Georgette Gagnon and Dan Rath’s excellent, recently published book, Not Without Cause, chronicles former Ontario Premier David Peterson’s fall from grace. This is a polite way of describing how in the 1990 Ontario election the Liberals crash-dived 57 seats – from 83 to 36.
How was it possible a government that enjoyed 50 per cent voter approval 37 days before the election call could spiral down to 32.4 per cent on election day?
Gagnon and Rath shine in an often funny, irreverent, but thorough look at what could possibly go wrong during an election campaign and did. It should be read by every candidate, campaign manager and anyone interested in how hardball politics is played.
If you don’t know the rules – how are you going to play the game?
What ruined Peterson’s coronation?
He had a loaded-for-bear bank account. He picked the date. He faced the new, unknown leader (Mike who?) of the third place, financially stumbling Tories. It was the doldrums of a summer election. The official opposition NDP had never won a provincial election in Ontario and didn’t expect to win this one.
Looked at from a pragmatic viewpoint, it should have been a walk in the park.
Who was going to beat the Liberals? Oh, they admitted that they expected to lose a few seats, but heavens, not 57!
The authors say that Peterson’s mother urged him not to run. He should have listened to her.
Not Without Cause discloses who beat the Liberals?
Certainly not the NDP. It was the ‘protestors’ who did. Gagnon and Rath devote 53 pages – one complete chapter – to the ‘Protestor phenomenon.” The ‘protestors’ together helped to beat the Liberals, they argue. And the Family Coalition Party (FCP), which garnered over 111,000 votes, Gagnon and Rath describe as the best organized. The FCP ran the most candidates as well – 68.
As for the other parties, the Libertarians 44 candidates netted over 23,000 votes, the Greens’ 37 got almost 30,000; the Confederation of Regions, (CoR), an anti-bilingual party, almost 67,000 for their 30 candidates.
The fifteen seats where the FCP battled CoR for fourth place, CoR won 8 and the FCP 7. The Freedom Party, the Communists and various independents gained scant support. But when all these votes are put together, it was a tremendous anti-old parties, anti-government vote.
On a paltry campaign budget of $30,000 (Tory leader Mike Harris spent $8,000 on election suits alone), the FCP provided voters with strong pro-life, pro-family sentiments with an alternative against the three ‘me-too pro-abortion feminist-captive’ parties.
Nevertheless, Gagnon and Rath do not seem to realize that abortion is not a ‘single issue’ for these voters. It is, rather a ‘singular’ issue. Abortion does not make the FCP a ‘one issue’ party. Pro-lifers recognize it as the first issue because it affects every aspect of public life – health, education, law, politics, and religion. A.B.C. construction union member who recently asked for paid leave of absence to have an abortion is a recent example.
In seven ridings, Not Without Cause says, “combined with other fringe groups the FCP would prove statistically to have a significant role in helping the NDP overtake the Liberals.
Who were the other protestors?
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF), at 60,000 strong, joined in the attack. It worked for a minority government, feeling that it would be more responsive to teachers; needs. The Peterson government had angered the teacher and civil servant unions when it ordered them to match the provinces’ contributions to their own pension plans.
The OSSTF spent $250,000 getting their message across to the electorate that “Spending too little on public schools is child neglect.” The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA), enthusiastically collaborated with the OSSTF for the first time in its history. Three hundred teachers volunteered to work in ridings targeted by the OSSTF. Not mentioned by Gagnon-Rath was the very effective ‘Is it Fair’ leaflet financed by the public school boards in the Toronto area. The leaflet demanded to know why the Metro Toronto public school board received no financing for daycare, special education and second language training – costly projects peculiar to a large city.
Peterson’s final strategy after failing to come up with any plan to squash the protestors objections, was the hope that they would prove to be no more than a lunatic fringe.
No such luck!
The protest parties tapped into a well of disaffection. Peterson’s disregard of the myriad problems, including the killing of thousands of unborn Ontarians, was to put a lot of disgruntled people into the polling booths and signaled ‘exit’ for one David Peterson.
Get Not Without Cause by Georgette Gagnon and Dan Rath, published by Harper-Collins, (408 pages, $27.50 at your local bookstore of ask for it at your library. It’s a good read.