Walkom: Wynne’s deathbed repentance

At Queen’s Park, the smell of desperation is in the air.

Premier Kathleen Wynne is putting on a game front, as she proposes billions in new social spending.

But it all has the feeling of deathbed repentance. If the polls are even remotely reliable, Ontarians have already made up their minds about the provincial Liberal government.

They want it gone.

At one level, Wynne’s unpopularity is a mystery. In person, she’s agreeable. Her Liberal government has pursued the kinds of policies that so-called progressive voters say they like.

She has hiked the minimum wage to $14 an hour and made it easier for those with modest family incomes to get a post-secondary education.

She even made it easier for unions to organize some low-wage workers.

She instituted a pharmacare program for all Ontarians under 25 and is now hinting at bringing in a denticare scheme.

Her decision to combat climate change by joining a Quebec-California cap-and-trade system has received some criticism. But arguably it was better than doing nothing.

Still, there seems to be a feeling among many of those who voted for Wynne’s Liberals in 2014 that she’s been a disappointment.

In part, that’s because she didn’t deliver. The deceleration of health spending that characterized the governments of Bob Rae, Mike Harris and Dalton McGuinty continued as Wynne – like her predecessors – tried to get costs under control in an effort to balance the budget.

But in part, it was because she appeared unreliable and, like McGuinty before her, willing to trade principle for political advantage.

Her government’s ill-considered support for the proposed white elephant known as the Scarborough subway was one example. But probably the biggest political mistake she made was to privatize Hydro One.

The Hydro One sale rankled for two reasons. First, it came from nowhere. Wynne had not campaigned on privatizing the provincially owned electricity transmission monopoly. Indeed, her position seemed – if anything – to be the reverse.

Second, the irrationality of a decision that promises to ultimately cost the treasury more than it brings in seemed to typify the Liberals’ casual approach to government.

Wynne is working hard to overcome her disadvantages before the June 7 election. Her strategy is a familiar one – presenting the election as a binary choice between her Liberals, however imperfect, and the reactionary Conservatives of Doug Ford.

To that end, she is promising to spend more on social programs, including mental health and home care.

In an effort to spike the guns of Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats, she is also reprising a 2007 Liberal election promise – never acted upon – to establish a public denticare program.

And she is hoping to entice seniors by eliminating all co-payments and deductibles from the Ontario Drug Benefit program, which currently provides pharmaceuticals to those 65 and over.

Like Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberals, she has abandoned plans to balance the provincial budget, calculating – perhaps correctly – that most voters no longer care about such things.

Hers is a robust centre-left agenda that theoretically should give the Liberals a real shot at re-election. And perhaps it will, particularly if her Tory and NDP rivals repeat history by running disastrous campaigns.

But that isn’t the mood I’m picking up now. The mood I’m picking up now says that people don’t trust her and that it’s time for her to go.

Thomas Walkom is a national affairs reporter.

Just Posted

Spring book sale this weekend in Red Deer

Red Deerians can get lost in a world of inexpensive books this… Continue reading

Central Alberta wildlife rehab facility not prepared to take orphaned bear cubs, yet

It’s been about eight years since the Medicine River Wildlife Centre was… Continue reading

Regional sewage line moving ahead despite concerns

Cost sharing among concerns of municipalities involved in Sylvan Lake-to-Red Deer sewage line

Red Deer family who lost everything in house fire begin rebuilding

Couple had moved into north-end home only two days before basement fire

Tory Leader Andrew Scheer says he doesn’t feel betrayed by Maxime Bernier

MONTREAL — Andrew Scheer says he doesn’t feel betrayed by former Tory… Continue reading

WATCH: Fine wine and food at Red Deer College

The Red Deer College Alumni Association hosted its 14th annual Fine Wine… Continue reading

Supreme Court ruling corks B.C. vintners’ hopes for free trade of Canadian wines

VANCOUVER — The Supreme Court of Canada ruling upholding interprovincial trade laws… Continue reading

Lance Armstrong settles $100M lawsuit with U.S. government

Disgraced cyclist reached $5-million settlement with sponsor U.S. Postal Service

Montreal couple hoping city lets them keep beloved pet pig named Babe

MONTREAL — Babe the pig spends his days sleeping, going for walks… Continue reading

WATCH: This is a story about a stoned raccoon at a fire station

An unusual pair showed up in the pre-dawn hours at Fire Station… Continue reading

Plastic makers’ credit ratings may be hit by pollution rules

Plastic packaging makers may be less credit-worthy in the future as governments… Continue reading

Black Press Media acquires two new Alaska newspapers

New Media Investment Group to acquire the Akron (OH) Beacon Journal while Black Press Media takes on daily newspapers in Juneau and Kenai Alaska

‘Dining of the future’: vegan restaurant boom fuelled by meat eaters

Foodies say Canada is in the midst of a renaissance in plant-based… Continue reading

Northbound QEII traffic to return to northbound lanes as contruction continues south of Red Deer

Though the Hwy 2/Gaetz Avenue interchange still has months until completion, some… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month