Canada: Election 1980

A relentless arithmetic

John Hay February 18 1980
Canada: Election 1980

A relentless arithmetic

John Hay February 18 1980

A relentless arithmetic

John Hay

However galling to the rest of the country, the Feb. 18 election will likely be decided in the 95 seats of politically fickle Ontario. Ontarians get one vote each, like everyone else, but there is a relentless arithmetic that makes Ontario count for more. The Liberals own all but a handful of Quebec’s 75 seats, sending them halfway to a majority before crossing the Ottawa River. The Conservatives have their claims staked on Alberta’s 21 ridings. Only in Ontario can enough seats change hands to cinch victory for either Joe Clark or Pierre Trudeau.

As the campaign opened, the Liberals seemed about to take the province in a walk. The Clark cabinet was in disrepute; fuel prices were to be jacked up at the expense of Ontario’s industry, commuters and farmers; and, at least in Metro Toronto’s 23 seats, old Liberal voting habits looked to be reasserting themselves after lapsing last May. But it hasn’t been as easy for the Grits as the opinion polls imply. Tory trench warfare has closed the Liberal lead in several key ridings.

The Tehran embassy episode helped, as did Clark’s use of the Afghanistan crisis. “There is no warm glow for Joe,” admits one Tory MP. But the sudden infusion of foreign affairs into the campaign cut the Clark jokes dead. “We’re

talking a lot about the need to build up our military capability,” says Tory MP Robin Richardson in Toronto, and that issue is a Tory issue across the province.

If Tehran helped Clark’s image it may have hurt Trudeau’s. There was a feeling even among some Grits that their leader had responded gracelessly. They were hit, too, by a new bout of soft-on-communism innuendo. “Some of our canvassers are using it,” Tory MP John Bosley acknowledged. “We got hold of a couple of them and told them to stop.” Top Liberals say the issue has cut both ways: about as many voter? suspected Clark of image-building as were persuaded by the Iran story to \ ote for him. Anyway, the old anti-Trudeau anger is subdued. “It’s not the popular thing to be at the moment—it’s much more in to be anti-Clark,” said one Liberal insider. In sum, hardly anyone thinks the foreign policy issue will weigh heavily in the polling booths. Says Conservative Paul McCrossan in York-Scarborough: “Joe Clark did what any prime minister of Canada would have done.”

More potent in the Ontario campaign is John Crosbie’s budget. Crosbie personally is a hit wherever he goes; his budget is not. Only in well-heeled neighborhoods like Toronto’s Lawrence Park and upper Rosedale is it fully approved. In car-dependent suburbs and low-rent

districts it’s working against the Tories. The application of a higher fuel tax to farm tractors emboldens the Grits to talk of doing well in the true-blue Tory Southwestern Ontario farm belt. Hybrid city-rural ridings such as Lambton-Middlesex, Niagara Falls and Lincoln are all up for grabs. (Running in Lincoln is old Grit warrior Bryce Mack-

asey who, as Clark cracked, flew in from Air Canada with a pension and a parachute. Mackasey claims family roots there.) In Ontario’s northern reaches, it’s again a Liberal-NDP contest. Incumbent New Democrat Cyril Symes has been imperilled by a Grit in Sault Ste Marie, but party managers said he had recovered from his stall by last week. The NDP was also struggling to break the Liberal grip on Windsor’s three seats.

With the anti-Trudeau venom largely drained and the anti-Clark contempt dissipated, local concerns dominate many Ontario ridings. In Toronto Rosedale, 36-year-old social worker Anne Cools is surprising even her own party by closing on popular ex-mayor David Crombie, whose Dec. 15 heart attack has kept him off the hustings—although his doctors had okayed his doing a little door-knocking this week. His savvy organization has been working full out but, as campaign manager Barbara McDougall concedes, “it’s hard without David.” Cools, beaten by about 5,000 votes last time, is getting full party support in a polyglot riding running from the plummy-voiced, neo-English north through a forest of highrises to downtown flophouses and the made-over cottages of Toronto Island.

