Nothing worse than a bunch of pissed-off Tories. Even supposed supporters in PC leader Tim Hudak's caucus couldn't wait to take shots as they arrived at Queen's Park after their crushing defeat June 12.
The consensus even before they went into their first post-election huddle was clear: no time to waste on that organized transition of power the party pooh-bahs are recommending. They want Hudak gone now.
Blame his promise to cut 100,000 jobs. A few in the caucus complained they were kept out of the loop on that one. Call it ass-covering.
The Tories were wiped out by more than their lack of a believable plan or leader. Hudak's demise is part a decade-long slide only hastened by their decision to tack so far right that a rural rump is all that's left of the Big Blue Machine.
The challenge facing conservatives: what should the "renewal" that everyone agrees the party needs look like? The Mike Harris cabal behind Hudak wants to call the shots on that, too, which is why Tony Clement's name keeps coming up as a possible replacement. Yes, that would be the same Clement who served in the Harris cabinet before moving to federal ranks. He's the less stiff version of Hudak.
The problem with deputy leader Christine Elliott, the other name mentioned most often in leadership conjecture, is twofold.
First, it's not clear, so soon after the death of her husband, former finance minister Jim Flaherty, that she wants to be leader. She could decide to run for Flaherty's seat in Durham. Second, and more importantly, she's a moderate conservative, and the caucus is currently dominated by right-wingnuts.
It was those folks Hudak's austerity platform was meant to appease. And it's those folks who are now talking renewal. What they mean isn't renewal, of course, but retrenchment. In their minds, it's not the message that missed the mark. It's the guy carrying it who was the problem; change the guy and everything else will fall into place. Besides, there's precious little room for the party to manoeuvre to the political middle. All of which points to another decade in the wilderness for the Tories.
Mo' spending, mo' problems
The Liberals' promises to invest in education, health care and a pension plan have rattled the money boys on Bay Street and beyond. Add federal attack dog Joe Oliver to the mix, warning darkly of Ontario's deficit. (He's Flaherty's replacement as finance minister.) Right on cue, conservative pundits took to the business pages to threaten that the rating agencies may downgrade Ontario's credit rating, which would put taxpayers on the hook for higher interest payments to finance the deficit. The Liberals can't win for losing.
It's like that Hudak guy said in his speech after the election: no one should mistake the result for a rejection of the status quo. He's right as far as the corporate honchos are concerned.
Clearly, there are budget challenges facing the Libs, but is austerity the answer? Ontario voters know that would do more harm than good, and progressive economists agree.
The PM took time out of his busy schedule to send his regards to Kathleen Wynne on her win. Stephen Harper is no fool: he knows the road back to the PM's residence at 24 Sussex runs through Ontario.
Having the province firmly in Liberal hands spells triple trouble for him: with an election a year away, the country's three largest provinces, Ontario, BC and Quebec, are all run by Liberals.
Wynne made a point in her campaign of hammering Harper over his opposition to the Libs' pension plan. That played to great reviews from political strategists who noted that her attacks neatly took the focus off the gas plant cancellations.
Indeed, the election results can be seen as a rebuke to Harper as much as Hudak. Only time will tell for sure, but right now time is on Wynne's side.
Andrea Horwath: will she stay or will she go?
The NDP lost thousands of votes in the GTA but gained in southwestern Ontario. The party's popular vote (23.8 per cent) was slightly higher than in the 2011 (22.7 per cent) provincial election. Those numbers didn't translate into more seats - the NDP is stuck at 21 - but for those wanting to keep Horwath at the helm, the uptick in support is all the evidence they need. Or is it?
Horwath is a scrapper, but the odds are against her, and not just because the party failed to up its overall seat count while losing three in Toronto. Why did the central campaign decide to focus on the c-word, as in alleged corruption over gas plant cancellations, Ornge, etc, and not on the policy concessions the NDP wrested from the Libs while it held the balance of power?
More importantly, can the party go to the polls a third time with Horwath? Among the names being kicked around as replacements: Gilles Bisson. That would be the Gilles Bisson who served as the party's campaign co-chair.
Hope, cynicism and death by 100,000 cuts
While the Ontario election has been widely read as a win for hope over cynicism, the PCs' threat to kill 100,000 public sector jobs - and the feared ripple effects that would have - had a lot to do with the Grits' improbable win.
The PCs sold that plank to focus groups before the election, but back then they made it clear that most of the cuts would come through attrition.
That part of the equation somehow got lost in the PCs' election narrative (more faulty math?) until it was too late and the Liberal message track took over, complete with visions of a return to the labour strife of the Harris years.
That proved entirely believable. Remember, some 300,000 manufacturing jobs were lost in Ontario during the 2008 recession. And we know what devastation that's caused for Ontario families.
A Liberal dynasty in the making
All indications were that it would be a tight race, but it didn't turn out that way. The Libs' win was decisive and marked the fourth consecutive term won by the party - a streak unmatched for that party since 1902 and for the province since the end of the Tories' near-40-year reign under Bill Davis in 1985.
This wasn't in the forecast. The Libs had been in power for 11 years, after all. Public opinion polls were telling us that if the voters wanted one thing, it was change. Few gave the rookie premier a chance. What happened?
In many respects, the win was really Wynne's. She did what she's done all he life: beat the odds. Now she has four years to put her stamp not only on the province, but on a different way of doing politics.