The year is 1999. The Common Sense Revolution is in full swing. It’s a grand time to be a conservative provincially in Ontario. An awkward newcomer named Dalton McGuinty steps to the plate to face off against Premier Mike Harris and the mighty Big Blue Machine. If you squint your eyes, you can just make out a dorky egghead named Gerald Butts standing in McGuinty’s corner.
This fella Dalton is not his Daddy, say the political wags of the day. Dalton Sr. was a towering figure who turned the riding of Ottawa South into a veritable Liberal satrap. And so the Ontario PCs, not wanting to be too tough on the youngster, produce a bunch of negative ads proclaiming him to be “not up to the job.”
McGuinty, hilariously, compounds the already devastating effect of the ads by releasing an ad of his own (which I, sadly, cannot find online,) saying something to the effect of, “Mike Harris says I’m not up to the job! Well, if firing nurses is what it takes to be Premier, then I’m not up to the job!” Heads shake. Shoulders shrug. Poor, clueless Dalton will never be Premier.
The smoke clears on Election Day and the PCs are down a whopping 23 seats (mostly because of a decrease in the number of ridings, but nobody seems to care about that). The NDP are down 8 seats as the unions desert them in the late days of the campaign. Only the Liberals under Dalton increase their seat count. McGuinty - not for the last time - has exceeded the rock-bottom expectations everyone had for him.
Fast forward to 2015, where Ontario is a smouldering wreck and has yet farther to fall, as impossible as that seems. The union beast stalks the land, preying on innocent parents, hijacking by-elections and terminating conservatives of all sorts with extreme prejudice. The NDP is a shell of itself, having crashed and burned after being deserted by Big Labour yet again.
Federally, however, there is another callow Liberal leader facing down a powerful conservative machine, a Liberal who is also backed by the elusive Mr. Butts and has been written off as a shadow of his famous Papa after feeling the sting of dismissive conservative ads. The NDP swells with pride as they press the attack against the ruling conservative party, confident that the union hordes will never desert them for the third-place Liberals.
In case I haven’t been clear about where I’m going with this, we’ve had a good time laughing at Truderpy The Shiny Pony and his hilarious fails, but it’s time to get serious now. These are Liberals. They are never going to run out of second chances, and the worst possible thing we can do is take them lightly. One comment labelling Trudeau a “reptilian kitten eaterfrom another planet” - showing that you don’t take him seriously - and it’s all over, just like it was all over for the Ontario PCs.
No matter what the polls say (and why anyone would trust polls given how wrong they’ve been is beyond me,) this election in October is Harper fighting a two (and possibly even three) front war. The odds are against the conservatives, because they are always against the conservatives.
Why do we keep forgetting this simple, basic truth? I believe that it is because we get sick of being the bad guys. It’s hard to be hated, all the time, no matter what you do, while the Liberals get away with everything. We rail against Trudeau, but there is just the slightest touch of envy underneath it all.
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