Congratulations to the Ontario Liberals for proving once again that winning an election is more important than pursuing the common good or adhering to ideological principles. Brokerage politics at its best. Congratulations too to The Toronto Star, without whom the Liberals may have had actually to campaign and defend their dismal record. Further congratulations to The Star for helping manufacture an ethos of apathy, indifference and ignorance that resulted in the lowest voter turnout in Ontario’s history. That faith based school funding became the ballot issue is a complete farce. The Toronto Star is at best incompetent for falling into the Liberal trap or at worst complicit for colluding with the Liberals in making the ballot issue what it was. At a time when this province is on the precipice of having to make some of the most important decisions in its history, we hold an election in which all debate and discussion of the issues was stifled and preempted by a non-issue (according to an environics poll last week, faith based funding, while highly divisive, was THE decisive issue for only 3% of Ontarians).
Meanwhile, our province is today faced with considerable and grave decisions about our short and long term futures. Our environment desperately needs attention. Our way of living is not sustainable. Our manufacturing sector is being decimated in a global economy and there are warnings that a recession is around the corner. Our health care and education systems are still broken. Child poverty is at alarmingly high levels. Working families are a paycheck away from poverty. And seniors, many more of whom we’ll soon have to take care of, are being treated in an appallingly undignified way.
And what have we done? Not only have we stifled public debate on the direction Ontarians may have chosen to go on these critical issues, but also we’ve handed a recklessly arrogant and smug government, with an abysmal record, absolute power in dealing with these issues. Actually when I say we, I really mean 22% of all eligible voters (lowest turnout in history and an overwhelming majority granted by 22% of voters and tell me we don’t desperately need electoral reform). And that about sums it all up.
So when Warren Kinsella argues that the election was a validation of the Ontario Liberal motto, “change that’s working”, perhaps he should have finished the clause. Change that’s working to blunt affect and breed more cynicism in the electorate. Change that’s working to produce the lowest voter turnout in history. Change that’s working to redefine what it means to vote for change. Change that’s working to redefine what the electorate considers acceptable governance. The real motto of this election was: vote for us, we’re not horribly bad government. And even on this Ontarians were utterly beguiled, for this government was in truth nefarious.
But not all was bad news. In my riding of Parkdale High Park, unquestionably one of the most intelligent, engaged, and progressive ridings in the entire province, voters saw fit to vote in their best interest and resoundingly re-elected Cheri DiNovo with 45% of the vote. It was, if I’m not mistaken, the largest gains made by the NDP from 2003 (increase of 30%), but more astoundingly, represents a turnaround of 103%. Liberals won the riding in 2003 with 58% and the NDP claimed it in 2007 with 45%.