Today was voting day and I am happy. I’m pleased to have been a part of the democratic process, but I’m happier about not being confronted with campaigning politicians every time I flip the station, turn the newspaper page, or drive somewhere.
My only regret is not doing my research earlier. I simply can’t help but kvetch about the candidates. A positive side-effect is it clarifies things in my mind. I don’t know how all of you do without a journal of your own. Okay, I exaggerate, but just a bit. So let’s get to it. Each politician has managed to annoy me:
Dalton McGuinty: Liberal
Strangely, Dalton annoyed me only a little. This is a feat for the incumbent. His ‘fireside chat’ television ads grew old very quickly however. In particular, the claim that “schools are what make Ontario, Ontario” still bugs me. Sure Dalton, we understand you’re trying to make greatest advantage of Tory’s wanting to fund faith-based schools of all denominations, but let’s not get crazy, okay?
I’m also annoyed that he broke some of his campaign promises. At the same time however, sometimes I can see why it would be necessary if things aren’t the way you thought they were when you made the promise. This is why any politician must be damned sure they understand the promises they make as well as all the requirements to keeping the promises. Breaking them looks bad. Very bad.
All considered, McGuinty did well. He talked about what he’s done while in office, hammered Tory on the faith-based funding issue, and otherwise kept his head down while the others stepped all over their own dicks.
John Tory: Progressive Conservative
Where to start with this guy. First, he campaigns on a promise to fund faith-based schools of all denominations. I don’t agree with him, but I respect him for standing up with what might be an unpopular change. But then he weasels out of it by changing his promise to merely holding a free vote on faith-based school funding. The Ontario PC party slogan is “Leadership Matters” and this manoeuvre shows a marked lack of leadership. He wants it both ways. He started with a promise, then fell back to promising a vote. If he’s elected and the vote fails, he can shrug his shoulders and claim he tried. Consider my respect withdrawn, and then some.
The PC ads are just killing me. Tory seems to have little to say about himself and his party. Everything’s about the Liberals and how a PC vote will change things. This is a terrible campaign strategy for two reasons. First, when you talk so much about how you’re not like the other guy, you tend not to talk about you. So great, Tory’s not McGuinty. I get it. Who is he? I don’t know. The other reason it’s a bad strategy is when you’re continually comparing your product to another, it’s typically because the other is selling better, is held in higher regard, or simply is better. Steal their thunder by using their name. Too much of this and I investigate the other product, not yours.
Even worse, the “C” in PC stands for conservative. There’s little in the PC platform putting the party to the right of the Liberals. I mean come on, funding religious schools? I’d expect the conservatives to promise to stop funding Catholic schools. And beyond the promises of fiscal responsibility, where’s the talk of fiscal restraint and smaller government? There’s a provincial party in Ontario with ‘conservative’ in its name, but there sure as hell is no mainstream party that is conservative.
Howard Hampton: New Democratic Party
The NDP are having real trouble coming up with new slogans. Since the last federal election, every other sentence from them includes the phrase “working families.” For goodness sakes, give it a rest. According to the 2006 census, for the first time, most adults are not married, and most couples do not have children. Being part of both of these new majorities, the overuse of the phrase “working families” is remarkably effective in driving me away. If you want to talk about taxes, you don’t need to drag families into it. Families already enjoy tax advantages unavailable to single people so why are you going out of your way to alienate me?
The NDP also compare themselves to other parties too much, though not as much as the Conservatives. Going to the NDP Ontario home page, front and centre is the phrase “On October 10, don’t give Dalton McGuinty a blank cheque.” This phrase is also set in the largest type on the page. Where’s Hampton’s name? On the bottom-left, and you have to scroll down. And even then, it’s only his last name. Who’s not running the party is more important than who is, it seems.
The only thing I clearly remember about Hampton the man, rather than Hampton the face of the party, was his melt-down. An array of reporters were questioning him about the faith-based funding issue when he lashed out at the media, saying,
We’ve become the child poverty capital of Canada — don’t any of you people care? Don’t you care that there are seniors living in soiled diapers? Don’t you care about that? I’m asking you, “What do you care about?” That’s what I know people care about. These are real issues.
I don’t think any of that came from his speech-writer. The rough translation is, “look at me, damn you, look at me!” The video footage of this makes it clear that he lost his patience. Refusing to be led by media questions is one thing, but losing patience and erupting at them is another.
I don’t know who is the long-term planner for the NDP as a whole, but they’ve screwed up. The NDP was for labour and the environment. They’ve pissed off the unions and no longer enjoy many automatic endorsements. Perhaps the party saw the rise of environmentalism coming and concentrate their efforts there. The problem is most people see the Green party as being the best choice if the environment is your primary concern. So what about the NDP? They just occupy the increasingly narrow wedge between the Liberals and the Greens. Despite their gains in the last five years, I expect the Green part will overtake them in the next five. You watch.
