Just days to go until election day and like a lot of voters in Ontario, I can’t decide who I’m going to vote for.
But I know what to hope for.
Call me a wishy-washy centrist, a Bill Davis PCer, or, maybe a Red-Tory, none of the options in this election are very palatable. A predicament pointed out in a missive written in this space after Doug Ford was elected PC leader in March, it’s nothing new, though, as this seems to be the usual position (at the voter buffet) I have found myself in leading up to election day going well back into the last decade. I’m not one to throw away my vote for fringe parties for the main reason they don’t really matter in elections, and secondly since they don’t really align with my values anyway. For people like me voting nowadays follows a process of eliminating candidates from a slate rather than actually choosing the perfect representative.
In the current campaign none of the three parties are addressing the realities of a ballooning debt, with big spending plans by the Liberals and NDP on one hand, and huge tax cuts by the PCs on the other. Servicing debt has become one of the biggest costs the Province is responsible for – enough money to build 12 hospitals per year. While the Libs say they can do better to address Ontario’s debt situation than they have over the past 15 years, the NDP is saying taxes on corporations and rich people will be used to deal with debt. The PCs, while being very outspoken in their criticism of the Liberal’s handling of the debt, simply suggest the dividends from finding “efficiencies” will be used to tackle the debt.
When it comes to spending, the Libs and NDP are promising their own versions of province financed pharmacare, dental care, childcare, and money for student debt, with little mention of how much money will be borrowed and how much taxes will need to be raised.
The PCs are addressing promises made by the other parties, namely, subsidizing day care and dental care, and like them aren’t saying how they’ll be paid for. There’s also big pledges, made specifically in sloganeering, to add 30,000 long term beds, and billions for mental health. All the while the tax cut promises are abundant: doing away with carbon taxes, lowering provincial tax on gas by 10 cents a litre, 12% cuts on Hydro bills (with an added symbolic measure of firing the richly salaried CEO of Hydro One), and cuts on corporate taxes and income taxes for low and middle class wage earners.
If not a promise, but clearly an expectation, the PCs if elected will with certainty follow in the footsteps of a Harper government or Trump administration in their disdain for traditional media. While this may for some voters come with shrugged shoulders, or jubilation it’s bound to ramp up the manufacturing of propaganda and alternative facts in Ontario. As the past 6 weeks have proved, Doug Ford’s handlers have kept media scrums along the trail very brief and controlled. There have been exits from rallies through back doors, no shows for broadcast interviews, crickets from press queries, and a complete avoidance from newspaper editorial board meetings. In the two decades I’ve attended Ed-boards at the Hamilton Spectator every PC leader going into an election has sat before our panel of editors, columnists, and writers to answer a some straight up questions, all the while serving as a model for a live sketch. While it’s a great indicator of executive readiness, Doug Ford receives a big fat zero because he didn’t bother to show up for the test. What may be perceived as Trump style disdain for media, it’s more likely an indicator of Mr. Ford lacking depth of principles, and his party’s dearth of policies. A political machine that hides its leader during a campaign for office, will surely continue hiding that same leader elected to a position of running a government. If the so called “little guy” electorate chooses not to be bothered by a candidate willfully evading scrutiny while seeking office, then they get what they asked for when their leader is crowned.
Gone are the days when political parties would release somewhat responsible, realistically costed platforms. Doug Ford has been on the receiving end of much criticism for not releasing a costed PC platform, as if a platform is the be all and end all of what a party will do once in office. The NDP proudly boasts their election centre piece even though a multi billion dollar mistake was found in their costing. I’m not sure if the Liberals officially have a platform, I’ve heard conflicting answers to this, but how does it really matter given the discrepency between their budget accounting to that of the Auditor-General’s? An official costing of a Liberal platform is guaranteed to invite criticism from analysts due to the budgetary shell game orchestrated by the Liberals over the last 4 years.
It’s been a brief campaign since the election was called just 6 weeks ago. Aside from a few mini-scandals, namely, exposure of misbehaving candidates with running for the NDP, and the PC party, the past few weeks have been mostly gaffe free. A data breach at the 407 which forced the resignation of one candidate raised suspicion of more widespread fraud committed in the already dubious nomination processes dogging the PC Party during the Patrick Brown era. While Doug Ford has brushed the theory off, I suspect we’ll be hearing more about this breach after the election dust settles, much like downplayed ghosts haunted Kathleen Wynne for years.
If anything can be regarded as dramatic in this campaign it is the decline of the Ontario Liberal Party. While there seemed to be a general sense at the start of the campaign that the tired 15 year old government had a big challenge ahead in fighting against a throw-the-bums-out attitude among voters, polls consistently showed them dropping from day one as both the Tories and NDP duked it out 15 points ahead of the Liberals. A withering Kathleen Wynne, as she herself confessed in a Hamilton Spectator Editorial Board meeting, became the lightening rod for voter disenchantment against the Liberals. With only a few days left before the election Premier Wynne made the most honest assessment any politician can make in an election: that her party will not win. Facing what the numbers show as a potential decimation to single digit seats at Queen’s Park, the political obituaries for the first woman Premier of Ontario have been circulating for weeks. Feisty National Post columnist Christie Blatchford summed it up best in a piece writing that, “Kathleen Wynne is so clearly heads and tails smarter, better informed and more capable than Doug Ford that it borders on the ridiculous.”
Should the overwhelming opinion that Kathleen Wynne and the Libs will and should be rejected on June 7, it may soon be realized further down the road of a new government in Ontario the old line of ‘you don’t know what you have until it’s gone’. I think this attitude is already sinking in with voters, which makes it so difficult to vote on one of the other two options. One option, the NDP, clearly reaping the benefit of voter interest not just because the Libs are a dead duck, but because the PCs look so ill-equipt with sloganeering Doug Ford at the helm.
One thing is clear, neither the PC party, nor the NDP, whichever party forms government, can be trusted with a majority. If I can’t figure out who to vote for, I know what to hope for: a minority government – and we can go through this again in two years when all the parties and their leaders can get their act together.