Following the Liberals’ stunning electoral win on June 12, Michael Harris called out Tim Hudak for the ill-fated 100,000 job cut pledge, adding that it “demoralized our base.”
“Perhaps the central campaign that was run out of Toronto forgot that Ontarians value accountability in government, along with fiscal responsibility,” Harris, the re-elected Progressive Conservative MPP for Kitchener-Conestoga said. “The central campaign focused on restoring accountability in government when it was too late, the damage had been done from the 100,000 job cut proposal at the beginning of the campaign.”
Wilfrid Laurier political science professor and electoral analyst Barry Kay agreed that the job cut rhetoric hurt the Tories.
“What happened in the election I think was pretty clear: it was about the 100,000 job cuts. After you’ve won an election, the winning party makes all sorts of self-serving claims about the fact that it was a mandate for this or that, but I would argue that this was a campaign lost by Hudak more than won by Wynne.”
Though his party dropped nine seats overall and now faces a Liberal majority, Harris promises to be a prominent player at Queen’s Park when the Legislature resumes on July 2.
“Her Majesty’s Official Opposition plays an important role in holding the government accountable for the decisions they make with hard earned tax dollars,” he said. “I will be (my constituents) voice to ensure that that happens each and everyday because this government has a track record of not spending or investing tax dollars wisely.”
Polling on June 12 was tight between Harris (17,390 votes) and Liberal candidate Wayne Wright (15,896), with a margin of just 3.13 per cent (1,521 votes) between them. James Villeneuve of the NDP finished third with 21.09 per cent of the vote (10,059), while the Green’s David Weber picked up just under seven per cent (3,319).
“If the Liberals had swung in Kitchener-Conestoga the way they did province-wide, relative to the Conservatives, they’d have done a bit better and I think it would have been a virtual tie in that case,” Kay said. “But southwestern Ontario in general, including that riding, was not an area where the Liberals went up, in fact they went down.”
While the spread between the Liberals and Conservatives narrowed considerably in Kitchener-Conestoga (3.13 from 8.68 per cent in 2011), more significant was the drop in overall vote share by each party: The Tory’s fell to 36.45 from 44.16 per cent while the Grits slid to 33.32 from 35.5 per cent in the 2011 election.
Those points were picked up by the Greens and the NDP, who gained 4 and 3.5 per cent respectively over the last election.
Nonetheless, Harris plans to advocate on behalf of everyone in the riding.
“Our first priority is to serve all constituents, regardless of how they voted in the election. I now represent every voter and every constituent in the riding of Kitchener-Conestoga, and I will work hard on each and every one of their behalf over the next four years to continue to earn their trust.”
On June 17, Harris joined the Progressive Conservative Caucus in Toronto to discuss the party’s shortcomings.
“Tim (Hudak) did say he would not be leading the party into the next election, so as soon as we can get the new leadership underway the better.”
The PCs need to move forward and “accept what voters told us,” he added.
“We have to have a leader and a party that champions fiscal responsibility, but ensures that we focus on providing for those who are in need, whether it’s through health care, education or other social services.”
Specifically, Harris points to the opening tendering bill, emergency response times in rural communities and the construction of Highway 7 as priorities going forward.
“My goals and objectives haven’t changed since my last election, and that is to put the interests and issues of most concern to my community first. That is the sole purpose of me being the MPP, to represent their interests at Queen’s Park. The Liberals made the commitment to start construction on Highway 7 by 2015 and I will be the one standing up at Queen’s Park ensuring that that happens each and every day.”