It has been, to say the least, an uninspiring campaign. If you're at all like me, you're not thrilled with any of the options on offer. Yet here we are. We must choose. Or we can abdicate our duty to vote, or spoil a ballot - neither of which is a responsible option, it seems to me.

So, what to do?

Let us begin by reminding ourselves of where we are. Eleven years ago, Dalton McGuinty's Liberals took power, promising to turn the page on the upheaval of the Mike Harris years, balance the books, and hold the line on taxes.

Once in power, McGuinty promptly broke all those promises. He raised taxes sharply. He ran big deficits. He developed a penchant for borrowing and buying his way out of tricky situations - or, as in Caledonia, refusing to face them. He had a yen for social engineering, earning him the moniker "Premier Dad." He had a way of uttering the most cloying banalities, so secure was he in the knowledge that he was on the side of the angels.

Being on the side of the angels apparently also liberated the former premier to impose some appallingly bad policy. Case in point? The Green Energy Act, and its wind turbines. The turbine fields were foisted on municipalities, in many cases, that didn't want them. Concerns of local residents and landowners who wished not to live in their shadow, or who were worried about the effect these 500-foot concrete power-generating stations would have on their property values, or their health, were ignored. The conservationist principles of the Niagara Escarpment Commission - as I well know, because our family farm is on the Escarpment, in Sydenham - were cast aside.

Rather than craft a green policy that was human-scaled, the McGuinty Liberals allowed big industry, often foreign-owned, to impose its will on ordinary people. In so doing they sent hydro prices soaring. The excess power created then had to be sold to other jurisdictions - at a loss. The turbines proved, predictably, to be unreliable, requiring back-up gas-fired plants to be built. Two such plants were hurriedly moved out of swing ridings, just before the last election - costing taxpayers $1-billion, and ultimately forcing McGuinty's resignation. In quitting he prorogued the Legislature - shutting down democracy, to avoid a confidence vote.

The list of Liberals scandals, outrages and boondoggles is too long to recount here. Eleven years is a long time. But there's more. There's the future. In her recent budget, handed down by Finance Minister Charles Sousa, Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne promised a chicken in every pot, and then some - to be paid for by you, me and our children. She projected deficits this year, next year, and the year after that, then a return to balance in 2017/18 - with no plan at all for how to get there. The Liberals know, as we all know, that eventually the borrowing must stop, because many of us have seen it before, during the Bob Rae NDP years. Austerity is coming, regardless of who wins Thursday. Wynne, like Rae before her, will be forced by international bond markets, which finance our debt, to shrink the public sector. She just doesn't want to talk about that now. It's a classic Ontario Liberal avoidance tick.

So, where to turn? Here in Bruce-Grey we have four choices on offer; Liberal Ellen Anderson, Conservative incumbent Bill Walker, New Democrat Karen Gventer, and Green Jenny Parsons.

Walker, to be fair, has been a diligent MPP. He responds to constituents' queries, does his homework, and also shows up for work at the Legislature. Also, interestingly, he does more than just parrot the party line verbatim. His approach to selling the Tory platform of spending cuts has been markedly smarter than the central campaign's, in that he has focused, as Liberal finance minister Paul Martin once did when engaged in a similar battle, on the need to preserve social programs. Had leader Tim Hudak employed this approach, Thursday's vote might not be such a nail-biter.

Ultimately though, any choice but Liberal is a good one, it seems to me. Simply put, this crop of Liberals has held power too long, and done too much harm, to deserve anything but a long stretch in the penalty box. They richly deserve a drubbing in this vote; the fact that they may not get one is more a testament to a weak Conservative leader than any virtue on their part. Ontario is struggling economically. This, plus all the foregoing, means it's time for a change.

Michael Den Tandt is publisher of the Hub. He can be reached at [email protected].




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