Peter Shawn Taylor is a journalist, policy research analyst and a contributing writer for Canadians for Affordable Energy.
Elections are often considered to be referendums on the economy. When the economy is performing well, incumbent governments are supposed to benefit from a contented electorate. That’s not what happened in Ontario.
By most measures, the Ontario economy is doing just fine. Unemployment, one of the most important indicators for voters, is the lowest it’s been in several decades. GDP growth is in the two-per-cent range — decent, if not spectacular. Housing starts and other measures of consumer spending seem reasonably strong as well.
Nevertheless, Ontario’s long-governing Liberals were just shown the door in spectacular fashion. Voters were willing to look past the Liberals’ ugly scandals in previous elections for the sake of predictability. But when voters looked at the economy this time, they plainly could not get past one aspect of it that was actually in horrible shape: Energy affordability.
Despite a fairly favourable economic situation in Kathleen Wynne’s favour, it was her party’s epic mismanagement of the electricity file in particular that dominated her opponents’ platforms and captured voters’ minds. Meanwhile her cap-and-trade system of carbon dioxide taxes was slowly making most other forms of energy needlessly more expensive as well.
In a mid-campaign poll by Ipsos, over 60 per cent of Ontario voters said hydro prices would have an impact on their vote in the provincial election, with the PCs as the top choice for fixing the problem. Every other government in Canada should take note of Wynne’s fate.