Frank de Jong: Green
I’m more conservative than I am liberal, but I do admit I like a lot of what the Green party has to say. Not only are they against funding more types of faith-based schools, but they want to withdraw funding from Catholic schools. They’re against many of the price controls currently legislated by the government. They’d let the price of electricity be determined by the market. Granted they want to do this because they know it will rise, encouraging people to conserve more, but I favour as little government as possible in the market.
Their campaign platform barely makes mention of the other parties so after reading it, I know what they stand for. The only drawback is they’re far more leftist than I’m comfortable with. Despite this, there are elements of their platform that are more conservative than the PC party.
I’ll have to keep an eye on the Greens. I’ve never considered them worthy of notice, but I’m impressed with what I’ve seen.
All right! Since writing the above commentary, I’ve cast my vote. The process was incredibly convenient this year as my building had a polling station for the building inhabitants. I walked in just after 6pm and found only the two Elections Ontario volunteers. The whole process took two minutes. When I flipped open the ballot, I saw two other parties represented in my riding so let me include them while they’re fresh in my mind.
Giuseppe Gori: Family Coalition Party
Given the party name, I was immediately uneasy. Looking them up, my unease runneth over. Their page says describes the party as,
…Ontario’s only pro-Life, pro-family political party, and the only provincial party that endorses the principles of the Preamble to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the Canadian Constitution: “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law…”
Ontario’s only pro-family party? Have they missed all the NDP ads packed with talk of ‘working families’? Oh, wait a second, the Family Coalition Party defines family as “those individuals related by ties of blood, marriage or adoption. Marriage is the union between a woman and a man.” Homosexual? Nope. Common-law? Nope. They do deign to let in single parents though. How generous.
It gets better too. They say, “marriage is the ideal basic relationship for a nuclear family.” You know, government is invasive enough now. I’d prefer to avoid having a bible-toting premier telling me what kinds of relationships are ‘the ideal’ for me, thank you very much.
Their web page seems carefully written to avoid mention of religion, but it’s an undercurrent you can almost feel.
There’s no party leader in the heading and no leader photo because there is no party leader. According to their web site, there’s no leader, deputy leader, chairman, recording secretary, or members at large. While there is a vice-chair, treasurer, and campaign director, they only list a phone number. No name. Of the ten positions in the party executive committee, only the secretary and the ethics committee have honest-to-goodness names listed, and the ethics committee has six!
Maybe it’s just me, but even for a party standing for an absolute minimum of government, I’d think managing to fill the party positions would be an important task. They seriously expect me to vote for a leaderless party?
As to their platform, it’s an eye opener. Worried about health-care? Don’t be, they want to get healthcare out of government hands. Worried about education? They want to government out of this field too. And wait until you get to taxes and childcare!
The thing is, I do really like some of their ideas. I like them a lot. The problem is, I think they go too far. The government is in our face too much, but the reverse is also a possibility. For example, not only does the Libertarian Party want to get the government out of the health care business, but they also want to “eliminate any requirement for government licensing of physicians, medical treatment facilities, or other medical care providers.” If you think this is extreme, you’d better avoid their environmental policy.
The other problem, perhaps even more significant, is many of their most significant changes make assumptions about people. The skein running through the platform I read is the assumption that people are good, considerate, wise, plan ahead, and will act in their own interest while considering the interests of others. It’s a very noble ideal, but I’m not convinced the libertarian view would work for the real world. Strangely enough, even though libertarians and communists couldn’t be father apart on the political spectrum, both philosophies have similarly idealistic views of the common person.
The registered parties not fielding candidates in my riding were the Communist Party of Canada (Ontario), the Freedom Party of Ontario, the Ontario Provincial Confederation of Regions Party, the Party for People With Special Needs, the Reform Party of Ontario, and the Republican Party of Ontario.
The Liberals are going to win. CTV predicted a Liberal win just 15 minutes after the polls closed. They upgraded their prediction to a Liberal majority 33 minutes after the polls closed. I am not at all surprised. Based on the campaigns, I wouldn’t have dreamt of voting PC or NDP, unless the point was to vote against the Liberals, which is a completely different thing.
I’ve heard people say the Liberals would have to start killing people to lose popular support, and I believe it. Rather than it being a great love of the Liberals, it’s because there isn’t another solid contender. Both the PC and NDP were disasters this time around.
I firmly believe the faith-based funding issue took on a life of its own and wiped out the PCs. I hope Tory really believed in the idea because if it was merely a campaign manoeuvre, he couldn’t have fucked it up any worse if he tried. I question his belief in the idea because he quickly changed his tune from “we will fund faith-based schools” to “we will hold a free-vote on funding faith-based schools” when he realised the public wasn’t crazy about the idea. Regardless, Tory’s performance was poor enough that he even lost in his home riding.
A day later:
According to the CBC, the Liberals won 71 seats, the PCs 26, and the NDP 10. The Greens more than doubled their share of the popular vote but won no seats.
Candidate publicity photos courtesy of the party websites. Except the Libertarian Party, of course.