Our steadfast endorsement is for the act of voting itself, whoever you decide you can bear to vote for.
By Ryan McGreal
Published June 12, 2014
Election day is upon us, and I can't remember a time when I've been as glad for an election campaign to be over, despite the short turnaround of just 40 days since the NDP announced they would not support the Liberal budget. This campaign has been an unpleasant grind of negative campaigning, gaffes, minor outrages and rampant partisanship.
No one thing has bubbled to the surface as the defining issue of the election, and none of the parties have distinguished themselves as obvious front-runners with a campaign that really resonates with voters.
I'm reluctant to prognosticate on the outcome and it's always much easier to explain what happened than it is to predict what's going to happen. That said, back in May I wrote "The 'safe' prediction is that we will end up with just another barely-functional minority government" and I haven't seen any developments in the past 40 days to change this.
The polling aggregator Three Hundred Eight has been converging on a minority government for the Liberals, but low voter turnout might upset that prediction.
One thing is clear: this election has been Tim Hudak's to lose, and he might well lose it. After a decade of highly-publicized Liberal scandals and ineptitude, this election should be a shoo-in for the party that governed Ontario for most of the 20th century. Yet short of a major shocker today, it's unlikely the Progressive Conservative Party will even be able to muster a minority.
The PCs governed Ontario from 1943 right through 1985 and again from 1995 to 2003. The party's success was based on significant part on its ability to straddle the line between progressive and conservative leanings, especially in the "Big Blue Machine" era under Premier Bill Davis.
The party reinvented itself in the 1990s under Mike Harris, who shifted the platform to the right, building up his conservative base and convincing enough moderate Ontarians that his was the party of fiscal responsibility to claw out a majority of seats in 1995 under Canada's first-past-the-post voting system.
Harris stepped down in 2002 and was replaced by the more centrist Ernie Eves, who led the party to defeat in 2003. In 2004 he too resigned the leadership and the party selected John Tory, a more progressive MPP, to take over.
A moderate platform in 2007 was buried under the lightning-rod proposal to provide public funding for private faith-based schools and the PCs went down to defeat again, with Tory himself losing the Don Valley West seat (to incumbent Liberal Kathleen Wynne).
Hudak was a young member of the Harris government, elected in 1995 as part of the "Common Sense Revolution" and joining cabinet in 1999.
Stung by the failure of Eves and Tory to connect with centrist voters over a Red Tory platform that was overshadowed by voters' recent memories of the Harris years and debacles like faith-based school funding, the PCs under Hudak's leadership have decided to double down on the hard-right conservatism that worked for them in the 1990s.
Hudak's "Million Jobs Plan" is a naked pitch to the interests of the wealthy and conservative, cutting Ontario's already-low corporate taxes to the lowest of any jurisdiction in North America and laying off 100,000 public employees, all to create one million jobs (somehow) under a rationale that economists from across the political spectrum have noted is marred by the basic arithmetic error of counting a person-year of work for eight years as eight jobs.
(In fact, if the Ontario economy only produces a million jobs over the next eight years, it will be a rather poor job creation performance.)
The "Million Jobs Plan" is Hudak's Hail Mary pass to voters. If he can't win a majority against the disgraced Liberals, it is unlikely he will survive his next leadership review.
Andrea Horwath's Ontario New Democratic Party pulled the plug on the Liberal minority government when she announced that her party would not support the 2014 budget, so it was surprising that the NDP seemed to be caught off-guard by the subsequent campaign.
Between fatigue with the Liberal quagmire and aversion to the draconian Conservative plan, the NDP had a unique opportunity to connect with a majority of centre-left voters with an inspiring platform and a clear message.
Instead, they were slow to release a platform and when they did, it was notably sparse in details. Commentators on the left decried its grab-bag of populist confections, like a promise to reduce auto insurance costs, while analysts across the spectrum point out that there isn't enough detail to determine whether and how the numbers might add up.
Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne has the difficult task of trying to strike a balance between building on the positive legacy of the Liberal government - like the Green Belt and Places to Grow - and fulfilling the promise of a new commitment to integrated transit in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, while at the same time distancing herself from the litany of scandals - eHealth, Ornge, the gas plants and so on - that have accumulated after a decade in office.
The fact that it looks like the Liberals are going to win another minority says as much about the state of her competition than it does about Wynne's success at walking this line, but it's instructive that even people and organizations who like the Liberal platform stop short of endorsing the party.
It's just not clear whether the Liberals can actually be trusted to do what they say they're going to do. Whether this is due to corruption or mere ineptitude (I lean toward the latter), the Liberals just aren't that good at executing on their generally good ideas.
Their decision to quietly save the second phase of the MaRS research centre at College Street and University Avenue from default by buying the building for $317 million after already loaning $234 million to the non-profit running the centre suggests that the Liberals still have not learned the important lessons from the oversight and accountability failures that have plagued their leadership of the province.
That's the 30,000 foot view. Locally, some big issues are up for grabs. The biggest is arguably the planned B-Line light rail transit (LRT) line running east-west from McMaster University to Eastgate Square.
The NDP and Greens strongly support the B-Line LRT, whereas the Liberals continue to dance around the issue and the PCs are strictly opposed. (On the other hand, the PCs would go ahead with a mid-peninsula highway whereas the other parties oppose it.)
