Leadership will decide byelection 0
Back in the 1980s, Town of Halton Hills mayor Russ Miller presided over debates that sometimes left the community of Acton complaining it was underrepresented on council compared to Georgetown.
Pay no mind, Miller insisted. "It's not the quantity of representation that counts, it's the quality."
It was his way of saying leadership matters more than numbers. For it's leadership that brings the numbers.
We're about to see that play out in Kitchener-Waterloo, where Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak's tenure may well be decided.
The riding faces a byelection after Tory MPP Elizabeth Witmer resigned to accept a provincial appointment as chair of the Workplace Insurance Safety Board.
Witmer has faced criticism in the press and whispers among her party over her decision. One Tory told QMI Agency the move was a betrayal. It is no such thing.
The PCs are worried because if the Liberals win the riding, the legislature will be squared off at 53 seats each between their party and the combined opposition. Speaker Dave Levac, a Liberal, is likely to follow tradition and side with the government on confidence motions to break ties, giving the Liberals their majority on budget votes.
Witmer served her riding for 22 years, even running for leader in 2002. At 65, she's entitled to enjoy a normal life, earning a $188,000 salary that's significantly higher in the waning years of her earning potential.
And she has no obligation to wait for the party to redefine itself as a progressive or hard-right party, an indecisiveness that has hurt its electoral prospects.
Regardless, the people of Kitchener-Waterloo will elect a government, not just an MPP.
Since no party is in a position to make major promises, leadership will decide it. All three major party leaders will pour their resources into the race.
The Liberals, who held the riding for 13 years before Witmer, will pursue their quest for an effective majority. Hudak has got to suspect his party won't wait for three more years of opposition under his leadership. And while the NDP hasn't been a force in the riding, you can bet Andrea Horwath will campaign hard to siphon away Liberal votes to increase the prospects for the Tories. That would leave the legislature in a minority and her party can continue to influence policy the way it did during last month's budget.
Liberal Eric Davis, who gave Witmer a reasonably close race in the last election, is seeking the nomination, so the riding is very much in play.
Dalton McGuinty said he isn't in a hurry to call a byelection, but he must have allowed himself a chuckle at the prospect of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford vowing to do "everything in my power" to prevent a Liberal majority. Ford couldn't bring himself to endorse Hudak in the last election, and his own leadership around the council table has been supplanted by others on his key subway project.
When voters go to the polls in Kitchener-Waterloo, they will have heard a lot from Hudak, Horwath and McGuinty. They have already seen much of what they need to see during last month's budget deliberations. They'll judge for themselves whether McGuinty is capable of eliminating the deficit, whether the NDP fought for the right things, and whether Hudak's voice will ever be heard.
This will be a full-throttle battle for power, in which the quality of the province's leadership will decide who gets the quantity.