Kathleen, the woodshed can be a necessary and revitalizing experience ~ Robert Hurst


Robert Hurst was CTV’s Asia Correspondent in the 1980’s

The Disgrace of the Liberal Party
By Robert Hurst

Seven seats. Is that it?

Kathleen, you’ve been bad. Very bad. The voters have sent you to the woodshed, you and your gang.

In old Ontario, when farming was everything, the woodshed was where you went for punishment.  The woodshed is the place where we expect you to think, deeply, about what you’ve done and why you landed up there.

Will you admit that you wasted our money on a series of scandals? eHealth. Ornge helicopters. Gas plants. Secret millions to teacher unions.

A billion here, a billion there.  Easy come, easy go.

During your 15 years in power, you doubled the public debt. Will you admit that you came to have little regard for the public purse?

Perhaps just as egregious, you lost touch with so many of us in your final years in power.  Were you so dazzled by the glitz and the glitter of the fast-talking champagne elites of the big city that you forgot about those struggling in the suburbs and small towns across Ontario?

There’s not much bubbly being toasted along the run-down main streets of Brockville and Brantford.

Here in Muskoka we were exposed to some of that big-city Liberal arrogance. Queen’s Park told our town halls to build bicycle lanes and start planting rooftop veggie gardens. All the while we were worried, first and foremost, about our local hospitals.

Kathleen, this may appear to be a humiliating moment. But the woodshed can be a revitalizing experience.

Canada has a tradition of throwing out the bums after a long run in power. It’s a grand ritual. It’s happened to some of our best like Mike Pearson and Pierre Trudeau. It tends to keep our political parties fresh, responsive and responsible. That is, if you choose renewal over denial and blame.

The Liberal Party has been re-born several times after stunning election losses.

In 1958, John Diefenbaker’s Conservatives swept to victory with the largest percentage of seats in Canadian history. The Liberals had been in power for 22 years. Mike Pearson gathered the Liberal party together at Queen’s University in the autumn of 1960. The Kingston Conference re-invigorated the Liberal party.

Jean Chretien did the same with a Liberal Conference in Aylmer Quebec in 1999.

So, dear Liberals, can you honestly analyze what happened? Can you get humble? Can you reconnect with us? Can you send packing the leadership team that took you to the woodshed?

Kathleen, landing up in the woodshed is not such a terrible and embarrassing experience. It can be a beautiful thing for the Liberal Party and for Ontario.

There are great issues ahead that need fresh thinking. A stagnant middle class. Our hospitals. Affordable housing in Muskoka. The digital revolution. Climate change.

As we look at Premier Ford, after his gormless campaign, many of us are befuddled. We may need the Liberals back, healthy and standing tall, sooner rather than later.

Robert Hurst is an award-winning journalist and former President of CTV News

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  1. Terry McCaffery on

    The Liberal’s situation in Ontario is reminiscent of the Federal Progressive Conservative’s big loss in the 1993 general election. The Mulroney government was wholly unpopular with voters and this was demonstrated when the PC’s under Kim Campbell’s leadership lost 154 seats and elected only 2 members! Like the proverbial Phoenix, the PC’s arose from the ashes and revitalized itself to eventually form the government again and lead Canada from 2006 to 2015. Perhaps the old political adage is true: new governments are not voted in, old governments are voted out!

    PS. I had to look up the meaning of gormless, only to find that I am gormless! Thanks Mr. Hurst! LOL

    • Brian Thompson on

      The PC decimation in 1993 was also helped with the emergence of the Reform Party led by Preston Manning of Alberta. The Reform Party won 52 seats in 1993 replacing seats that would quite likely have been won by a PC Party. And the PQ won 54 seats in 1993, some of which would also have gone PC without the growth of independence in Quebec. I don’t think its a good comparable as the Ontario Liberals were not impacted with the growth of a newly formed centrist party that would take away Liberal votes.

      • Terry McCaffery on

        Well stated Brian! I think the point I really tried to make, which may have been unclear, is that political parties can arise from the ashes and rebuild/revitalize their constituency. I wasn’t comparing the actual dynamics of the respective elections as you stated, they were totally different: just that political parties can be rejuvenated by a crushing defeat! I think that was the thrust of Mr. Hurst’s commentary as well.

