of the province.
Mr. Hudak would rather take his bat and ball and go home. He was asked what changes to the budget would make it acceptable enough to support, and he replied by restating his laundry list of what he’d asked Premier Dalton McGuinty for – essentially, the PC agenda in full.
The Ontario Tories surely don’t want an election any more than the other two parties do, and how he would fight an election on this budget is impossible to envision. By moving ever further to the right and promising even deeper cuts? Hardly a winner.
Forcing an election would delay the province’s ability to tackle its spending problem. That, and the resulting political instability, could hurt Ontario’s bond rating and cost the province increased interest payments on its debt. Is this really what Mr. Hudak wants to campaign on?
By scripting his rejection ahead of time, he gave away his party’s leverage to actually make a difference, and handed that to the New Democrats, who are in a position to negotiate with Mr. McGuinty and show their supporters why the party is needed. One can quibble with NDP Leader Andrea Horwath’s posturing by establishing a phone line to consult Ontarians over the budget. Public-sector employees will doubtless jam the lines, and those with a less obvious personal stake will likely not trouble to call.
The greatest duty Mr. Hudak could perform is to ensure that the Liberals, who have a poor track record as fiscal stewards with public agencies such as eHealth Ontario and Ornge, fulfill their commitments as set out in the budget.
All residents of Ontario ultimately have a great deal riding on the Liberal government’s success in restraining spending.