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second report card:
ontario liberal party leadership candidates

Seven candidates for Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party. After three more debates, we bring you seven follow-up report cards.

Kathleen Wynne (left) for staying the course? Glen Murray (centre) for meaningful change? Or Sandra Pupatello (right) for Leader of the Opposition? The shape of the race is well underway.

December 11, 2012 – Since the last Report Card on the Ontario Liberal Leadership race there have been three debates, totaling four to date. Different in format, these have been:

  • a presentation to the Canadian Club in Toronto;
  • a live session on TVOntario; and,
  • a web-cast debate in Northern Ontario similar in format to the first debate in Ingersoll, Ontario.

As a general observation, it should be noted that each candidate gets better with each performance. The guidance and briefings from their staff clearly show.

Like the first report card, this review will evaluate the candidates on the same 'insider-outsider scale' and the related 'marketing-product change scale' to address the greater question: Is the selection of a leader a question of marketing or product development? To reiterate from our last article in this series, the pure insider dance is all about marketing – the core of a party already, by and large, already likes the product. For the public at large, however, a real change is often highlighted by a changed product with different policy or direction.

In the Report Cards below, scores for status quo are the sum of the 'insider and marketing' values expressed as a percentage out of 20. Scores for broader change are the sum of the 'outsider and product' values also expressed as a percentage out of 20. Note, if Liberal delegates think future victory requires a new face and an existing product, they should focus on the high 'status quo' scores. If they think that a new offering is needed in order to win, they should focus on the high 'broader change' scores.

  • Eric Hoskins:
    Website | Dr. Hoskins' measured tones and presentation showcase him as a decent and caring individual. He has been prepared to highlight his difference with the status quo and has challenged underemployment amongst those aged 18 to 25. While admirable, this new focus has not been accompanied by any proposals about how to address the challenge faced. A similar example was his passionate commentary about the condition of aboriginal people and the absence of anything of substance on the question of what to do about it. An MD, he also has seemed confused about the recent vote of the Ontario Medical Association to ratify its new agreement with the Province saying in one debate he would vote for it and then saying in another debate that he did not vote. A small detail to be sure, but one of note.

    His campaign’s clear focus has been on high profile endorsements. These are more prominent on his website than anything else. This is consistent with a marketing focus. In our last report card we suggested his recent Rural plan might signal a move to more policy. This has not yet been the case.

    Insider: 3, Marketing: 9. Status Quo: 60%
    Outsider: 7, Product: 1. Broader Change: 40%

    Insider: 4, Marketing: 8. Status Quo: 60%
    Outsider: 6, Product: 2. Broader Change: 40%

  • Gerard Kennedy:
    Website | A month into the campaign, Kennedy finally has a functioning website which perhaps reflects his campaign so far – large on talk and critique but less based with any timely detailed propositions about what would be different under his leadership. In the debates so far, he has continued to highlight his differences with the current government but these have largely been differences of tone.

    Kennedy has clearly honed his skills as an opposition politician but why and how he would govern differently remains to be articulated or known.

    Insider: 1, Marketing: 10. Status Quo: 55%
    Outsider: 9, Product: 0. Broader Change: 45%

    Insider: 2, Marketing: 8. Status Quo: 50%
    Outsider: 8, Product: 2. Broader Change: 50%

  • Glen Murray:
    Website | The Murray campaign has continued to release policy and it appears, since the debate in Northern Ontario, that his policy agenda is beginning to set the terms for other candidates to engage. A brand new approach to job creation and innovation was released and endorsed by a number of high profile academic and business leaders. His proposals for significant Northern administrative devolution of power set the terms for the Northern Issues Debate.

    During the TVO Debate, Murray also adopted an interesting strategy of building up his fellow candidates. He seemed to be the most willing to complement and defend the records of those around him. This team approach contrasted in particular with the lone-wolf persona of Sandra Pupatello.

