Kathleen Wynne, the current premier of Ontario and Linda Jeffrey, the past Wynne Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and Brampton’s current Mayor are a study in contrasts.
First as Ontario’s 25th Premier, Wynne is both at the height of her power and the low depths of popularity. But even with her popularity at below 20%, she remains a powerful politician in control of her cabinet and caucus and with the ability to set and implement her political agenda.
This bafflingly despite her now self admitted mismanagement of our province’s electricity system which she now concedes has caused such hardship in the province that some are forced to choose between being able to feed themselves or heat their homes. It is a sad reality that Premier Wynne and her Liberals are looking more and more likely to hold on to power in the 2018 election as both the NDP and Conservatives appear to be parties struggling to seize any of the public’s attention, let alone imagination.
On one hand, Andrea Horvath and her NDP seem to have little ground to stand on, given that Kathleen Wynne’s liberals have all but assumed much of the left’s territory leaving Horvath with few policy options and little to say. And then there is Patrick Brown, who with so many opportunities to pillory a liberal government mired in scandal, continues to squander his opportunities to effectively hold this government to account while failing to be consistent in publicly expressing his own party’s policies and platform. The recent by-elections in Ottawa and Niagara were a status quo indictment of an ineffective opposition that bodes well for Wynne going forward into her pre-election year.
Contrast Wynne with Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey. Like Wynne, Jeffrey served as an Ontario Liberal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, as well as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Her predecessor, Susan Fennell, had presided over a virtual renaissance in Brampton. During her tenure as Mayor, Brampton saw major investments in public infrastructure, and a massive $300 million expansion of public transit funded jointly by all three levels of government despite the fact that, at the time, there was no formal funding program in place by the Federal and Provincial governments to fund it. All of that travelling to Ottawa that paved the way for the single largest provincial/federal investment in Brampton’s history was ultimately part of what I have always believed to be an organized campaign to run her out of office. Her frequent travel was at the core of two years of relentless pounding and largely unfounded accusations, innuendo and outright vicious allegations. , After having been cleared of all but two ridiculously minor issues just days prior to the 2014 municipal election, Fennell lost to Linda Jeffrey and her promise to clean up city hall.
Two years later under Jeffrey’s leadership, Brampton’s reputation has sunk to new lows. Jeffrey presides over a fractious council that cannot agree on anything. An LRT line that had unprecedented public support was defeated despite over $300 million in approved provincial funding. A search for a new CAO attracted only one candidate, who, since being hired has been on a rampage at city hall that has seen virtually the entire senior management fired, drawing comparison to a mini “reign of terror” with blood soaked corridors and a civil service in disarray. And even when she wins, Jeffrey loses. After recently scoring a coveted nod from her former Liberal government colleagues to locate a university in Brampton, it was revealed that even that effort is plagued with a lack of organization and little in the way of a plan leaving council slack jawed asking, “What do we do now”.
Wynne and Jeffrey are two liberals who are at the same time complete opposites; Wynne powerful and blessed with a weak opposition, and Jeffrey, powerless and cursed with a fractious and ineffective council. But both have one thin in common: they both need to be replaced, and 2018 can’t come soon enough.
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