Ontario, Canada’s Dalton McGuinty: Obama Prototype

Written by Wes Walker on June 14, 2013

Dalton_McGuinty_2007“A man is known by the company he keeps” — there is simple but profound wisdom in that phrase.  Considering the scandal-plagued Presidency, this advice might have given us fair warning; and heeding it now might help contain the damage.

As it happens, the President is on a very similar trajectory — including his many scandals  — to a recent Canadian leader.  They even hired the same political strategists over the years, and consult the same playbook, so his story might give insight into the tactics you might expect from Obama.

The Canadian is previous Ontario Liberal party leader, Dalton McGuinty, three times elected Premier of Ontario.  This week he re-entered private life for the first time since winning his father’s former riding in 1990 — and he was up to his neck in scandal.

The connection between them (among others) is David Axelrod.  Mr. Axelrod was selected as a strategist for Mr. McGuinty’s campaign preparation from 2000-2002.

Canadian politics are famously boring.  Even our scandals tend to lack “sizzle”, so Dalton and his legacy will be new to most of you.  The parallels between these men are interesting, and perhaps instructive as Americans decide as a nation how to respond to the waves of scandals you are seeing today.

For background, Ontario (the province McGuinty led) is Canada’s largest in terms of population, and also its largest in economic output, especially heavy industry and manufacturing.  Both men have similar reckless spending habits, cozy relationships with labour, and credit downgrades which have hurt their respective regions.

The story begins with the image he portrays.  The criticism of Dalton (aka “Premier Dad”) when first elected: he rose to office on empty platitudes and scripted smiles.  The campaign slogan that propelled Dalton into office in ‘03 should have a familiar echo:  “Choose the High Road.  Choose Change.”  More recently, he used “Forward. Together.”  Both leaders have similar records with respect to health, education, environment, and jobs.

McGuinty solemnly promised he would not raise taxes.  Then, immediately after taking office, he instituted the largest tax hike in Ontario history, ($900 per person per year) calling it a Health Care “Premium”.  In the name of fixing Health Care problems, he stuck everyone with dubious results and a bigger bill. And, just like Obamacare, it officially wasn’t a tax, until a judge said it was.

You will remember Solyndra, of course.  Ontario’s version was a $7B deal with Samsung.  It boasted grand plans for green energy, and “hundreds” of local jobs.  Those jobs … well, we’re still waiting.  Also, the “green” electricity is produced at more than 10x the market rate (which we buy, whether we need it or not) and then we have to sell the surplus to places like New York at a loss of millions of dollars.  This has inflated energy prices, and chased away jobs.  This plan was chosen instead of buying cheap, reliable, efficient hydro-electric power from our nearest neighbor.  Those wasted billions of dollars might have helped pay down our bigger-than-California’s provincial debt.

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