The final date to vote in Ontario’s provincial election will be a week away by the time this issue hits the streets.
Anyone absorbing enough election coverage and talking politics with potential voters might get the sense many are planning to vote against someone or something, rather than for any particular party or candidate.
Trailing substantially in the polls and possibly headed for a defeat of Mulronian proportions (I know Kim Campbell was Conservative leader in the election that saw the federal Tories drop to two MPs, but I’ve never met anyone who didn’t put that on previous PM Brian Mulroney), Premier Kathleen Wynne is the deeply unpopular leader of a government viewed as stale and flawed. There’s a lot of talk of “change,” which represents a vote against Wynne (and maybe her predecessor Dalton McGuinty) more than a vote for anything else.
Some who might otherwise be inclined to vote Liberal will vote Conservative out of fear of the surging New Democrats. I have spoken to people long associated with both the Grits and the Tories, who have literally said they will hold their nose and vote PC despite their disdain for leader Doug Ford. While that might be expected of loyal Conservatives, it’s surprising that progressive voters wouldn’t swing to the NDP, who offer a similar platform and philosophy to the Liberals, without the government’s baggage. In some cases, these people are actually voting against Bob Rae, a former NDP premier who last surfaced as a federal Liberal – so go figure.
Still other voters have clearly parked their support with the NDP out of revulsion for a Ford-led Tory party that has been tangled in scandals of varying magnitude since previous leader Patrick Brown stepped down under a cloud of sexual misconduct allegations in January.
Ford’s attempts to dismiss such matters has been clumsy at best. When an audio recording surfaced featuring Ford allegedly trying to sell “bogus memberships” to help secure the nomination of the PC candidate in his home riding, he waved off the 2016 incident as old News that had been dismissed following an internal party investigation. Try telling that to former PC MPP Michael (no relation) Harris, who was compelled to step down as a candidate over some flirtatious texts. Turns out the texts were from his bachelor days, that even his wife had no issue with and the whole thing had been investigated and dismissed by PC party officials, back in 2013. However that Harris’ removal did open the door for Ford to appoint, as a replacement candidate in Kitchener-Conestogo, the son of former PC premier Mike Harris, who is, of course, also named Mike Harris. Other than perhaps saving on sign costs, it’s hard to understand why Ford went to such trouble to make room for the junior Harris. He appears to have no political experience beyond an association with his father, who’s legacy of divisiveness and austerity is a prime reason the party has remained out of power over the past 15 years.
Seamy as they are, analysis of such issues might help lead to an understanding of which leader and party might be the best steward of the economy and advocate for a fair and just society – assuming that’s what we’re looking for? Or maybe we just want “change” from politics as usual?
Might want to take a quick glance south of the border though, before voting solely on that basis.