        • Brian Thompson on

          We’ve seen it happen many times before Terry…Thank our forefathers for the system we have today that allows this to happen. And btw…I have no idea what gormless means either, but I do like and appreciate the sound and syntax of the word.

          • It’s easy to look up, Brian. Means “stupid”. But I disagree that it was “gormless”–merely hurried and slapdash. One hopes that future actions of the P.C. government will be governed in a more sedate and deliberate fashion (and I suspect that they will be.) I think you missed Hurst’s point. Our “forefathers” were quite wise in giving us our present system. This election was bound to make politicians fearful and that is a good thing. “When the government is afraid of the people, you have liberty. When the people are afraid of the government, you have tyranny.”

            We have every cause to celebrate that our system works for the citizens it was intended to serve. U.S. President, John Kennedy, a student of history, once sagely opined, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” We had a peaceful revolution yesterday. Today the nation is better for it.

  2. The Liberals will need to think long and hard about their underlying ideology of neo-liberalism. Like its cousin, neo-conservatism, it is elitist and globalist to the core and focuses on strong central government (along with the enormous bureaucracies that it spawns) as the answer to every problem. Ultimately, the people see the essentially undemocratic nature of the ideology and reject it. But, there are powerful moneyed interests that want to see it continue.

    In Third World countries, the average citizen is accustomed to being denied the right to manage his/her own destiny and to accept the dominance of a corrupt, licentious upper class (or they get up and flee to more egalitarian nations).

    In contrast, those who have been raised in the democratic tradition of various Western nations (which were founded on the principles of justice and the God-given rights of the individual) are simply not accepting of the notion that an intrusive “power elite” has an intrinsic right to rule over them. It is not surprising, considering the mismanagement and corruption of the power elites (along with their concentration of wealth) that thinking non-elites would rebel. They understand that others have been granted a favored status while they they have been insulted and denied the ability to affect the circumstances of their own lives. Seen in that light, it is entirely logical that they would vote for an irreverent bad-boy like a Donald Trump or a Doug Ford, as a way of “sticking it” to those who, by virtue of their wealth or education, fancy themselves as the “betters” of the masses. It is also a way of expressing anger toward the elitist sycophants in the mainstream media and entertainment industry, who defend the corrupt status quo. With exaggeration, innuendo and outright falsehoods, the depraved idiots of the entertainment and sports industries (and celebrity media figures can be seen that way as well) viciously attack anyone who dares to depart from the elitist notion of how the world should be run. (These non-entertaining entertainers well-understand who butters their bread.) Like the well-connected prostitutes and wealthy guests inhabiting the fringes of the courts of various monarchs, they cast contemptuous eyes on men like Donald Trump and Doug Ford, seeing them as knavish court jesters. But Trump, in particular, suits the role of Feste in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, who was described as “wise enough to play the fool”. It remains to be seen if Doug Ford is up to playing that role.

    Jesters were usually members of noble households (or were even in the family of the monarchs). They were often able to say things in jest, that noblemen would say only at the risk of their lives. A jester could actually be quite subversive in his suggestions that the “old order” needed to be overturned, having perhaps, a secret desire to favor those oppressed by the aristocracy. In the long march toward a more just and honorable society (instead of just paying lip-service to the notion by the hypocritical power elite), court jesters often performed their iconoclastic roles quite admirably. It seems that “the more things change, the more they stay the same”.

    One hopes that Doug Ford will lead in the effort to make the party elites among the PCs more responsive to the will of the people and what they want and, more importantly, what they don’t want, in their government. The average citizen is quite fed up with politicians who reflect the will of a select few and a bureaucracy that is bloated and unresponsive to the desires of the people. We shall see. Any party can be reduced to ashes in the next election, if they don’t meet their obligation to honor the will of the people. To be public servants–not their masters.

    Judging by the comments of liberals this morning, I do not believe that the Liberal Party has yet learned that humbling lesson. Perhaps with a bit more intelligent reflection, they will.

