Category Archives: Ontario Election 2007
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).
There’s no question that Cheri DiNovo, the incumbent, has proven her mettle in the course of the last year. She succeeded in the face of an outrageously nasty smear campaign waged by Sylvia Watson, endorsed by Dalton McGuinty, with a supporting cast made up of 11 cabinet ministers, Bob Rae, Gerard Kennedy. And the scurrilous and abusive material was courtesy mainly of Jason Cherniak (now running for Central Region President for the LPC (O) ) and Warren Kinsella (who loves to dish out crap, but doesn’t like it when it’s thrown back at him or his friends). Not only did DiNovo persevere (some of the literature that was distributed to my house was outright incendiary and malicious) but perhaps she was made a stronger politician because of it.
For all my railing against this Liberal government, I’ve never done so under the illusion or pretense that it would matter very much. I do it not only because I can, but primarily because I see it as part of my social responsibility. I do it because it is right to confront and demand accountability from reckless and arrogant governments and the disingenuous machinery that propels them forward.
As someone who takes language very seriously, I thought I should defend my use of the term nefarious to describe this Liberal government. This government was not only largely ineffectual. Worse, it was recklessly arrogant, unscrupulous, dishonest, and at times utterly reprehensible. This government was elected to bring in sweeping change. It was given, under the current electoral system, what amounted to absolute power at Queen’s Park and it was accompanied, for the most part, by a very buoyant and robust economy. Moreover, the overwhelming majority with which this government was entrusted only led to the most acrimonious and inhospitable parliament I’ve witnessed. Queen’s Park was permeated with a sense of entitlement and arrogance that only absolute power can create. Question period has become a complete circus (those who argue against MMP because it would undermine the consensus that happens under First Past the Post should recognize that currently we have the most divisive and pettily partisan legislatures imaginable).
Mr. Urquhart: Liberals are NOT nice, they are nefarious, btw where are the blogging dippers during this campaign?
When partisan hacks like Cherniak or washed up smear apologists like Kinsella scurrilously demean what it means to think and to write (or even to treat others with dignity), I tend not to worry. I may react, but I don’t necessarily worry because I know that, for now at least, the dissemination of information is still largely in the hands of “professionals”. Now I’m under no delusions that journalists are objective and unbiased reporters of “the truth”, but being professionals, they are at least to some extent accountable.
The problem for McGuinty is that he is uncomfortable “going negative” himself.
Sorry, Mr. Urquhart, McGuinty and his henchmen have no problems going negative and you above most people should know that. After all, you covered the Parkdale High Park by-election. When an entire provincial government maliciously gangs up on a United Church minister, whose biggest mistake is that she wants to serve her community under the wrong political banner, that’s not a reluctance to going negative. And need I say, negative in the extreme.
By-election gets down and dirty
Sep. 13, 2006. 01:00 AM
On the surface, it would appear that the New Democrats are well positioned to win tomorrow’s provincial by-election in the west-end Toronto riding of Parkdale-High Park, formerly occupied by Gerard Kennedy.
It is, after all, a riding that has gone to the NDP before — in 1990 provincially and as recently as this year federally, with the election of Peggy Nash.
And it is a by-election, which New Democrats are very good at winning. By-elections allow them to concentrate their formidable organizing resources and to invite the electorate to lodge a cost-free protest vote.
NDP canvassers in Parkdale-High Park are coached to remind voters at the doorstep that their ballots “will not defeat the government.”
Nevertheless, the Liberals want desperately to hold onto the riding, apparently at any cost.
Kennedy won Parkdale-High Park in 2003 by a whopping 42 percentage points — the sixth widest margin in the province — before quitting as education minister earlier this year to run for the federal Liberal leadership.
To replace Kennedy, the Liberals are running Sylvia Watson, a humourless one-term city councillor and former city bureaucrat. Suffice it to say that she ain’t no Gerard Kennedy.
So she is getting help, plenty of it. This week, Premier Dalton McGuinty made his fourth campaign appearance in the riding — an unusual number of visits by a premier in a by-election.
As well, 11 cabinet ministers were dragooned into the campaign this week for an event in a Bloor St. W. café and subsequent canvassing.
“I’m very confident we’re going to win this by-election,” said an unconvincing Finance Minister Greg Sorbara.
Yesterday, Kennedy himself and former New Democratic premier Bob Rae (who lives in the riding) took time out from fighting each other in the federal Liberal leadership race to campaign for her.
It is not these high-profile interventions that are raising eyebrows at Queen’s Park, however. Rather, it is the smear campaign being waged against the NDP candidate, Cheri DiNovo, a 56-year-old United Church minister.
At first, the smears — including references to her youthful indiscretions and carefully edited excerpts from her sermons — appeared only in blogs and anonymous flyers. That made it easy for the Watson campaign to deny any connection to them.
But this week the Watson campaign handed out a press release, on Liberal party letterhead, that dredged up a year-old sermon in which DiNovo allegedly said that the media treatment of child-killer Karla Homolka was “comparable to the persecution of Jesus Christ.”
DiNovo said the remark was taken entirely out of context by the Liberals and suggested she might sue them over it.
