Well, today is the day, friends and neighbours. Today is the day Ontario chooses a new government and for the first time in 15 years there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that that government will be Liberal.
In our editorial last week, Northern Life / Sudbury.com didn’t endorse a candidate or a party. As we wrote, the platforms of the frontrunners — the NDP and the PCs, in case you’ve avoided all mention of politics for the past few months — were not something we could support.
Between vague promises with little cost estimates and detailed promises with high price tags, we couldn’t single out a platform that offered a true, cohesive plan that described the whys and wherefores — the rationale — for how one plan or another would help Ontario navigate the societal, budgetary and economic challenges this province faces.
No, what we see — what we’ve seen in the past few elections — are parties promising everything under the sun in order to win elections. The bigger, more expensive the promise, the better.
What we want to see, what all voters need to see, are not promises, but plans. Roadmaps. Clearly identified challenges with a party’s clearly identified solutions, plus a few feel-good promises thrown in for good measure. A spoonful of sugar and all that.
As I lamented a couple of weeks ago, none of the major parties have presented a plan to deal with Ontario’s enormous deficit. The hole is big, huge, somewhere between $311 billion and $350 billion.
The debt is higher than the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 146 other countries. Ontario just might be the world’s largest debt holder that isn’t a country in and of itself. We owe so much money, that if we were able to convert that debt to cold hard cash, every man, woman and child in Ontario could buy a new car.
We’re spending $12 billion a year on interest payments on that debt. If anyone tells you the debt doesn’t matter, help them out and give their head a shake for them. It does matter. Interest rates have been low for so long, it might feel something like permanent. It isn’t. Those interest rates will rise.
Whoever forms government after tonight will be responsible for dealing with the 40 per cent of that debt that is coming due in the next term of government. We don’t have the cash to cover it. So we’re going to have to borrow, but the amount we’re borrowing will be at a higher interest rate than the rate that was on the amount we originally borrowed. Confused? Bottom-line: It's going to be expensive.
Anyway, the debt will still be there after the election tonight and no one among the three main parties, apparently, cares all that much about it. It used to be governments would borrow during economic downturns and spend when the economy was good. There’s a logic in that.
Like their approach to the debt, that approach to fiscal management doesn’t seem to matter anymore to the main parties.
With apologies to Andrea Horwath who is probably going to win the popular vote, at this point, it really does look like vote splitting between the NDP and the Liberals will hand Doug Ford and the Conservatives a majority government.
Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne’s statement that she knows she can’t win, but vote for the Liberals anyway is a tactic that is encouraging that vote splitting. Which may be deliberate on her part.
If she helps Ford get elected, the Liberals can spend four years rebuilding while the Tories (the party is probably betting on a PC victory) wander aimlessly through Ford Nation’s populist fog. Then, likely with a new leader, the Liberals can ride in on a white horse four years from now to save Ontario.
All of this is speculation, of course, because as of this writing, the polls are still open.
Speaking of polls and election night, tonight Sudbury.com will be bringing you an entire evening of live election coverage, hosted by yours truly, with help from Rogers Radio newsman, Nick Liard (who also covers the Sudbury Wolves for us and for Eastlink TV).
Starting from about 8:30 p.m. tonight, we’ve got interviews, analysis and reaction from reporters, former cabinet ministers, and from everyday Sudburians, telling us what’s most important to them this election.
We’ll be keeping you informed about the local races and races across Northern Ontario. And when the last ballot is counted, we’ll bring you live reaction from candidates and campaigns themselves.
Watching is easy. Just go to Sudbury.com and look for the top story on the homepage starting at 8:30 p.m. Or, you can visit our YouTube channel — YouTube.com/SudburyDotCom — and watch live there.
Alright, that’s it for me. Please go vote.
Mark Gentili is the editor of Sudbury.com and Northern Life.