An extra [McGuinty] daddy we don’t want

An extra daddy we don't want

By Chris Vander Doelen, The Windsor Star June 28, 2011 5:07 AM 

 The latest poll suggests it's too late for Premier Dalton McGuinty to change the tone he's adopted while talking to Ontario voters these days. Suddenly, it all sounds wrong.

There was a time when Canadians liked Pierre Trudeau's swaggering gunslinger pose. Later we chuckled at Jean Chretien's folksy, down-to-earth charm (even though we knew the disguise hid a coldly ruthless political operator).

In the 1970s and into the '80s, Ontario voters very much liked the bland, avuncular smile of Progressive Conservative Bill Davis. Premier Mike Harris was a polarizing premier 15 years later, but his fans – and they were a majority – loved the blunt way he rolled up his sleeves to clean up the shambles left by the NDP under premier Bob Rae.

And then there's McGuinty, whose supporters cloyingly refer to him as "Premier Dad." Unfortunately, it's a nickname he deserves all too well. Most voters don't appreciate politicians telling them how to think or live their lives.

We're willing to listen to advice from politicians. We'll take polite requests. But no lectures, scolding or condescension, please.

Yet that's exactly what McGuinty gave us over the past seven years. Did a single month ever go by without his government intruding into yet another area of private activity with often asinine new rules, new taxes, new fines – and another lecture that it was for our own good?

There are a thousand examples, from those maddening eco fees to confiscating cars from speeders and fining drivers who aren't drunk. But one will do: In McGuinty's Ontario, it has been illegal since 2009 to use herbicides for "cosmetic" purposes to improve your lawn.

McGuinty didn't completely outlaw herbicides, since he can't prove they are toxic to human health. They can still be used on the sports fields where children play. But he could take them away from average homeowners – so he did.

The partial ban on herbicides is not only insulting to people's intelligence, it's a daily reminder in the summer of the McGuinty government's invasive paternalism.

Well, them chickens is coming home to roost – big time, according to the latest poll from Forum Research. The poll shows Conservative Leader Tim Hudak is now soaring 15 points ahead of McGuinty's Liberals. The NDP are running a close third at 22 per cent to the Liberals' 26 per cent.

With Ontario's Oct. 6 election now 16 weeks away, Hudak already has 41 points of support, which is causing alarm in Liberal circles.

Hudak's lead will probably shrink as the fight intensifies in the final weeks and the media take sides, as they usually do. But there would have to be some major flubs on the part of Hudak and his handlers coupled with some major changes in McGuinty's demeanour to reverse the trend pointing toward a Conservative provincial government.

Check out the tone Hudak has adopted so far: No lectures on what we should be thinking or doing, or how we have failed to live up to the high standards of government.

There's been no grand proclamations about outlawing anything or making adults wear bicycle helmets. No scolding about the need for higher taxes and fees to pay for better "services" – which under McGuinty seemed to translate into more public servants.

It almost seems as if Hudak has taken his cues on tone from Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Harper ended his first majority Parliament session this weekend pretty much as he started it, without fanfare or self-congratulation. He just sent everybody home or to the cottage until Sept. 19.

Harper understands that Canadians don't want politicians in their faces all the time. We don't want a daily update on how great they are. We want them to do their jobs without making a big production out of what is very comfortable, well-paid work.

That is particularly true during the summer, when we don't want to hear politicians making demands, starting arguments or raising thorny problems. Given the tin ear McGuinty has displayed so far, it is unlikely he can learn this lesson in the next three months. But it is telling his handlers are keeping his face out of their TV ads.

It has been said that the moment people have to explain their side of an argument, they have lost. Last week the McGuinty campaign called a news conference to explain why Hudak's fiscal plans don't add up.

Maybe not. But at least he's treating us like adults and not pretending to be an extra daddy we didn't ask for. cvanderdoelen@windsorstar.com or 519-255-6852
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