Some people only run to get somewhere quickly. Others do it for the thrill of running itself.
Kathleen Wynne clearly fits into the latter group. When the Ontario Premier sets out for her early morning exercise, provincial police officers grudgingly in tow, it’s more about the journey than the destination.
That’s to be admired, insofar as it allows her to clear her head and stay healthy and be more energetic at the age of 60 than most people half her age. But it also makes running a curious choice of metaphor as she sells herself to voters.
Ms. Wynne’s Liberals clearly believe they have a winner with a television ad that shows her jogging along a country road, given that they’re currently fundraising on the basis of adding to the spot’s already heavy rotation. That’s not just because the production values are impressive, compared to most Canadian political ads. It’s also because they believe that the more Ontarians see of her, the more they like her, and that the ad shows her at her genuine and inspirational best.
As one Liberal put it recently, it’s difficult to imagine Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak appearing in an ad completely by himself while providing his own voice-over. While Mr. Hudak polls behind his own party, Ms. Wynne is ahead of hers, and the Liberals clearly want to make the next election as much about her personality as possible.
It is also difficult, however, to imagine Mr. Hudak putting out an ad that gives absolutely no indication of what direction he wants to take his province.
In her voice-over, Ms. Wynne tells us there are a few things we don’t know about her. Other than her love of running, those amount to speaking simply and getting to the point, and relentlessly pursuing “really-hard-to-accomplish goals.” The viewer is then left to wonder what those goals are, because no further information is provided.
No doubt, there will be other ads to come, presumably shedding more light. But even if it’s only meant as an introduction to the rookie Premier for the relatively uninitiated, this one is an effective snapshot of where she is at as she nears the end of her first year in office.
Nobody who watched Ms. Wynne successfully campaign for the Liberal leadership to become Ontario’s first female and first openly gay premier would doubt her sincerity about being able to do difficult things. Nor, on the evidence of her extremely busy schedule subsequently, would anyone question her drive.
What’s fair to wonder, though, is whether all that drive is finally going to be directed toward something meaningful and impactful when it comes to public policy.
Ms. Wynne has provided some abstract answers – she wants to make a fairer society, and create jobs – but it is obvious that she and the team around her have had difficulty getting beyond that.
So in large part, her governance has amounted to putting off tough decisions with an endless series of advisory panels, and serving up legislative filler such as this week’s bill to require governments to present long-term infrastructure plans.
By all accounts, Ms. Wynne takes her job seriously and cares about doing it well, so much so that it might help explain her deliberativeness. Her government seems to be paying, though, for the abruptness of the leadership campaign to replace former premier Dalton McGuinty, with little chance for the candidates to consider why they wanted to be premier.
Like her competitors in that race, Ms. Wynne was sprinting hard toward the finish line.
She has been running hard since then, too, but it’s much less clear what she’s running toward.