Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Why politics is stupid much of the time: the flip-flop attack

Trying to save is drowning campaign the day before e-day, Ontario C leader (I've redacted the P) Tim Hudak was in Mississauga today, where he used Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty's decision to cancel a controversial local power plant project to frame the Premier as a promise-breaker unfit to govern.

“This site symbolizes why we need change,” Mr. Hudak said as he stood in a parking lot overlooking the construction site. “More Dalton McGuinty broken promises are going to hit Ontario families in the pocket book. Friends, we need change.”
Seems simple enough, right? McGuinty promised to build this power plant and now he's breaking his promise. He's flip-flopping. He's a naughty promise-breaking flip-flopper who can't be trusted.

But here's the thing: Hudak opposes the power plant project. He supports McGuinty's decision to cancel the project, and has said if he's elected, he'll cancel the thing too. So, like, what the heck, Tim?

It'd be fair to say McGuinty got the initial decision wrong. It'd be fair to say making the right decision up-front would have saved taxpayer dollars. And it would be fair to say the timing of McGuinty's reversal is politically suspect. All fair ball.

But to attack him for taking a position you support because it involves changing his mind? That's really stupid. If McGuinty hadn't reversed himself, would Hudak be saying "this is the wrong decision but I respect him for being inflexibly unwilling to shift from his previous decision?" Of course not.

What a thoroughly stupid attack to make. What is Tim's message "Once I made a decision, no matter how bone-ass wrong it turns out to be I'll stick to it no matter what, because that's leadership?" That's not leadership, that's insanity.

This seems to have been a regular thing with McGuinty, actually, who has had some other fairly high-profile reversals in the face of public opposition and/or contrary policy evidence. While getting the call right in the first place is, of course, preferable, I don't want a leader who just makes the decision once and moves on. I'd rather they have the political courage to, when presented with the evidence, be willing to make the decision to change course if necessary.

The thing is, while stupid Hudak's attack will find a level of resonance. He made these comments for a reason. It's up to us as voters, though, to signal what we want. Sometimes a flip-flop is a good thing. Sometimes it's not. If we want politicians that will never change their mind on something no matter how much circumstances may change, that's what we'll get. If we want something different, that's up to us too. But it will take looking beyond the soundbite.

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MississaugaPeter said...

WTH??? Got an autocall last night at 9:12 p.m. (can't they do this any earlier?) from Hudak telling me that today (yesterday) construction continues at the plant and only he is really honest about closing it down.

Skinny Dipper said...

My guess is that no matter who forms the government, the project will not be cancelled. It may be modified on site--but not cancelled.

Jeff said...

There is question over whether it can be cancelled during the writ period, as the powers of the government are sharply curtailed during an election campaign. McGuinty and Hudak say they will cancel it, but neither can actually flip the switch until after e-day. So yes, construction does continue, but Hudak is dishonest about his honesty.

MississaugaPeter said...

In today's Mississauga News that was supposedly delivered to every house in Mississauga:

This was not a significant issue to me and my fellow neighbours in our neighbourhood in Mississauga East.

The fact that construction continues and who will pay for it would have made it a significant election if there was more than one day left.

It's going to be close in this riding that Fonseca won for the Liberals in 2007: 59%-23%. If I was FORCED to bet this riding, I would give it to the Conservatives - who are running a well known resident who has run a superior campaign and has many more, motivated campaign workers.