Category Archives: Sylvia Watson

Ontario Election 2007: Parkdale High Park

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.

DiNovo has been an unquestionable force  at Queen’s Park, exceeding expectations of supporters and detractors alike. Christina Blizzard, of the Toronto Sun, in her appraisal of MPP’s performances awarded only two grades in the “A” range, and one was to Cheri DiNovo. John Tory, when asked on a recent radio program which one of the MPP’s in the legislature not part of  PC caucus he would like to pry away from the other parties, paused, and said “Cheri DiNovo”. For a summary of her year at Queen’s Park see here. Personally, I like that she also brought some much needed style to Queen’s Park. I like that she portrays a markedly different image of “the left” than often projected in our media (you know, Birkenstocks, cargo pants, home knit sweaters…).  Fashion, style, appreciation of fine and beautiful things should not limited to any one group of people (European socialists have long shown this). For me, what makes the bourgeoisie what they are is not simply the trappings of wealth, but its attitude and way of obtaining wealth. I recently read an inane commenter calling the NDP a bunch of white wine socialists (it may have been funny if he had said white whine socialists). To that I say bravo. And to single malt and cognac socialists, I say bravo. To socialists who spend $1000 dollars on a Barcelona chair, I say bravo. To those socialists who see beauty in a Barnett Newman painting, I say bravo. To those socialists who read bourgeois, untamable theorists like Derrida, Lacan, Zizek, Hegel I say bravo.

Oh, but I’ve digressed. In the rematch between Cheri DiNovo and Sylvia Watson one would think this a no contest. DiNovo is clearly the superior candidate. But there are other factors. Watson is not running an overt smear campaign this time (although her campaign team has been slinging mud and have been caught in some compromising tactics at democraticSpace).  “The Ghosts for Sylvia Watson” (Sept. 11) from the by-election past seem to be haunting this campaign as well. There are also the landlords for Watson (buildings with numerous tenants, many of them not Watson supporters, adorned only with Watson signs). All to say, that while Watson is obviously losing the sign war, she is holding her own in parts of Parkdale. 
This is significant because Watson’s tactic, as unbelievable as it is for a discerning voter, seems to be to try to peel off the poor vote, while hoping that hard core Liberals as well as involuntary Liberals (e.g. some of the immigrant voters who’ve voted Liberal ever since they arrived in Canada and have in fact been largely taken for granted by the Liberal party) will just come out and do their part. In the meantime, Watson, a wealthy lawyer living in a million dollar house, walks around with another faux advocate for the poor, Gerard Kennedy, hoping to strip away some of the Parkdale vote.  Sadly, this strategy may, in fact, gain her some votes. I say sadly because the Liberals are a party born of the rich for the rich (the original liberating impulse of the Liberals was towards liberating markets from regulation) whose support in the twentieth century of  a welfare state has less to do with actually caring about people than wanting to enable capitalism to prosper (unfettered capitalism is very ugly and very unworkable, think of Dickens’ London).  And to have any of the poor in Parkdale deceived into voting for Watson and the Liberals is, in my view, a real travesty.  There is no question that the poor, the working poor, the marginalized, the lost, the hungry of Parkdale would best be served by DiNovo, and the NDP, their true and tireless advocates. But, many people regrettably don’t vote in their own best interest.
Then, there’s the whole, strategic voting thing (of course, a by-product of having an unfit and undemocratic electoral system, which incidentally Watson supports).  Until it became clear that McGuinty is going to form a second majority government, I think Watson may have been helped by “progressives” and swing voters who would rather vote to try to ensure that John Tory didn’t form the government than vote for the truly “progressive” representative in their riding. This seems a non factor now.
Green Party supporters, although among the most principled voters, too are faced with a strategic choice between voting for their candidates (who still have no chance of gaining a seat) or at least having some of their concerns voiced in the legislature. The NDP, has now, and has for a long time, an abiding concern for the environment. It believes in fully funded education and health care. It is socially progressive. It is against nuclear energy. While the Green Party may have different means of achieving these things, it is committed to them, which is why many Greens, typically lefty Greens, I would think, vote NDP (in Europe the Greens & Social Democrats have formed coalitions). I suspect that the Liberal party would be the last party a Green would vote for, since the Liberal Party is the least ideological and principled of the political parties. The Liberals have been so successful because they play brokerage politics, swinging to the right or to the left as it suits them best, casting as big a net as possible.
In the final analysis, I think that if DiNovo’s campaign does a strong job of pulling her vote, then she should be awarded re-election on Wednesday, but as to whether DiNovo will win by a larger or smaller margin than last year I really can’t say. What I can risk is that DiNovo will likely not win by the same margin (8%).