In next-door St. Paul’s, Ron Atkey has emerged bleeding from the immigration portfolio and is trailing ex-MP John Roberts. Already hurt by the shifting boat-people policies, Atkey was then belabored by a messy deportation case which hit Toronto’s front pages last week. “We’ve won it,” a Liberal organizer declared. They have also won most of their long-safe ethnic-based seats on Toronto’s west side. But the New Democrats, who have eyed those seats for years, think Grits might be lulled into not voting on the 18th, exposing Etobicoke-Lakeshore NDPer Terry Meagher. Their best chances are Broadview-Greenwood (held by NDPer Bob Rae) and Beaches, an old NDP enclave snatched last May by Tory Richardson. Nine Metro seats were won in the last election by margins of less than five per cent of votes cast. The NDP sees turnout as crucial. With the exception of Scarborough West (a three-way race with three former MPs), the eastern suburbs saw Liberals leading but Tories feeling they were catching up. Safest Tory seat: plush Don Valley West, first Toronto riding to turn against Trudeau in 1972 and taken by Bosley last year by more than 10,000 votes. £

There is nothing like a Liberal wave in most of Ontario, but the anti-Liberal tide crested last May when Tories took 57 seats. Says Liberal Norman MacLeod, campaign chief for Ontario: “Everybody who is ever likely to vote Tory, voted Tory last spring.”

Olympics 65+ Elderly Off-shore Cede control to the provinces. New Democrats I flth~r Ct~v~tIi~ I Budget would hike No change to exCommission to excise tax 18 cents cise tax. No indicastudy question and and increase gas tion of how high gas determine gas price another 16 price will go, but prices and profits. cents a gallon anpromise lower than Will not go to world nually to 1984. Tory proposal. level. Sell two-thirds of Keep wholly in govMake it largest oil shares to Canadiernment hands, excompany in five ans, expand the pand exploration years, take control company. and development, of development,ex pand retail business across Canada. .i.ll LL Cut in half in five years. Let it grow no faster than growth in Gross NatiOnal Product (about 1% Deficit this year). Increase deficit to stimulate economy. T~~cen~i1 bank rate to 10% or No stated policy. Cut interest rates to 12%. • 11% by midsummer Interest rates Increase spending 3% a year, increase manpower 4,000 in next four years,, inNo stated policy. No increase in spending until re view. Reconsider party promise to Defence crease contribution, to NATO. pull out of NATO and NORAD. Boycott if in MosBoycott Moscow Move Games from cow. Games if joined by U.S. and other countries - including the Third World. Moscow, but if that fails compete in Soviet Union. No pension inHike Guaranteed InHike Old Age pencrease until review come Supplement sions by $40 and inof social programs. by $35 (affects dex quarterly. Hints of a program 55% of all old-age Shelter allowances to subsidize shelter pensioners). for those on GIS. costs. Reintroduce mortNo stated policy. Cut mort gage inter •"~ gage interest and property tax credit est rates 9% for to 8% or families Housing (maximum write-off $750 this year). , earning $30,000. less than Refer matter to Su preme Court of Canada. Cede control to the provinces.

The Hew Democrats have also promised to subsidize cost of gasoline and heating oil for northerners, modernize the Sydney. Nova Scotia, steel plant, create a national fish marketing board, and start an energy conservation program that would cut all highway speeds to 90 km/h (55 m.p.h.) and distribute $300 million to expand urban transit systems.

The Liberals have also promised to expedite wheat deliveries by making Canadian National spend $800 million doubling parts of its main track between Winnipeg and Vancouver, spend $50 million on Sydney Steel, reduce to 50% foreign ownership of oil and gas (it's now 75%), and develop an industrial strategy to aid industry in poorer regions.

Tha Conservativas have promised $200 million for energy projects in Quebec, airport expansions in Estevan, Saskatchewan, and ^ount Hope, Ontario, and to reintroduce the Crosbie budget in whole. IclFl AlldcrSOIl^