Weird day. Internet was down in my office, so I retreated to my home office (which, lucky me, is 4 blocks away) and was promptly stricken with a migraine. So here I am, some hours later, completely stoned on codeine and balancing an ice pack on my head.
This is not the reason that I failed to vote today in Ontario’s provincial election. Rather, I lead a complicated existence, balancing a corporate address against a personal address against a nomadic lifestyle. In short, I’m never quite sure in what riding I should be voting. And because I was too unprepared to send in an early ballot, I –sadly, shamefully– failed to vote today. This is not a matter of pride, merely a matter of fact.
I tried to find a way to squeeze into a polling station at the last minute, but I have no proof of address. This is perhaps an issue that will grow in prominence in coming years: so many of us no longer receive physical mail from reputable sources; many of us now get our bills, etc, via email. As a result, proving one’s address is now quite difficult.
This is the second Canadian election in a row in which I have failed to participate. I missed the last federal election because my father was in the hospital getting major surgery that day, and I felt my place was there, not at the polls. (He, of course, had a different opinion on the matter, always berating us to exercise our franchise.) And, to be candid, I felt the need to sacrifice something important that day, so that the gods would look kindly upon the surgery; so I sacrificed something very important to me: my vote.
Some may argue that my failure to vote in these two elections disqualifies me from having an opinion on political matters in this province and country. It’s an argument that has some validity. But we effect our influence on selecting a government in a variety of ways, not just via voting: campaign donations, candidate endorsements, and soliciting public debate on relevant topics. I would argue that having engaged in any of these activities more than qualifies an individual to have an opinion on governmental matters.
More to the point, a citizen (or resident) is always in his rights to demand accountability from his government, regardless of whether he voted for that government or whether he voted at all. This is the nature of a truly free, liberal democracy. (Whether we actually live in a truly free, liberal democracy is an issue for another day.)
For those of you outside Ontario who are reading this, let me catch you up on some matters. The Ontario Premier (who is comparable to a US state Governor, though in some ways has more power) is Dalton McGuinty of the Liberal (centrist) party; he currently enjoys a majority government. His major competitor is John Tory of the Conservative party. In perennial third is Howard Hampton of the leftist/socialist New Democratic Party (NDP). There have not been back-to-back Liberal majority governments in Ontario in 70 years.
This election is notable for a handful of reasons. The McGuinty majority was seriously threatened early on, after what appears to be cronyism, financial mismanagement and a slew of unkept promises. McGuinty, as a man, comes across to me as a disingenuous, superficial fellow, and I suspect many Ontarians see him this way, as well. The Premier’s office seemed wide open for Tory’s Conservatives…. until Tory made the poorly calculated announcement that, if elected, he would allow public funding of faith-based schools.
See, presently, as a result of Canada’s founding document, the British North America (BNA) Act, Catholics in Ontario enjoy their own fully-funded parallel education system. No one sees this as fair, but what is the solution? Denying Catholics this right might require a Constitutional debate, which is a nightmare in this country. Tory’s solution was to give the same rights to everyone else. It’s not a bad idea on its face. The problem is that the electorate, perhaps rightly, perceives this as a further slide away from our vaunted secularism, that it opens the door to the spectre of Sharia Law and the Balkanization of education. Tory failed to accurately gauge the public’s fear of theocracy, and I think it is this that will cost him the Premier’s chair.
The second interesting trend is the rise of Green party, led by the eloquent Frank de Jong. With the rise of true environmentalism these past couple of years, the Greens are enjoying a surge of new support. I have my hesitations about their economic policies, and in fact all of their policies outside of the environment. But there’s no denying that this is their most important election. We may indeed see the first Green MPP in Ontario history, probably de Jong himself.
The other important aspect of this election –and perhaps the most interesting– is the referendum on election reform. Ontario currently employs a first-past-the-post system, which is fraught with biases, especially a bias against smaller parties and urban areas. A “Citizens Assembly” was convened to come up with a better way. I met with Assembly representatives (as reported here), as part of a group put together by the Maytree Foundation, to give my opinions on the matter. I came away quite pleased with the process, though with some hesitation about the final product, the “Mixed Member Proportional Representation” (MMPR) model. Ontarians are now being asked to choose between the existing system and the new model, which is quite exciting. For the record, I endorse MMPR because its positive aspects marginally outweight the negative, in my opinion.
FYI, for the MMPR to win out, at least 60% of voters must select it, and it must win out in at least 60% of ridings. It’s a tough threshhold to pass!
So…. after all that, with polls about to close, here is my projection:
Liberals – 59 seats
Conservatives – 34 seats
NDP – 13 seats
Green party – 1 seat
MMPR – passes… barely
(probably wishful thinking on my part)
And the polls close….. now!