But the press release almost immediately backfired by putting the Liberals, not the New Democrats, on the defensive.
At an all-candidates’ meeting Monday night, even the Conservative candidate, former city councillor David Hutcheon, castigated the Liberals for trying to “assassinate the character” of their NDP opponent.
“This is not fair,” Hutcheon told the 100-plus in attendance. “It is not the Canadian way … They (the Liberals) have lost their moral compass.”
(An aside: Although the Conservatives ran second in the 2003 provincial election, party insiders admit that they are long shots to win tomorrow. It would be a nice consolation prize for the Conservatives, however, if DiNovo were to knock off the Liberals.)
The negative reaction clearly threw McGuinty for a loop. Pestered by the press on the smearing of DiNovo, the best response he could muster was: “Look, it’s a tough by-election for us.”
As for Watson, the candidate, she tried to distance herself from the smear. “It wasn’t my idea,” she told me, while declining to say whose it was.
The opposition parties are pointing their fingers at Warren Kinsella, the lobbyist who ran the Liberal war room in the last provincial election.
As evidence, they noted that his blog yesterday included an attack on DiNovo (whom he referred to as “DiNutso”) and a link to Waton’s web site.
But Kinsella denied any involvement in the Watson campaign. “I’ve never met or even spoken to her (Watson),” he said in an e-mail response.
Of his shot at DiNovo, Kinsella said: “I’m entitled to an opinion about her candidacy.” As for the link to the Watson web site, he explained it as an automatic function of a Google advertising program to which he subscribes.
I’m predicting that we haven’t heard the last of this.
What some of the media suggested going into last weekend (that Howard Hampton and John Tory were the winners after the first week of campaigning) must have also shown up on the Liberals’ own polling numbers. How else to explain Ian Urquhart’s column today in the Toronto Star? While Mr. Urquhart has no obligation to be NDP friendly, and while I usually find him one of the more balanced and sober writers at The Star, this piece will be used to deflect valid criticism of the Liberal record on taxation. Is it really a reality check that Liberals imposed a levy rather than a tax? Is it really a reality check that depending on how one calculates things the Liberals may not have imposed the largest tax hikes in Ontario history?A 24% tax hike regressively applied on average income earning Ontarians still ranks up there.
Ontario Liberals’ record on poverty has been appalling. Period. Made worse still by their attempts to deceive the public that they have made any significant progress in this area. Most recently, McGuinty has defended his record on child poverty as “real” progress. Bullshit! A Conservative with a poverty agenda is contradictory. A Liberal with a poverty agenda is pure artifice and ruse.
Of all the back pedaling and broken promises of this government, McGuinty’s refusal to end the clawback of the national child supplement is among the most egregious. In 2003, McGuinty ran on ending what he argued was a wrong and unjust clawback. Yet, when he became Premier, he refused to stop taking away $1500 per year away from the poorest children in the province. For four years, the Ontario Liberals have continued to rob the poorest children in this province of $1500 earmarked for them. And we know child poverty is only getting worse.
In this year’s budget McGuinty announced with great fanfare that his government was finally phasing out the clawback and phasing in a child benefit over five years. The child benefit for this year was a paltry $250, and if I recall, one of the remarks around Queen’s Park was that the announced child benefit was less than the cost of the shoes worn by Greg Sorbara when he made the announcement. Regrettably, the clawback has not ended and we’ll have to re-elect this government if we want to see it eventually phased out in the next few years. I’m sorry, this is not a record on which to stand. McGuinty ran in 2003 to end the clawback, and he might as well be running on it again because shamefully he’s yet to end clawing back money set aside for needy families.
Will the poor record of the McGuinty Liberals stick to this government? Or will Ontarians instead reward this government with re-election, and in the process lower what is expected of political mandates even further? Brian Evans, professor at Liberal friendly Ryerson University (you know the institution helping Gerard Kennedy pay back his debts from his run at leadership by appointing a person without even a B.A. to the position of Distinguished Visiting Professor) defends the prospect of re-electing Dalton McGuinty as premier this way: “At the end of the day, people would say this has not been a horribly bad government.”
I find it very telling that in the recent Liberal outcry over John Tory going “negative”, the focus is not at all on the undesirability of negative campaigning but rather that Tory stated he wouldn’t stoop to such tactics. The Liberal response, in other words, was a negative attack on Tory’s credibility. Sometimes two negatives do make a positive. Not to be missed here is that Liberal strategists like Kinsella are no longer even shy about the fact that they’re tethered and committed to negative campaigning. Going negative has become de rigueur and an accepted fact of politics for the Ontario Liberals. Go negative or go home!
Still, what distinctions get lost in such a sweeping view of negative campaigning? Personally I favour reasoned debate, even old school sophistry, to its modern day replacements: petty spin and puerile negative attacks. But, surely, we haven’t lost entirely the ability to distinguish between attacking an opponent’s logic, argumentation and political record from adhominem attacks on an opponent’s character and personal history. Surely, although both are forms of “negative campaigning”, there still exists a recognizable difference between vilifying candidates by dredging up personal details from their teens or by disingenuously misconstruing their statements and intelligently and reasonably critiquing an opponent’s statements and political record.
