Today is election day, so I figure this is an a propos topic…
I am a fervent believer in your civic responsibility to vote. True, if you don’t vote you really don’t deserve to complain about the government, since you could have played a role in it being different. My opinion stems more from the belief that it is like paying a tax – a responsibility borne by those who benefit from the social services, infrastructure, security and climate that the town/province/ nation stands for. That said, you have an option when voting that doesn’t involve picking a candidate: spoiling the ballot.
Unfortunately, sometimes voting sucks. I’m not referring to the long lines, the awkward locations or the obnoxious campaigns (though as a long-time conservative, I’ll tell you that if their policies hadn’t made me abandon ship, their overly aggressive GOTV tactics would have.) No, I’m talking about the possibility that all candidates/parties suck. It isn’t exactly an uncommon occurrence. Again, I’m not talking about disliking a leader for his/her lack of charisma, but fundamentally disagreeing with his/her views and policies.
Without getting down to the nitty-gritty, here’s my problem with Ontario’s parties as they stand.
Liberals: McGuinty has been deceitful through his past two terms, and doesn’t have a legitimate platform beneath his feet. He’s going with the flow and pandering for votes while making decisions that neither reflect public opinion, nor promote a fair or competitive province. I’m tired of the lies, I’m tired of watching him and his party alienate his constituents, I’m tired of waiting for him to lay down a policy so blissfully ignorant that it drives myself and like-minded Ontarians from this wonderful province.
PC: Tim Hudak scares me. He is a hard right conservative, and proof that the PC party has dropped the progressive component all but in-name. In fact, some of his ideas are downright regressive, and that has never been good for society. Traditionally a fiscally-sound party, the PCs have adopted an extreme stance that would bankrupt countless social programs that need to be improved and streamlined rather than shuttered, all based on quasi-developed economics that tend not to work. Normally this could be shrugged off as an election bluff, and a more balanced policy would actually end up being implemented except for one thing: historically, the Ontario PC party keeps their promises. Remember Mike Harris? Forget the stigma for a moment: he kept his promises. John Robarts? Yup. Bill Davis? Yes again. That’s a horrifying track-record when you look at Hudak’s promises.
NDP: Apparently nobody remembers Bob Rae. Do some research, and you will find out how absolutely terrifying his tenure as PM was. The NDP blows through your money like a lending your credit card to your sex-addict-friend so he can go to a strip club. You wake up one morning and realize that you’re so far in debt it’ll take you 10 years to get out. If you want to be mad at Mike Harris, you need to blame Bob Rae. Harris did what he promised – he balanced the budget after Rae destroyed it. All of the damage that Harris caused can be attributed to Bob Rae opening up pointless social programs and overspending your tax money, and all because of another bad pool of candidates on election day (more on this later). The NDP is O.K. in theory – look out for everybody, fairness, equality and balance (among other things), but their policies tend to focus on those who WILL NOT help themselves, rather than the “cannots.” They are the counterpoint to the Conservatives, because they throw their weight behind any quasi-progressive policy, regardless of its usefulness or actual fairness. They are best kept as a scare tactic to keep the major parties in check.
Green party: Honestly I don’t know enough complete details about this year’s policies, but here’s a quick run at it – they are unsustainable and limited in scope, and frankly just don’t have the experience or knowledge capital to handle a position of power. Their presence should help keep some focus on green initiatives, but they aren’t a viable option.
Back in the early 90s, when Bob Rae was elected, the electorate was faced with a similar conundrum. No party had a good leader/platform, so when voting time came, here was the shared public idea “I don’t want to support the liberals or the progressive conservatives… Nobody votes for the NDP so I can show up and do my civic duty without having to back the big guys.” Unfortunately, so many people did this, the NDP took power and did immeasurable damage. It’s too bad, because they had another option.
Spoil the ballot. Just about anything you do to the ballot beyond marking an X in a single candidate’s box will spoil it – marking it multiple times, for example, writing on it, etc… If a large enough pool of people do this, the parties will get the hint; we don’t want any of you or your policies!
This is an important tool in the democratic process because it provides a great deal of feedback that parties need to hear. They are so busy listening to their supporters and lecturing their dissenters, parties often don’t get to hear reasonable objections, and when they do, often go into attack-mode out of sheer habit. Getting wrapped up in the passions of the campaign is part of the romanticism of politics. Trying to best an opponent so you can make things work “the right way,” looking out for the people who got you elected, setting up policies that will get you re-elected; these often lead to forgetting about the whole “greater good” that a politician is meant to strive for, let alone the myriad of constituents that s/he is supposed to represent, regardless of their political affiliation.
Bear this in mind the next time you vote: if you don’t like the options, the best way to make your voice heard is to make it publicly silent; a glut of spoiled ballots is exactly the medicine Ontario needs to get its politics in order.