Liberal slide continues in rural Canada

It seems like an inexorable trend, the decline of the Liberal party in rural Canada.

The latest example is last week’s provincial election in Ontario when Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty won an historic third term for his Liberals, although falling from a massive majority in 2007 to one seat shy of a majority in 2011.

It is an amazing feat by the uncharismatic Ottawa lawyer — the first Ontario Liberal leader to win three consecutive terms since the 19th century’s Oliver Mowat, a Father of Confederation.

But in rural Ontario, McGuinty struck out, as the Liberals have federally and in much of Canada, including the Prairies.

The Ontario Liberals lost seven rural seats, relegating themselves to the party of urban Ontario. Winning just one of those seats would have produced a majority.

Some of the losses hit the McGuinty government hard.

Former agriculture minister Leona Dombrowsky lost the eastern Ontario seat she has held since 1999. In the last government, she was education minister.

Carol Mitchell, her replacement as agriculture minister, lost her Huron-Bruce riding in Ontario cattle country after eight years in government.

Her absence as a dissident on changes to business risk management programs will alter the dynamic of the next federal-provincial agriculture ministers’ meeting in September 2012, where final details of the next generation of safety net programs is to be worked out.

Five other rural MPPs also fell to voter wrath Oct. 6.

The overwhelming issue for rural voters was the McGuinty government embrace of wind turbines as a green energy alternative to coal, oil and nuclear-fueled electricity plants.

Throughout Ontario, particularly in Great Lakes ridings that Dombrowsky and Mitchell represented, the wind sentinels stand turning in the lake winds.

But many residents, including refugees from urban living, found the wind turbines a heath and noise affront.

Attempts by rural Liberal MPPs to sell it as a reasonable alternative to “dirty” energy fell on deaf ears as the “not in my backyard” syndrome loomed large at political rallies.

Seven rural MPPs paid the price.

The Progressive Conservatives rule rural Ontario and PC leader Tim Hudak has vowed to kill McGuinty’s green energy policy if he is elected in 2015.

The Liberal base, both federal and provincial, continues to shrink into Canada’s cities and even there, as the federal election in May showed in Metro Toronto, it is under assault.


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