I like Premier Kathleen Wynne.
I was a proud Wynne candidate in Algoma-Manitoulin in the 2014 campaign, happily championed the platform, the Liberal plan, and have absolutely no regrets, but I’m in no rush to do it again in 2018.
In a world where more and more people are getting their news from memes and everything is trumped by Trump, it is posing near impossible for Ontario Liberals to improve their polling numbers. With these scary polling numbers Liberal MPP’s are getting quite concerned about their own political futures. Several long-serving members are not planning to run again and those that hope to serve a few more years are left with hard choices on how best to improve their chances.
No Liberal MPP has yet to publicly suggest a new leader is needed but with every negative newspaper article and bad poll this won’t be the case for long. Time is of the essence however, and leadership rumblings will only make things worse for Liberals.
Budget day is April 27th. By all accounts it should be filled with relatively good news for Ontarians and Ontario Liberals. No more deficit, rosy economic outlook, and more health-care spending. Lots of great headlines, however, if this leadership nonsense isn’t put to bed before the budget all this good news will be wasted. Liberals need to find a way forward fast. Leadership campaigns take time but more importantly, they don’t come with a guarantee that a new leader will fix the polling numbers.
Politics can be a brutal and unforgiving sport. Wynne has decades of experience and understands how to play the game. Now is her moment to silence the critics or prepare to move on.
Wynne needs an injection of new blood around her. The current set of advisors have served her well and faithfully in developing policies that position her and the party as progressive, responsible stewards of the province. That small circle of close advisors needs to be expanded. Now she needs a fresh set of people who can take those plans and translate that into a winning narrative.
After his 1999 defeat Dalton McGuinty faced loud grumblings about his leadership and the future of the party. Facing a leadership review vote in Ottawa, McGuinty reached out to Dwight Duncan and Greg Sorbara among others. They were able to bring in new blood to McGuinty’s office and fought back any leadership revolt. They then put in place the team that brought about three successive Liberal governments. Now is the time for Wynne to do the same if she wants to have any chance at reelection.
The Ontario Liberals have the fundamentals of a great campaign, a strong economy, progressive policies, weak opponents and a strong leader that has won when she faced long odds before. What they lack is the internal cohesion to turn that into a winning formula. In 2014 the campaign backdrop read “What Leadership Is,” now it’s time for Premier Wynne to demonstrate leadership, why she wants the job, and why Ontarians should give her a renewed mandate.
Craig Hughson is a former Ontario Liberal candidate and former Chief of Staff at Queen’s Park. He is currently a principal at Aurora Strategy Group.