Photo by Cheol Joon Baek
What the fuck just happened?
Kathleen Wynne has pulled off a small miracle - and turned convention on its ear in the process - by leading the "scandal-plagued" Liberals to a majority. How'd she do it? Two words: authenticity; believability. She had loads of both. Her rivals, PC leader Tim Hudak and the NDP's Andrea Horwath, not so much.
The PCs claim it was the Liberals' negative advertising that won the day. But Wynne proved to be the real change candidate. She talked about building up Ontario. The others talked up scandal and corruption.
That's not to say the Libs didn't fling some mud. But save for a few instances in the latter stages when things got really testy, Wynne made a conscious effort to emphasize the positive.
Maybe hope sells, strangely enough, which is saying something given the deeply cynical tenor of our times. Of course there's a long road ahead. Despite her convincing win, Wynne will have her work cut out for her. She's promised to balance the budget by 2017, while making investments, which at some point will put to the test her pledge to leave no Ontarian behind.
What went wrong for Tim Hudak?
A more accurate question might be what didn't go wrong? The PC leader started out like gangbusters, or is that ghostbusters? Early on, he was seemingly able to exorcise the ghosts of 2011's scattered election performance, save for the bad math in his 1 million jobs pledge. His campaign was definitely crisper.
But the election was always his to lose after 11 years of Liberal rule and lose he did - big time. The PCs woke up this morning with 10 fewer seats.
The thinking among PC insiders going into Thursday's vote was that Hudak would finish with a few more seats than he entered the race. And that that might be enough for him to hold on as leader.
His resounding loss exposes just how deep-seated internal divisions were/are over his leadership. On election day the text messages among some members of his caucus were flying fast and furious. The grumbling about the Mike Harris cabal calling the shots behind the scenes during the election was growing louder.
Whither the NDP?
There were already a lot of NDPers questioning Horwath's decision to pull the plug on a progressive Liberal budget to force an election. There'll be even more now.
The NDP leader put on a brave face in defeat, returning to the tack that the NDP would get to work at Queen's Park to get results for Ontarians. Except, the party no longer holds the balance of power with the Libs now in a majority.
In Horwath's mind there was no choice but to go to the polls. Continuing to prop up the government with the spectre of criminal charges being laid over the gas plants cancellations was too much to risk, wasn't it? At least that was the spin NDP insiders were offering as the rationale for forcing an election, among other things. But as the campaign wore on, it became clearer that the NDP forced an election in a bold bid not necessarily for power but more seats.
Horwath can make a case for holding onto power. The NDP has increased its popular vote and held on to seats won in recent by-elections. But it has come at a terrible price - losing three of its five Toronto seats and more importantly alienating the Toronto base which historically has been the backbone of the party.
For those in the party looking for the NDP to get back to its political roots, how can their be any turning back now with populist Horwath at the helm?
Is our democracy broken?
You might think so if you saw the Sun's Friday the 13th Election Nightmare cover. But it can't be all bad if voters are snapping selfies of themselves voting and posting the shots on Twitter, can it?
A handful of political pundits have declared this election among the best in recent memory simply because all three leaders offered a clear choice for voters. That's a low bar. The fact Wynne was able to convince voters government can be a force for good is the real win. The subtle emergence of the Greens was another bright spot.
But the 51 per cent voter turnout, which was a few points higher than the 2011 provincial election, can't be ignored. Neither can the fact the Libs won their majority with only 38 per cent of the popular vote. The last time that happened was Bob Rae in 1990.
There wasn't one burning issue that took hold. The economy and jobs registered as the main concerns, but there are always election issues. In the post-2008 non-recovery, you'd think more folks would be motivated to participate. Welcome to the new normal. Would ranked ballots make a difference?
Who's eating crow?
The pollsters, mostly. There were a few doozies, not the least of which was that Ipsos Reid monstrosity the day before the election showing the NDP at 30 per cent, and ahead in 416. Was it a plan to drive a wedge in the Liberal vote and help the PCs sneak up the middle in swing ridings? The guy who was doing polls before most, Allan Gregg, accused "so-called pollsters [of] whoring out the profession."
They weren't the only one's selling themselves for one cause or another. A few former McGuinty political fixers who said Wynne couldn't take the party left and survive, let alone win, were quick to try and put their stink on the Liberal win, declaring the victory a vindication of the former premier's agenda. These were the same folks who whispered that the fact Wynne is openly gay would turn off Ontario voters. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth.