I gather the conventional wisdom is that NDP leader Andrea Horvath won the recent Ontario leaders’ debate.
Probably true, but unsurprising. Like Tania Granic Allen in the PC leadership debates, she was the one candidate free to say anything interesting. She was not going to be elected, and could not be held to account for any promises made. She had nothing to lose.
By contrast, Doug Ford’s job was intrinsically less inspiring. He was on course to win big; his task was to sound reassuring and to promise nothing specific that was going to come back to haunt him.
Kathleen Wynne too has little chance to win, but she is still not free to say what she wants. She has a record with which she is saddled, and which she had to defend. Were she to come up with any extravagant new promises, or new policies, the rejoinder would have been obvious: so why haven’t you done it in the last fifteen years?
Given that math, Horvath was bound to “win,” if nobody made a major mistake, and all candidates did what they needed to do as well as they could.
What troubled me most in listening to the debate was that small government had no defender. It was not in Ford’s interest to point out ideological differences: he is on track to beat Wynne sheerly on scandal and perceived incompetence. So he did not differ much from either of the other two, both on the left. But as a result, the impression was left that the answer to any problem was to spend more government money on it, and pass more government regulation. For the most part, nobody cared to point out that money did not come from nowhere, and if the government did not spend it, it did not disappear.