So is attacking the Ontario Liberal government’s pitiful record, negative campaigning? Surely, we don’t mean to dispense with“critique” in politics. While I lament the virtual absence of critical thought and dignified comportment in politics, I wouldn’t want to lose it as an “ideal” (in fact, I’ve long argued given the decline in critical thought, eloquence and articulateness in political discourse that all newly elected officials should be subjected to a rigorous regimen of literature, rhetoric and political philosophy).
However, even if we grant that “negative” campaigning, marked by sleazy smears, distortions, distraction, disingenuousness, petty partisanship, etc. has or will soon become the norm, ought we not to aspire to something better? Or is the fact that dirty politics can be highly effective in modern day elections sufficient reason to be resigned to this kind of campaigning? Does the fact the voter turn out and public perception of elected officials is at an all time low possibly owing at all to this? Have we become so focused on ends that we entirely neglect the legitimacy of the means by which we strive for those ends? If I’m focused on attaining a watch, it matters substantially whether I acquire it legitimately or I steal it, for the latter will always never be just a watch, but a stolen watch.
I recently had a very interesting discussion with a teacher. She pointed out that today students are so focused on end results that cheating has become rampant. When she addressed her class in a very frank and gentle way, students told her that they consider cheating only as cheating when they get caught, otherwise it’s called being savvy and getting the job done.
Is all of this completely unrelated? Or is this part of the ravages to the human soul inflicted by capitalism? Is this not the logical extension of narcissistic self-interest? Is negative campaigning not perfectly suited for a consumer society that has neither the appetite nor the time for focusing on issues and rather delights in seeing other torn asunder. Are these not by-products of late capitalist societies? For while the material gain and leverage brought to human societies by their adoption of capitalist economies is undeniable, we’re often less prone to scrutinize the inevitable changes wrought on human beings themselves by these transformations.
So what are we left with in Canadian politics? Principles, ethics and integrity are luxuries that a party focused only on power cannot afford. Polling is the moral compass of most of today’s politicians and the Ontario Liberals have whole heartedly embraced this kind of politics.
I was raised in a working class ethnic family in a working class community and a question that has always plagued me is: Why does the working class repeatedly act and vote against its own best interest? Worse why does the working class actually play the key role in perpetuating the existing system of disproportionate distribution of wealth, of worker exploitation and of iniquity? If the prosperity gap is widening, it’s not because of a sinister plot by those in whose hands wealth is progressively becoming consolidated, but rather owing to the massive complicity of those who are least advantaged by the system. To understand how and why this happens one could do no better than to look at the concepts of “ideology” and “hegemony” as discussed in the Marxist traditions.
Incidentally, believe it or not, I found myself agreeing with Warren Kinsella today. You see, Warren discloses for us not only the quagmire that would be the prospect of funding for religious based education, but also the real motive behind John Tory’s advancement of such a proposal. Kinsella reveals the pretty obvious truth that John Tory is electioneering with “a cynical ploy to peel off some “ethnic” votes to which they [Conservatives] feel entitled.” And I whole heartedly agree. I can’t think that, on this issue, Tory is being impelled by anything other than polling and the hope of securing some voter support from groups that tend to vote Liberal.
Funny though, Warren didn’t view the so-called slush fund or Colle-Gate as a similar cynical ploy. For although it wasn’t an attempt to peel off some “ethnic” votes, it was a cynical ploy to shore up and sustain a voter base to which the Liberals feel entitled?
I’m dismayed that the Ontario Liberals and the Ontario PC see fit to insult and manipulate such an important voter base, a base to which both parties arrogantly feel entitled. I also harbour no illusions. Even though it would be completely in their best self-interest to support the NDP, I know that new Canadians and ethnic minorities will tend to support one of the hegemonic parties. But I also know that as time passes, the likelihood of broadening one’s support tends to increase.
And it often begins, as it did with me, with the awareness that neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives are really my friends. They are truly only friends of banks, multinationals, and big business. It is to them that they are accountable. It’s part of their DNA. As for common folk, well we’re simply taken for granted and through the extensive, and these days virtually exclusive, use of polling, the Liberals and the Conservatives determine how best to toy with us so as to attempt to secure our vote.
There’s only one party that truly represents the best interest of working families: and that’s the NDP. Period.
P.S. Am I the only one who sees the prominence that this religious based school funding issue is acquiring as entirely misplaced?
Second, this contentious issue of religious based funding is sidetracking us from more pressing issues. As I just mentioned there’s too much to fix in the current system to think of dismantling it. I’ve heard nothing of environmental issues. There’s been precious little about the disappearance of manufacturing jobs and the incursion of precarious employment into many sectors of the labour market; of the damage pay day loan companies are foisting on our inner cities; of the appalling levels of poverty in our province; of reviewing property tax and property assessment. Of health care. And why?
Because the Ontario Liberal Party and the PC Party of Ontario are more interested in securing some “ethnic” votes which will gain them leverage in the coming election than in improving the lives of Ontarians, votes from people which they see fit, now and historically, to manipulate and toy with.