Though party leaders’ debates are intended to inform voters about the party’s policy positions, what voters often take away is an overall impression of the candidates. In my view, Kathleen Wynne came across as “proffy,” Andrea Horwath as “chippy,” and Doug Ford as “bullshitty.”
By “proffy,” I mean that Kathleen Wynne was knowledgeable, measured, thoughtful, and self-controlled, like our ideal of how a professor would present herself. By “chippy,” I mean that Andrea Horwath’s frequent interruption of the other leaders, Doug Ford in particular, suggested an urgent need to be heard or a desire to go on the offensive, rather than be put on the defensive. And by “bullshitty,” I mean that Doug Ford engaged in constant exaggeration about the benefits of his policies and the costs of his opponents’, particularly Horwath’s.
If those are an accurate summary of the impressions the leaders conveyed, then the question is which one the voter will identify with. Different voters will have different assessments. The public opinion polls will provide that information in a few days.
Zeroing in on policy, Doug Ford was operating on the basis of the “taxes are everything” theory. He claims his tax cuts will stimulate off-the-charts economic growth so that revenues will go up so much that they will pay for all his promises and the budget will balance itself. You’ll remember that “the budget will balance itself” was the Trudeau claim that the Harperites mercilessly mocked. The “pay for itself” meme has now become core Conservative ideology on both sides of the border. The tax cuts will pay for themselves. The border wall will pay for itself.
The other implication of Ford’s “taxes are everything” theory is that the NDP’s modest increases in corporate income tax (11.5 % to 13 %) and personal income tax (1 % over $220,000 and 2 % over $300,000) will lead to a mass exodus of businesses that will destroy the economy, and devastate the middle class. Ford’s second line of attack was on the wild-eyed “radical activists” which he claims characterizes some NDP candidates.
Kathleen Wynne’s critique of Andrea Horwath was much more thoughtful and incisive, particularly on the issues of Horwath’s refusal to legislate an end to long public sector workers strikes, for example the one at York University now, and her refusal to fund for-profit daycare.
On carbon taxes, Doug Ford began by saying that he believed in the existence of climate change caused by humans, but then turned to criticize carbon taxes for reasons entirely unrelated to the environment. He never explained what, if anything, he would do about climate change. Presumably economic growth resulting from low taxes should enable the problem to solve itself.
Both Ford and Horwath several times raised the spectre of “hallway healthcare.” Besides being an alliterative slogan, I’m not sure what it means. Are they suggesting that Ontario hospitals are now all hallways and no rooms? I wish that Kathleen Wynne had addressed the issue of delays and wait times in Ontario hospitals head-on to talk about progress, rather than discussing only planned future spending.
I’ll conclude by mentioning that I voted in the advance poll on Saturday. I live in Don Valley West, Kathleen Wynne’s riding. The NDP have never had any presence here, so a strategic vote against Doug Ford – you know what I think of him from numerous previous posts – would be a vote for Kathleen Wynne. But my vote for Kathleen Wynne was not just strategic. I will have more to say in future posts, but I admire the thoughtful, responsible, and “proffy” approach she took in last night’s debate.