Queen’s Park will be a pretty quiet place this morning and for many mornings to come.
MPPs are back in their ridings after a brief summer in the city, having passed a government budget the opposition thought was a "turkey." Ironically, they won't return until the Monday after Thanksgiving.
But between now and then, the three major parties have much to do.
Most of the political pressure is on the Liberals. They campaigned with a plan and now they’ve got to keep their $130 billion in promises.
When the budget passed last Thursday, the government issued a four-page news release with the headline, “2014 Ontario Budget Passes in Legislature.”
With the Liberals holding a majority, the vote was never in doubt. Passage was the easy part; implementation will be quite another story with a $12.5-billion deficit.
Premier Kathleen Wynne is determined to move forward with her plan, keenly aware that she must now deliver after raising expectations during the election campaign.
The NDP labelled the Wynne plan “the Trojan Horse Budget,” arguing that many elements remain hidden inside. There is a case to be made for that. The budget talks about finding a little more than $3 billion in savings, so it stands to reason that government "assets" will have to be put on the auction block along with some programs and services. There's little doubt some jobs will be on the line.
The NDP’s Andrea Horwath says the Liberals — like the Tories — will chop 100,000 jobs in the public sector. Wynne flatly denies that figure. But at some point, there will have to be another number.
Conservatives begin search for new leader, new direction
The numbers don’t add up for the Conservatives, either. They fought against the budget in the election campaign and again after it was tabled for a second time, but to no avail.
So now they can use the budget to hold the government accountable while at the same time mapping out their own future as a party.
Beginning this week, the PCs will hold a series of “consultations” across the province — conversations with party members about the last election and the next one. Before that, the party must find a new leader and a new direction. The leader may be easy; the direction, not so much.
Ontario's Conservatives have tried the John Tory move to the political left and the Tim Hudak move to the right. Neither approach worked. So now what? And, when should the party find its future leader? Some PC members along with current and past MPPs think a leadership convention should be held sooner rather than later.
But some PC MPPs say they are hearing there’s a move afoot to delay the process for a year. The idea behind this seems to be that after the next federal election, there might well be a whole new crop of defeated Ontario federal Conservatives looking for work.
The lustre of the leader’s job is long gone and there is much work for the Conservatives to do.
Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli couldn’t have been clearer about that last week when he told reporters, “we were busy shooting ourselves in the foot during the campaign. Quite frankly, we’ve run out of feet.”
Horwath vows to keep fighting
The NDP’s Andrea Horwath is still standing. During the brief summer sitting, Horwath served notice she’s prepared to fight against the Liberals and battle for her job now and into the next campaign.
Since the election, Horwath and the premier have engaged in some of the toughest — often downright nasty — exchanges question period has seen in years.
Privately, members of the NDP caucus believe some of that will dissipate over the summer and into the fall session.
But with the automatic leadership review set for November, Horwath has clearly served notice she wants — and believes she deserves — another crack at Kathleen Wynne in the next provincial election.
My guess is they’ll both get their wish. Now the question is: Who will lead the Conservatives in that election? And, when will that leader move into her or his suite of offices on the 2nd floor of the Legislature’s West Wing?