    • I’m a tad confused by the paradox which you described. How can it make sense to stick it to the rich by voting in outrageously wealthy candidates? Both Trump and Ford are multi-millionaires, who will reflect their status in their actions eventually (witness Trump’s new tax cut for the uber-rich). Doug Ford will certainly follow suit; after a reasonable period of masquerading as the common man.
      Why would he have any interest in pharmacare or dental care? After all, he and his friends pay for those privileges with pocket change.

      • It actually is untrue that the tax cuts were designed to further enrich the “uber-wealthy”–that is Democratic Party nonsense. The tax cut was designed to give tax relief to ALL Americans but PARTICULARLY those on the lower end of the pay scale. Study after study has shown that the lion’s share of taxes are paid by the wealthy (because they earn more–therefore, they will get to keep a bit more of their money than those who pay much less in tax). There are a great many Americans who pay no tax at all. Nancy Pelosi (who, it has been estimated, is wealthy to the tune of $250 million in net worth–not even counting her husband’s wealth) turned up her nose at the thousands saved by average citizens–but, to those people, it was quite appreciated. They saw real increases in their paychecks. A great many of the middle wage earners were also given large bonuses because their employers passed along the savings that they saw from a lowering of business taxes. The problem with liberals is that they don’t really understand business and commerce–they often just have socialistic knee-jerk reaction of hatred for business owners. I know several small business owners who took a cut in pay (and their pay was not that great to begin with) so that they did not have to lay off an employee or two when their business slackened.

        Being in favor of the middle classes as the backbone of a democratic society is not limited to one’s financial circumstances. There are professors in Toronto, who are somewhat wealthy by middle class standards, but aren’t even close to being called “uber-wealthy” who have a contemptuous elitist attitude toward what they call the “rubes” in the suburbs. Some have even gone on record saying that they HATE white people (even though they are white themselves)! It is this kind of lunacy animating the leftists that has turned the thinking part of the citizenry against them. The academic and media / entertainment elites are their own worst enemies.

  3. Without a biased media spin, The Toronto Sun’s Joe Warminting accurately sums up the Ontario election results

    It was a bus no media member ever stepped on. Ford didn’t need the media.
    In fact, the premier-elect went around the media in this campaign and went straight to regular Ontarians.
    It worked.
    In the end many media and polling companies painted a phantom scenario that it was a neck-and-neck race with the NDP when it wasn’t. The public spit that out because it was all nonsense.
    The voters saw all the smear attempts on Ford for what it was — nasty, opportunistic politics.
    As hard as they tried to define Doug Ford, he didn’t get cornered by any of it. The thing is people know Doug is a decent guy and they know his heart is in the right place. That is why they gave him 76 seats and sent Premier Kathleen Wynne packing, replacing her in opposition with Andrea Horwarth and the largely radical NDP.

    • Yes–that is a correct assessment, BJ. The radical agenda of the NDP will never attract more than what they have already attracted. Did you read the article on the “NDP loons” that were elected in Toronto by the snobby “progressives” in Toronto who, because they were disenchanted by the Liberals decided to park their votes with the NDP? They must not have examined the NDP candidates very well–just reflexively voted for them because they had been taught to loathe conservatives. University of Toronto Professor, Jordan Peterson says that our public schools indoctrinate students with Marxist ideology and that the universities are completely dominated with Marxist ideology. Professors who are “small c” conservative (which is actually what was considered centrist in the past) are routinely silenced and even persecuted in N. American academia.

  4. Jim Sinclair on

    A couple of days ago we saw the perfect cake being baked as the people voted the witch out of power and out of Dodge by sundown.
    Reading the above comments by the stunned Liberals in this area and a long “editorial’ by an obviously still -‘connected’ member of Bell media and it’s extremely pro Grit gang, -( keep it up Mr. Hurst, – you might get offered a job back, might even get to associate with Heather Mallick and Chantal Hebert) – it was all icing on this cake.
    The Star’s old guard is still alive and well and it’s sad to see the pen pushers waste their talents putting together the drivel that their bosses dictate to them.
    If the Me Too movement ever included bullying from editors and the like, we might see the total demise of this once proud paper.
    To you people up above this missive, give Doug a chance will you? He’s got a lot of crap to clean up, provided the Liberals haven’t wiped the hard drives this time around as well.