    Insider: 2, Marketing: 1. Status Quo: 15%
    Outsider: 8, Product: 9. Broader Change: 85%

    Insider: 1, Marketing: 2. Status Quo: 15%
    Outsider: 9, Product: 8. Broader Change: 85%

  • Sandra Pupatello:
    Website | The Pupatello campaign has increased its focus on her outsider status but perhaps at the risk of alienating other candidates. In the TVO Debate, her suggestion that jobs are only being discussed because of her entry into the race seemed both absurd and laughable. It also served to unite the other candidates in a gentle but recurring rebuke. Her presentation through all debates have continued her focus on biography and her undeniable appeal as a passionate defender of the past and attack dog for the battles of the future.

    Her campaign also finally released some policy with a Northern Plan. Long on commitments to continue current policy, it is unclear if policy change or policy re-packaging will be the norm from this campaign.

    Insider: 7, Marketing: 9. Status Quo: 80%
    Outsider: 3, Product: 1. Broader Change: 20%

    Insider: 8, Marketing: 10. Status Quo: 90%
    Outsider: 2, Product: 0. Broader Change: 10%

  • Charles Sousa:
    Website | If you watch these debates with the sound off, Charles Sousa looks the part of a traditional Ontario Premier. With the sound on, he even sounds the part with his calming and yet authoritative voice and presentation. As with Dr. Hoskins, however, detail to back up initial presentation has not been updated on his website. Mr. Sousa’s policy offering is the same as in his launch speech with nothing added since.

    As the debates progress, the ability of this candidate to remain relevant and memorable – with the sound on – is brought into question.

    Insider: 3, Marketing: 8. Status Quo: 55%
    Outsider: 7, Product: 2. Broader Change: 45%

    Insider: 3, Marketing: 4. Status Quo: 35%
    Outsider: 7, Product: 6. Broader Change: 65%

  • Harinder Takhar:
    Website | Competing with Mr. Murray for the role of 'ideas', Harinder Takhar has also released substantive policy material. His plan to reduce the deficit a year earlier than currently scheduled is largely the result of endorsing recommendations in the Drummond Report that have not been endorsed by the Government. Because his plan clearly reflects his position and experience within Government, it serves to increase his insider score. While he has argued it is different, his tax plan to encourage business hiring also resembles that proposed by the NDP.

    Insider: 8, Marketing: 6. Status Quo: 70%
    Outsider: 2, Product: 4. Broader Change: 30%

    Insider: 8, Marketing: 8. Status Quo: 80%
    Outsider: 2, Product: 2. Broader Change: 20%

  • Kathleen Wynne:
    Website | Arguing that the current impasses with teachers is largely the result of the chemistry at the bargaining table, Ms. Wynne has taken steps to subtly enhance her outsider position. She has also added to the policy offerings available for review on her website.

    Her biggest splash on the policy front has been a commitment to keep future spending to GDP growth less 1% until such time as the province’s debt to GDP ratio returns to pre-recession levels. A technocrat’s dream, this policy is either very austere or quite accommodating. The difference is in the fact that she has not made it clear if she is talking about nominal GDP growth – which is what debt to GDP is measured against – or real GDP growth. If it is the former, then the days of austerity are over as growth would be in the 3% to 3.5% range. If it is the latter, then spending growth would be in the 1% to 1.5% which is essentially the average of the status quo deficit elimination plan of the current government.

    Insider: 9, Marketing: 8. Status Quo: 85%
    Outsider: 1, Product: 2. Broader Change: 15%

    Insider: 10, Marketing: 7. Status Quo: 85%
    Outsider: 0, Product: 3. Broader Change: 15%

After almost a month, it is now easier to see that the shape of the race is well underway:

  • Ms. Wynne is very much the choice for those looking to maintain the current Government’s approach.
  • Mr. Murray very clearly is the voice for meaningful change from the status quo.
  • Ms. Pupatello and Mr. Kennedy are clearly best suited to be Leader of the Opposition.
  • Dr. Hoskins, Mr. Takhar and Mr. Sousa would seem to be auditioning for the roles of Ministers of Health and Finance.

Now we wait for the next round. Stay tuned for SayItCanada's next Report Card Day!

Leonard Spencer
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