Snap election for Ontario? 0
Queen's Park was shell-shocked Friday as the three parties came to terms with the fresh hell they've just wrought.
One lesson they've all learned is you never want to look like the party that provoked an unnecessary, unwanted election -- especially not in the summer, when voters would rather be barbecuing steaks than grilling politicians.
If politicians don't come to their senses, if voters do go to the polls in a snap vote July 19, who will they blame?
Last week, it appeared the cosy deal between the Liberals and the NDP to pass the government's budget bill was falling apart.
Tories startled observers by voting with the NDP on some amendments -- and both Finance Minister Dwight Duncan and Premier Dalton McGuinty warned it could trigger a snap election.
Is this 1990 all over again, when then Liberal premier David Peterson prematurely pulled the plug on the majority government voters had given him in 1987, following a Liberal minority from 1985-1987, backed by the NDP?
Voters saw no reason to go to the polls early and punished Peterson by trashing him and his party at the ballot box.
Unfortunately, they also punished themselves by electing five years of New Democratic tyranny under Bob Rae. Some say the province has never been the same since.
That's why all the leaders were posturing perilously on Friday, playing an elaborate finger-pointing game.
Who has the most at stake here?
Clearly, it's NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. She was playing nice with the Liberals until it backfired.
Having won concessions on changes to the budget on child care and a so-called "tax the rich" tax, she pushed her luck too far, introducing new amendments on privatization, arbitration and the environment.
In a master stroke, the Tories backed her into a corner by voting with the NDP on those amendments -- and they unexpectedly passed.
That means the bill is no longer the Liberal budget bill and if it goes to the House the way it is, the government will be forced to vote against its own legislation.
Hudak, meanwhile, high-tailed it out of town, talking jobs and the economy in Hamilton.
The Tories are in a position where they wouldn't mind a do-or-die election.
With the resignation of veteran PC caucus chair Elizabeth Witmer, they have to fight a tough byelection later this summer, anyway.
If they lose that seat to the Liberals, there will no longer be a minority parliament and Hudak's leadership will be called into question.
The Liberals would also not mind going to the polls.
They're in the best shape of the three parties financially and are looking down the road at steep financial cuts to government. Cutting isn't their style.
Premier Dalton McGuinty these days has the air of a man wearied by eight years in office. He appears to be just going through the motions.
His original team of clever senior staff and strategists have largely moved on. Some observers say his recent hires are not just the B team -- they're a gang that can't shoot straight.
McGuinty also has nothing to lose. He's made his mark on the province's history.
Having driven us into record deficits and debt, he can merrily move on to a lucrative job in the private sector.
If the Liberals lose the election -- as polls suggest they will -- it will give his party four years to regroup.
The Tories will then have to do all the tough, unpopular work of cutting the deficit and staring down doctors, teachers and other public sector workers in salary negotiations.
Then, four years from now, when voters are tired of the cuts, they could toss the Tories out and we'll be back to square one with another Liberal or -- oh, horror -- NDP government.