Sunday, September 09, 2007

Ontario election - over before it begins?

I have been thinking for months that this was going to be a close and interesting election, but it is beginning to look like the John Tory campaign promise of aid to religious schools will become the defining issue.

It is a fatally flawed policy. Canadians hold equality as one of their deepest values and that gets defined to mean that no group should be privileged by public policy. A poll I linked to in an earlier post suggests that even the existing Catholic system is unpopular.

Tory's promise seems about to join earlier examples such as the sharia law proposal and the Bob Rae NDP government's employment equity program as examples of public opinion disasters of this kind.

The inevitable result of this becoming the defining issue would be a Liberal majority. It would hurt the NDP because its position is indistinguishable from the Liberals, and the issue could motivate strategic voting. It could marginally help the Greens as they are the only party to suggest ending support to the Catholic system, so they might benefit by receiving the votes of defecting Tories who otherwise find it unacceptable to support the Liberals or NDP.

I remain uncertain about this, but it is the issue that has been getting big media play in the last week. Tory does not have much time to shift the focus, and so far the NDP has not made any impact.

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