Fight Night: Kathleen Wynne vs. Stephen Harper

A fight for the ages has broken out on the campaign trail. In the red corner we have the Queen of Ontario, the Justin Trudeau confidant, the eager, the focused Premierrrrrrr Kathleen Wynne! In the blue corner we have the King of Ottawa, the unshakeable, the battle tested, the focused, Prime Ministerrrrrrr Stephen Harper!

These two leaders have been at each other all year long and finally, we are coming close to the deciding night. In an effort to understand their animosity, let’s take a closer look at our two competitors and what will keep them going in the ring.

Jaded by a lack of infrastructure investments and angered by the absence of support from their federal counterparts on climate change and interprovincial trade, Premier Wynne is looking to capitalize early and take the fight to the end. Meanwhile, in the blue corner, the reigning Prime Minister is ticked off by the outspoken provincial leader and her “socialist” tax policies and a provincially operated retirement pension plan. Prime Minister Harper is clearly looking for that knockout punch.

This is by no means your normal fight. It is rare for a provincial leader to be as vocal as Premier Wynne has been during an election campaign. Usually, federal elections are a time when subnational governments can sit back and watch it all unfold. While it isn’t rare for provincial leaders to endorse a specific candidate, it is far more unusual for one to come out and intentionally pick a fight with one.

While many are calling Premier Wynne’s attacks a risky venture that could end up hurting Ontario in the long run, many of her provincial counterparts are starting to join in on the attack. Most recently, Alberta’s Premier Rachel Notley has retaliated when Harper called her government and its tax increases “a disaster.” While Premier Wynne is getting ready to step in the ring, Prime Minister Harper may want to start scouting his next opponent before he is hit by a blindside blow.

Trash Talk Ticker:

Wynne on August 3rd: “Stephen Harper and his ministers prefer to play political games rather than ‎work with provinces in the best interests of the people.”

Harper on August 3rd: “Kathleen Wynne is mad that I won’t help her do that [support Ontario’s retirement pension plan] . . . . You’re bloody right. The Conservative government is not going to help bring in that kind of tax hike.”

Wynne on August 4th: “Ontario needs a new federal government to work with . . . At a time when the national economy appears to be slowing down, the federal government needs to do better.”

Harper on August 4th: “I will observe what a senior official told me when I took office . . . you will have your best relations with the premiers who are doing a good job in their own jurisdiction.”

Wynne on August 7th: “I have tried to work with him. The fact is that it has deteriorated, and what I’m saying now in a federal election campaign is that we need someone in that chair as prime minister who understands that working with provinces is important to the country.”

Harper on August 11th: “I am delighted to see that our refusal to co-operate with the imposition of this tax [Ontario Retirement Pension Plan] is making it more difficult for the Ontario government to proceed.” He would later nickname it the “Justin-Wynne-Kathleen-Trudeau” tax hike.

Wynne on August 19th: “I’ve been quite clear that we need a new government, that this government has not worked well with the province of Ontario, and I’ve been clear about that for some time. I’ve also been clear that I support Justin Trudeau, and I will continue to look for a partner at the federal level that is bringing forward polices that will make sense for the people of Ontario.”

Wynne on September 11th: “I will continue to ask the federal government to streamline their processes so more refugees can come to the country and can come to Ontario. I think there should be…a quicker process and I think the federal government needs to step up to that responsibility.”

Premier Wynne’s intentions go beyond her support of Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party. Wynne is using the media spotlight on the Prime Minister to raise key policy concerns through a medium that will reach the largest audience. It isn’t the safest route, but it certainly has the greatest risk-reward payout if played correctly. While she can accelerate her policy goals if the NDP or Liberals are elected, she runs the risk of becoming Ottawa’s public enemy number one if the Conservatives are re-elected.