A chief economist's FES survival guide
Also: Byelection buzz, new D-Pol, LTC staff exodus, death of taxes, Justin jumps in
ABOVE THE FOLD
WRIT DROP — And they’re off! The Ford government has fired the starter pistol and set a date for the byelection in Kitchener Centre: November 30.
Lay of the land: It’s NDP territory — LAURA MAE LINDO stepped back this summer to take on a gig at the University of Waterloo, citing a lack of affordable child care — but the Grits have the Tories running scared.
“They don’t want to give BONNIE [CROMBIE] the win,” said one high-level insider, referring to the chalk-horse contender for the Liberal leadership who’s favoured to take the party crown just two days later, on December 2. Crombie leads the competition when it comes to name recognition, fundraising, membership sign-ups and heavyweight endorsements.
Carrying the Liberal banner is KELLY STEISS, who ran for the party in the 2022 general and placed third behind Lindo and the PCs.
But it’s a totally different situation this time around.
Not only are the Grits feeling galvanized — but the PCs are feeling listless following a steady stream of negative headlines and slipping popularity amid the Greenbelt saga. Making matters worse is the fact the party had trouble securing a candidate, eventually landing on ROB ELLIOTT days before the byelection call — putting him at a disadvantage as the other contenders have been locked in and pounding the pavement for months.
The third-place unrecognized Liberals, however, are coming off back-to-back summer byelection wins, rolling in dough thanks to a big fundraising boost from Crombie in particular, and clawing their way back to relevancy as the leadership contest spurs membership sign-ups and media coverage.
Over in the NDP’s camp, recent infighting over SARAH JAMA’s ouster is taking it’s toll — and could cost them their seat. The NDP’s Kitchener Centre riding association had called for leader MARIT STILES’s head, slamming her decision to boot Jama “for what appears to be short-term political calculus.” Candidate and local councillor DEBBIE CHAPMAN says she’s standing by Stiles — but the Liberals see this as their way in to poach the seat.
And don’t count out the Greens. They were first out of the gate to nominate their flag-bearer, AISLINN CLANCY, another city councillor, and have assembled a crack team that’s used to pulling out underdog wins. They’re hoping Clancy repeats MIKE MORRICE’s historic win in the federal arena, when he became Ontario’s first Green elected to the Hill for Kitchener Centre. Get their game plan.
Q+A — BRIAN LEWIS — the province’s retired chief economist, now-senior fellow and lecturer at U of T’s Munk School — is dishing on all things fiscal ahead of today’s mini-budget.
In normal times, a mid-mandate Fall Economic Statement would be a relatively sleepy affair, as the powers-that-be tend to save all their vote-grabbing budget goodies for closer to election season.
But these are not normal times. Lewis explains why — and why he doesn’t think the Ford government should be making it rain financially, even though, politically, they may want to.
What makes this year’s FES so high-stakes? “It does come down to three things. The first is that the politics are a bit different. The government’s credibility and popularity has definitely taken a pretty big hit over the Greenbelt scandal. They’re going to be feeling some political pressure, and frankly, looking for opportunities to put out a different message about things that it’s doing well — and the Fall Economic Statement provides that.”