I see that the McGuinty Fiberals have launched a website aimed at making Premier Pinocchio more likeable, www.Dalton.ca.
Their first mistake, of course, is drawing any attention whatsoever to the persona of the increasingly Christopher Walkenesque McGuinty. As a friend of mine has often observed, you rarely see McGuinty in the media. No doubt this has been by design.
But, as the Fiberals have by now realized, there’s no hiding your leader during an election. No doubt compounding their stress is the problem that Ontario PC leader John Tory apparently has very high name recognition and positives. As Robert Fisher is wont to say: more bad news for Dalton McGuinty.
So, what to do? Hello, makeover!! But what can you do with 6’4” of shoulder-challenged Wonder Bread? Well, check out the website and judge for yourself. But here’s my take.
There are videos under the tab “Dalton Unplugged.” Wow, unplugged. Now there’s an up-to-the-minute concept. Now, when did that (American, natch) MTV Unplugged thing start? Oh yeah: 1989.
Under "Black and White" McGuinty tries to spin his way around his broken promises, such as the 6,600 homes he promised to stop on the Oak Ridges Moraine and didn't. Except the Fiberals spell it “Oakridges.” (“Yeah, that place where we said we were going to stop the developers, what’s it called?” “Ask Sorbara, dude – he knows all the developers.”)
Another video takes an oblique shot at John Tory and Howard Hampton, by way of the contrived question “Do you [McGuinty], John [Tory] and Howard [Hampton] ever grab a beer together after question period?” McGuinty says no, implying that Tory and Hampton fail the cliched leader-beer test. He neglects to mention, however, that he does not drink, so the question is dishonest to begin with. Personally, I think McGuinty would be afraid to be in a bar with Hampton. Howie looks like he might accidentally break McGuinty’s arm after a night of drinking.
Under “Dalton + Terri Unplugged” McGuinty and his wife relate how they first met. It was supposedly near the “Y” gym they were obliged to use when they were high school students. Unfortunately, this is at odds with a previous tale they have related of their first meeting, which had something to do with one of them borrowing a quarter from the other in the lunchroom. (I am trying to run down the article.)
What can you say about a man who can’t even keep the story about how he met his wife straight? It reminds me of the John Edwards/John Kerry anecdote from Bob Shrum’s book that’s been making the rounds, wherein Edwards tells Kerry about how he climbed on top of his son’s dead body at the funeral home, stressing that he had never told anyone this before. Only he had. To Kerry. Two years before.
Anyhow, moving on. The site includes a PDF of something the Fiberals call “The Record,” a listing of their purported achievements. Unfortunately, they choose to lead with their chin. The first page bears a large graph showing that they have fallen short of their class size target by 35%, despite massive increases in education spending.
And get a load of this whopper on page 8: “We prevented Sharia Law from threatening the rights of Ontario women. We passed legislation to make sure one law applies to all Ontarians.” Actually, it was the McGuinty government that came thisclose to subjecting Ontario’s Muslim women to Sharia justice in the first place. His government commissioned former NDP attorney general Marion Boyd to write a report on allowing Muslims to resolve disputes through their religious tribunals under the authority of the Arbitrations Act, as other faiths were already allowed to do. It was thanks primarily to vocal opposition from the public and some Muslims that prevented the change, not any leadership on the Fiberals’ part. (And how did those other religions get their religious tribunals recognized in the first place? Thanks to Peterson-era A-G Ian Scott, who recommended it, and the NDP government, who made it law.)
Here’s another claim from page 8 that doesn’t pass the laugh test:
Our $51 million guns and gangs strategy includes a new provincial operations centre that brings new police, crowns and enforcement resources under one roof to fight gang violence.
Unfortunately, there was no evidence of this “strategy” or “operations centre” in the recent Project Kryptic gang/drug busts in Toronto. This week the crown attorney was ordered to pay $2,000 to each of 9 accused who waited more than two weeks for their bail hearings. Some roof.
And look here on page 10: “We are the only party that remains committed to phasing out all of Ontario's dirty coal plants.” Now it takes some kind of chutzpah to put that in. McGuinty famously promised prior to and during the 2003 election to close all of Ontario’s coal-fired plants by, er, 2007. Then they promised they would close them all by 2009. Now they’re pinky-swearing they will close them by 2014. As Bill Clinton might say, “it all depends what you mean by the word ‘committed.’”
Anyhow, despite the Clintonesque brazenness of the site's untruths, they will probably have little effect. People's impressions of McGuinty are pretty well formed, which is why we have seen so little of him until now.