The riding that Kathleen Wynne was in this morning is unusual for a couple of reasons, beyond its flagrant disregard for tractor safety.
One is that Brant is among the very few seats in southwestern Ontario that Ms. Wynne’s Liberals have a chance of winning this election. Chalk that up to the local popularity of incumbent MPP Dave Levac, a former school principal who has held the riding for 15 years, and perhaps also to Brantford – its largest town – having experienced more of an economic recovery the past few years than most other places in this part of the province.
The other is that Mr. Levac has served as the Speaker of the Legislature since the last election, which has resulted in a bit of a kerfuffle about unwritten rules.
Prevented until the Legislature dissolved from engaging politically as he normally would, Mr. Levac has made no secret of his annoyance with Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak from aggressively targeting his riding over the past couple of years. Here’s how the Brant News reported it in March:
Levac said one of the greatest challenges he’s faced since becoming Speaker is having to remain politically neutral, even when attacks are launched from opponents within his own riding. Not being able to defend himself or his party politically has proven a test he says he’s “grappled” with. Just last week, Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak visited Brant riding, appearing alongside Levac’s opponent in the next election, Brant PC candidate Phil Gillies. They highlighted how the PCs believe the Liberals have made an economic mess of Ontario.
“There are probably times when it’s hard to bite my tongue,” Levac said. “But I do so out of total respect for the (position) and the legislature.”
In days gone by, Levac said, political opponents would “leave the Speaker’s riding alone,” but he noted that hasn’t happened since his election as Speaker in 2011.
There is some debate about just how much rival parties have ever been willing to keep their distance from Speakers’ ridings. But it’s fair to say Mr. Hudak has kept less of it than most. Per that same newspaper, he visited Brant at least a dozen times over the past three years.
Mr. Hudak has had good reason to do that: Mr. Levac won by fewer than 1,000 votes in 2011, and his riding is the sort the Tories should win if they’re to form government. Still, consider it a small example – among many – of civility eroding at Queen’s Park, particularly during its first experiment with minority government in a quarter century.