Of the five Hamilton-area constituencies, two PC candidates have responded to the RTH policy questions.
John Vail, PC candidate for Hamilton Centre, responded with an even shorter note stating that the questions are "better directed to municipal candidates" because the provincial issues he is concerned with are "jobs, the provincial economy, the provincial deficit, provincial debt reduction and lower provincial taxes".
At least some members of the other parties also replied to our questions. For the Liberals, Donna Tiqui-Shebib of Hamilton Centre and incumbent Ted McMeekin of Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale submitted responses.
On the B-Line LRT, Tiqui-Shebib wrote, "As someone who has built a business in the heart of downtown Hamilton, I personally support an east - west LRT line."
However, McMeekin answered the same question by writing, "The best transit option will be determined by council and supported by citizens."
Of course, Council has spent the past seven years consistently voting to support LRT, but the Liberals have been playing games ever since local candidates Ivan Luksic (Hamilton East-Stoney Creek) and Javid Mirza (Hamilton Mountain) penned an anti-LRT opinion piece in the Spectator in late February that was filled with misinformation and fearmongering.
This came soon after Premier Kathleen Wynne said she did not know whether Hamilton supports LRT.
The question voters must consider is whether the Liberals' mixed messaging on LRT is a case of the tail wagging the dog (several local Liberals have told me that Mirza and Luksic were merely expressing their personal opinion in the op-ed and not party policy) or an attempt to generate enough uncertainty about LRT that local political support crumbles and the Ontario Government is let off the hook to keep its funding commitment.
In contrast, the NDP and Greens strongly support LRT. Two NDP candidates responded to our survey: incumbent Paul Miller in Hamilton East-Stoney Creek and incumbent Monique Taylor of Hamilton Mountain. Taylor and Miller both submitted the same response: "The Ontario NDP has been behind the Hamilton LRT since day one and we remain committed to this essential investment for the people of Hamilton."
Four of the five local Green candidates responded to our policy survey: Raymond Dartsch of Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale, Peter Ormond of Hamilton-Centre, Greg Lenko of Hamilton Mountain and Basia Krzyzanowski of Niagara West-Glanbrook.
Dartsch prefers to see the LRT "built in stages, downtown-to-McMaster as a priority" to spread out the cost of construction. Ormond and Krzyzanowski both wrote the same response: "Of course!!! Who doesn't? 99% do. We've been talking about Hamilton's LRT system for decades! Time to act on it, and now." Lenko believes the "LRT should actually travel East to West then up and across the escarpment and back down."
The Ontario Libertarian Party fielded candidates in four local ridings (all except Hamilton Centre). Of those, Hans Weinhold of Hamilton Mountain and Stefanos Keratopis of Niagara West-Glanbrook responded to our policy questions, and both opposed LRT.
Weinhold wrote, "I especially dislike public mass transit for its idealization of Soviet style cattle car herding of the public as though they are nothing more than livestock." Keratopis wrote that he does not necessarily oppose LRT, the mid-pen highway or any other initiatives, but "I just do not think government should be doing them".
The Freedom Party ran candidates in all five ridings, and two of them responded to our questions: Barry Spruce of Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale and Geoff Peacock of Niagara West-Glanbrook. Spruce wrote that the Freedom Party "has not had an opportunity to review the plans and proposed budget" for the LRT project, but that they oppose government ownership and operation of utilities in principle. Peacock responded to all the questions with a boilerplate statement that his party is focused on balancing the budget and reducing electricity costs by cancelling the green energy program.
The Communist Party of Canada (Ontario) fielded a candidate in Hamilton Centre, Bob Mann, who supports LRT with full provincial funding.
Raise the Hammer has a tradition of not endorsing parties or candidates in elections, and that tradition continues today. That said, our steadfast endorsement is for the act of voting itself, whoever you decide you can bear to vote for.
It's no excuse to claim that none of the parties are inspiring enough. Choosing not to vote simply means you are ceding to others the right to decide who will form the next government. Whether you do this by spoiling your ballot or by formally declining to vote, the end result is the same.
If you don't think your vote matters, ask yourself: will the Province of Ontario be a different place after four years, depending on which government wins a mandate? Will four years of Progressive Conservative government play out the same way as four years of Liberal or NDP government? It would require particularly selective vision to conclude that the answer to this question is yes.
Ironically, part of the growing voter disgust with politicians and parties may be the fact that the process of government is more open and transparent than ever before. As the old saying (often wrongly attributed to Otto von Bismark) goes, Laws are like sausages; it is better not to see them being made.
However, a low voter turnout does not send a message to politicians that they need to do better at connecting with voters. Instead, it sends the message that their best bet at winning is to go for broke on activating their base, a trend that leads toward polarization and extremism.
The last thing we need in Canada is continue down the road of American-style hyper-partisanship and legislative gridlock. We need a government that works, and there is nothing that opportunistic politicians would like more than an electorate who loses faith in the possibility of good government to make a positive difference in people's lives.
So vote if you are eligible: you must be 18 years or older, a Canadian citizen and a resident of Ontario. If you didn't receive an Elections Ontario voting card, Elections ontario has a Where Do I Vote? form to find out where your polling station is.
If you don't have a voting card, be sure to bring ID that includes both your name and residential address. The following are accepted as identification:
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