    • Thanks Jim. There are many of us conservatives around who understand that, for the most part, the media elite are not in touch with those who they are supposed to be serving. They are, unfortunately, part of the problem–they enable profligate politicians. They are late to the party when it comes to evaluating the performance of the Liberal Party in this province. It will be interesting to see how much more the Grits have put our children and grandchildren in hock, beside what they admitted to before the election. Like shopaholics, the Liberals hide their extravagance and then lie about it when caught. It is immoral to put yet unborn generations into debt. Maybe the next time around, the Liberals will bring back debtor’s prison and put all of us in there. It is to be hoped that it will take them a long time to ever regain power in this province and may God protect us from ever having an NDP government again.

      • Karen Wehrstein on

        Trump talking point: attack media generally (rather than use specific constructive criticism) so as to discredit it and hinder its ability to act as a check on power whether it be government or corporate. Unfortunately this toxic practice has not only come north, as in Erin’s comments, but is metastasizing worldwide. See here: https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-trumps-fake-news-obsession-started-a-global-plague-of-censorship Don’t listen to it if you value a free press.

        • The only free press we have left to us are small publications like this one, Karen. Attacking me will do nothing to convince anyone that we actually have a “free press”. The notion of a “free press” among big media is a joke today. That train left a long time ago.

          There is a lot of history that makes you wrong and me right. Just one example of what I am speaking about was evidenced in the Newsboys strike of 1899: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newsboys%27_strike_of_1899 The Disney film, “Newsies” more-or-less accurately depicts that struggle of New York City newsboys against the cabal of the New York press barons. Those same press barons were in collusion with the established (and corrupt) New York City political structure. It was a microcosm of what we face today.

          The reason why there is broad mistrust of “big media” is because it is untrustworthy in accurately presenting the truth. It presents opinion as fact and that opinion is the point-of-view of its globalist majority stockholders, (i.e. its owners). They don’t even pretend to separate news from opinion anymore. This was bound to happen when the massive media conglomerates were formed (without a peep of protest from government). There are just five media conglomerates controlling 90% of what we see, hear or read.

          The globalist Western media, along with globalist politicians, contemptuously label any conservative protest as “populist” (and we should understand the globalists’ notion of “populists” as those in opposition to the globalist agenda. We favor instead our beleaguered and diminishing nation-state system). As far as the globalists are concerned, the nation-state is dead. But, when the nation-state system goes, so goes the firm guarantees of freedom housed in our various Western constitutions. They were fought and bled for and we cast them aside to our peril. Is there going to be some worldwide system of adjudication that is concerned for the rights of the individual? Good luck with that.

          Sociology Professor, C. Wright Mills, in his seminal work, “The Power Elite,” examined the post-World War II power-wielders in the West. He was the darling of the leftists in 1960’s academia, for criticizing the “establishment”. Another classic work that Mills did on the middle classes of the U.S. (but the observations apply widely to Western middle classes) is called, “White Collar: The American Middle Classes.” In It, Mills describes the alienation of the middle class toward their own governments so awash (even already in 1951), with enormous bureaucracies (and it is much worse today). If middle class people are turning away from the established power structure, it is not a result of “some conspiracy theories from the alt-right” but is, instead, what Mills accurately described. Mills contends that “…bureaucracies have overwhelmed middle-class workers, robbing them of all independent thought and turning them into near-automatons, oppressed but cheerful…”

          There was bound to be a rebellion from that even as the Power Elite attempts to mask itself with an aura of beneficence. The Power Elite view the middle classes as cash cows to be milked while they concentrate more and more wealth in their own hands and more and more power in central governments (which they also control through the politicians that they buy).

          Increasing amounts of power has been stripped from individuals and placed under anonymous bureaucracies in powerful central governments. Apparently, the Power Elite believe that we are too stupid to see that our system has degenerated into a situation where there are two sets of rules–one set for the wealthy and well-connected and another for the ordinary folk. Just as in the former Soviet Union, there were those who controlled (Communist Party bigwigs) and those who were controlled (the average Soviet citizen).

