Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Ontario Election 2014. I'm Declining My Ballot, And So Should You

Election Day in Ontario is fast approaching.  As with other elections in Canada, our choices are uninspiring to say the least.  So whom should you vote for?  Well, let's first narrow our choices down to the only three parties and leaders who have any chance of winning this election.  There's our current Premier, Kathleen Wynne, and her Liberal Party, Tim Hudak's Progressive Conservatives and Andrea Horwath's New Democratic Party.  Do these parties and their leaders differ on how they would run the Province of Ontario?  Certainly, but is one better than the other?  Nope.  In fact, for this election, I'm voting for none of the above.  Here's why:

Let's start with our incumbent premier.  She took the reins of power after her predecessor, Dalton McGuinty, decided to pack it in, leaving a legacy of scandals, reckless spending and soaring debt.  The jury's still out on how much Wynne had to do with the decisions that have turned Ontario from a have to a have-not province, but she was part of McGuinty's government, hence she is at least guilty by association.  Re-electing her and her party will no doubt lead to more of the same.  You know, sky-high hydro rates, ballooning deficits, record debt, and billions of our hard-earned tax dollars spent on damage control for scandals like the gas plant cancellation, Ehealth and Ornge.  There will be benefits for some folks if the Wynne Liberals are re-elected, most notably the public sector unions and CEOs.  So we can expect more happy union bosses and more senior civil servants making $100,000 or more a year.  For the rest of us, however, it will mean less money in our pockets.  Clearly, Ontarians deserve better.

Okay then, how about the alternatives?  Tim Hudak and his Progressive Conservatives are promising to end the Liberals' drunken spending spree and bring order to Ontario's finances.  Sounds good, right?  Not so fast.  Unfortunately, Hudak and the PCs view Ontario simply as one giant balance sheet and nothing more.  So they have no qualms over balancing the books on the backs of Ontario's most vulnerable.  Electing Hudak and the PCs would likely mean higher tuition for university and college students, bigger class sizes and less help for seniors who want to stay in their homes (see: Tim Hudak targets students, seniors, teachers for budget cuts).  For those of you who remember the slash-and-burn years of Mike Harris, Tim Hudak is basically the sequel in waiting.

This leaves us with the last of the three fat-cats, Andrea Horwath and the NDP.  But if you're going to vote NDP, you might as well be voting Liberal as it's become increasingly difficult to differentiate between the two parties.  In fact, sometimes I don't know which of the two is the real standard-bearer of big government and union rule.  Even Horwath herself seems to have trouble distinguishing herself and her party from Wynne and the Liberals.  It's no wonder then that some have speculated about the possibility of the Liberals and NDP forming a coalition to govern Ontario should no party win a majority in the upcoming vote.  But of course, this is what we've had since the last election.  In other words, nothing would change.

To make a long story short, I can't bring myself to vote for any of the major parties because it seems to me that no matter which of them win, we all lose.  But what other options are there?  Voting for the Green Party?  Voting for one of the fringe parties or candidates?  Either way, you're throwing your vote away.  So should you just stay home on election day?  Perhaps.  A low voter participation rate does send a strong message about the shortcomings of our politics.  However, I and many others believe that voting is a civic duty and a fundamental democratic right that we should all exercise.  Besides, there is a better way to send a message to our politicians.  We can just decline our ballots.

There is a little-known part of Ontario's election law that permits voters to decline their ballots, essentially voting for none of the above (see: How Ontarians can make their vote count when their choice is "none of the above").  This provision allows such votes to be recorded differently than if a voter simply spoiled their ballot.  Declining your ballot sends a message that while you would like to participate in the electoral process, you do not believe that any candidate or party deserves your vote.  And this, I believe, is the message that our politicians need to hear loud and clear.

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