How Wynne can win again

Jim Warren

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It is a tough time to be in politics and government these days.

There is so much upheaval against the status quo in government in Western democracies.

From Trump to Brexit to Trudeamania change has been the choice of voters over the past 18 months.

In this sea of political change, the governing Ontario Liberal membership have gathered in Ottawa this weekend for their Annual General Meeting.

Some attendees will be happy with recent election results. By-elections were held this past week in the ridings of Ottawa–Vanier and Niagara West–Glanbrook, and the status quo remains. The former re-elected a Liberal and the latter was won again by the Progressive Conservatives.

But really the conversation will be about what to do with the fact Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and her government are mired in 3rd place in the polls with her personal approval ratings at her lowest level ever.

Why is Wynne so low in the polls?

Three reasons. First her government suffers from the same problem around the world – a rebellion against the establishment. Second she has to deal with the legacy of thirteen years in power and, third, she suffers from her own mistakes.

So while the pollsters currently project a Liberal loss in 2018 anything really is possible in politics and there is always a path to victory if you have enough time and the right plan.

There are three things Wynne can do now to improve her approval ratings and get back on the path to victory in 2018.

First she needs to limit her media appearances. Wynne is everywhere all the time. Successful politicians are more measured in their exposure.

Wynne warned us about playing Pokémon, talked to us about Trailer Park Boys whiskey and was on CBC radio this week commenting about Trump. If you have 80 messages then you have no messages.

Political leaders who were re-elected like Jean Chretien, Mike Harris, Ralph Klein or Dalton McGuinty were never in your face 24/7. The PM or Premier should be focused on the big picture items like the economy.

Absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

Secondly she needs to move the focus from her to her team. Why does the premier need to take the lead on every single issue? Ministers Deb Mathews, Charles Sousa and Brad Duguid are wily veterans very capable of handling the more contentious issues.

Cabinet newcomer Eleanor McMahon is a super star first term MPP.

Wynne has the bench strength to have her trusted lieutenants carry more of the workload putting Wynne in a better position come election time. We need to see more of the team in the run up to the election.

Finally, Wynne needs to bring focus to specific items she needs to get done before the next election: an agenda focused on jobs, the economy, health care and education.

I think the Trump victory south of the border is going to create a number of opportunities for Liberal premiers in Canada to compare and contract their vision for the future with the conflicts to come from south of the border.

Wynne has always been the comeback kid. She lost her first nomination battle but still found a seat to get elected as MPP. She defeated the leader of the PC party on her second election to remain at Queen’s Park.

She was the underdog for the leadership race to become Premier and she won again. Finally she took the Ontario liberal government from third place in the polls in 2014 to a majority government.

Wynne and her Ontario Liberals have a long way to go – but limiting her appearance, putting an emphasis on her team and setting an economic agenda will put her on a path to potential victory in 2018.

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