Hudak-fullBy Frank Dabbs

Hudak Nation, the new force in Ontario politics, will determine the result of the election June 12, as progressives withhold their votes to protest their own leaders' peccadillos.

New polling suggests Tim Hudak and his Progressive Conservative party are positioned to win between 50 (a minority government) and 56 seats and a slender majority in Ontario's 107-seat legislature.

A definitive analysis is impossible because "there is no reliable polling data," says Mike Marzolini, chairman and chief public opinion analyst of Pollara Strategic Insights. "The polls that have been released have been done with cheap and flawed methodologies," he said.

Ontario typically does not elect a government of the same party that forms the federal government, Marzolini said, but in this case may depart from the norm.

However – even without full confidence in the data – it is clear that Ontario is Conservative blue in the suburban and rural areas, and Liberal in the cities – Toronto, Ottawa and the university towns, like Kingston and London.

David McLaren, a rural Ontario consultant, blogger, Toronto Sun columnist and radio commentator, says the voting block that makes up the mostly suburban and rural Hudak Nation was first discovered and aligned as a voting block in the 1990s by Conservative Premier Mike Harris.

"Harris represented 'anti-government' and the Nation aligned around that vision," says McLaren.
"Stephen Harper has made a science of managing the voting bloc. Rob Ford personifies it. And Tim Hudak inherited it."

McLaren wrote in the Toronto Sun in April that Ford Nation is the red-neck, hockey-loving, first guys up the hill in two world wars and the soldiers responsible for the toughest province in Afghanistan. "If you don't understand these people, you don't understand Hudak Nation," he said in an interview this week.

Their passion for politics is visceral, self-assured and uncompromising.

Hudak correctly identified jobs as the main issue on voters' minds, responded most coherently and now owns the issue. He also has a commanding response to the number 2 issue of debt and deficit.

And, he is the lightening rod of the campaign.

The engaged voting bases of the four major parties, Liberal incumbents, Conservative challengers, NDP third party and Green wannabes, become more polarized with each passing day.

Based on interviews of people at campaign events in central Ontario, Hudak Nation will vote while progressives will stay home in sufficient number to collapse the Liberal and NDP vote.
Ironically, the same issues anger both Hudak Nation and the progressives – corrupt incompetence of the Liberals and the NDP's shift to the political centre, which has angered many long-time supporters.

Economists have concluded that Hudak's million jobs plan is bunk, but Hudak Nation doesn't believe them. To McLaren, a self-described leftie, Hudak's policies are a recipe for economic "disaster".

Hudak's platform is a combination of current European austerity and U.S. Tea Party trickle-down economics, said McLaren. "Neither worked."

Liberals have historically said, "Tory times are tough times." They had as proof R.B. Bennett, the Conservative prime minister during the Great Depression, and John Diefenbaker who came to power in time for the 1959 recession.

Unless Hudak governs with prudence as well as passion, the time-out voters are ready to give the Liberals to regroup will put the Tories to the test. Will Hudak nation fare better than their municipal counterpart?

Frank Dabbs is a veteran business and political journalist, author of three biographies, and a contributor to and researcher or editor of half a dozen books. He lives in Annan.


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