          Nobel Laureate, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn lived through those tumultuous times in the Soviet Union and recognized the signs of coming totalitarian rule. He warned Western societies, in a Commencement address at Harvard in June of 1978, about what he saw as those dangerous trends toward totalitarianism. He was, of course, mostly ignored except for a few civil libertarians. Look up “inverted totalitarianism” if you want to understand more of where we appear to be headed.

          The rise of social media was something of a check on that totalitarianism (why do you think the Communists in China censored it?) but even social media is now being censored everywhere. Here is a link to an article which examines the dangers of that censorship: http://thebigsmoke.com.au/2018/03/09/social-media-censorship-vastly-more-dangerous-censored-media/

          The last book that Mills wrote, before he died, is called “The Marxists” and it roundly criticizes both modern liberalism (vs. the “classic liberalism” of the past which would line up more with modern conservatism than modern liberalism) and Marxism. Mills found Marxism to be especially simplistic in its analysis and application. That criticism is probably why Mills has fallen out of favor among the Marxists who dominate academia today.

          Finally, there is the problem of government using individuals within the mass media to support the agenda of the Power Elite. Here is a link to a Wikipedia article that describes how such things are done. Even though the article is careful to say that it is “alleged” there is enough supporting information (some of it obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests) that it appears likely. ttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Mockingbird

  5. Emmersun Austin on

    Bring on proportional representation & let’s advance this polit-ico system we find ourselves in…

  6. Karen Wehrstein on

    Historically Canadian voters have cleaned out elites of a party whenever power corrupted them. “Throw the bums out” when they deserve it is democracy as it should be. Our tradition is country (or province) over party, and so it should always be. Hyper-partisanship (my party and my political views, right or wrong) is a way for citizens to give up their political power. They do that way too much down in the USA.
    However I don’t think it’s fair to talk about 15 years of Liberal power in Ontario and only name Kathleen Wynne as one who needs purifying. The names Dalton McGuinty and George Smitherman should surely be mentioned as appropriate woodshed residents?
    One sad correspondence between the federal Tory downfall of 1993 and this disaster for the Liberals is that, both times, a woman was in office when the party took its fall (Kim Campbell then, Kathleen Wynne now) though for most of the time and most of the scandals, a man was in charge (Brian Mulroney then, McGuinty now). I’d like to see that not happen next time.

  7. Len Macdonald on

    I will watch with interest to see if the Premier-Elect will be magnanimous in his win to offer the Liberal Party official status with their 7 seats. If so, he will be acknowledging the fact that one million voters produced 7 seats for the Liberals and two million voters produced 76 seats for the Progressive Conservatives.

    Mr. Ford seems likely to position his leadership opponents (Elliott and Mulroney) in roles where they could serve the province well. Will he be as generous to the Liberals? Time will tell.

  8. Jim Sinclair on

    Please! Please, don’t expect Mr. Ford to be magnanimous towards the disenfranchised Liberals? Do you remember towards the last days of campaigning Miz Wynne was asking the voters to be sure and elect at least 8 Liberal candidates so they could act as the keepers of the faith by ensuring that Mr. Ford’s incoming minority government wouldn’t run rampant with the Ontario Government’s finances, – at least whatever is left of them. ( I guess that would be some money you missed Kathleen?)
    Ms. Wynne had her own secret agenda there that some people didn’t realize with the 8 seat plea. It was to keep her party from losing status.
    Really? No, not our Kate, she was thinking of the taxpayer the whole time “Hold the minority government to account” by giving her the kingmaker’s role. Yeah right!
    Let’s hope Mr. Ford tells Kate to go quietly out the door and to leave a note for the milkman on the way. “Nothing more for the foreseeable future please, we’ll be gone for a while.”

    • Len Macdonald on

      I guess it would be too much to expect that Mr. Ford will support any of the Gay Pride Day/Week activities organized by the LGBTQ communities in Ontario. He could easily attend the Muskoka Pride Festival in Huntsville. It’s not far from his Fawn Lake cottage, so no excuses about giving up a weekend with his family.

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