By-Election

Here we are less than a year from the last provincial election and I’m going to the polls again.

Just my riding and one other, though. Only the good people of Vaughn have similar luck.

Actually, I was a little bit giddy when our long-standing MPP, Elizabeth Witmer announced she was resigning to take a plum government appointment. Not because I was ecstatic to see her go (we could, after all, do much worse), but because the result of last year’s election was an ever-so-slim Liberal minority. Picking up this one seat in a by-election would put them in a majority (sort of, but I’ll get to that). So the stakes are super-high. Which means this is going to be interesting.

And call me weird, but I like interesting in politics. So long as nobody has to suffer too much for it.

Eric Davis (Liberal)

Ads on Facebook Yesterday I am, for the record, a card-carrying member of the Liberal Party. I am such not because I love them whole-heartedly and unreservedly, but because I think they generally tend to go in the right direction, but I feel like they need a prod every once in a while when they start going off track.

And at this point I feel like they’re going off track.

A win in this by-election would not give the Liberals an actual majority (even assuming they hold Vaughn). The house would be tied with ties broken by the speaker. They wouldn’t be able to pass whatever bills they wanted because the speaker will not vote to pass bills. But any nonconfidence motion would be defeated because the speaker will always vote to continue debate. It would give the Liberals breathing room but not carte blanche.

I do actually want the Liberals to serve out a full mandate. I think there’s a lot of stuff they’re doing that’s good. And I think if an election happens, the PCs will likley win and start undoing the good stuff they’ve been doing. And I’d rather that didn’t happen.

But I’ve been incredibly unimpressed by how McGuinty has chosen to run his minority government. When you have a minority, you have to actually work with other parties. He seems entirely unwilling to do that. He seems intent on running from the Stephen Harper play book. I really hate that. I understand politics can be a rough game and playing nice isn’t always the best way to go, but you measure success based on whether or not what you’re doing is actually working, and it’s hard to say what they’re doing is actually working. The PCs are an incoherent mess but they’re still beating the Liberals in the polls.

Eric Davis isn’t helping them much for me, either. Sure, he’s a bit cuddlier this time, talking about his family a lot, but otherwise he never strays from the talking points, to the point where you never get much of a sense of his own personality. I’m not confident that if I came to him with a problem that went against Liberal government policy that I’d get a fair hearing. I would expect to be brushed off. Because he’s a party guy. He’s not terrible–I voted for him last time. But it seems to me he’s just a place-holder for the party.

What really gets to me more than anything, though, is how they’ve gone about fighting this by-election. They engineered this thing, giving Witmer her appointment. I expected them to be better-prepared. But it seems like they’re flailing around uselessly. What’s worse–as soon as it looked like the NDP had a chance to take this thing, they swung into attack mode. When the Liberals start launching ridiculous American-style attack ads against the NDP, it never goes well. I think that’s a big reason they were decimated in the last federal election. Attack ads turn people off. They’re only good for making voters stay home. The Liberal vote is soft. When the Liberals attack the NDP, more Liberal voters stay home than NDP voters. Because the NDP voters are angry and the Liberal voters are disillusioned.

I mean, look at this. It’s just plain deceptive. And I hate it.

Liberal attack flyer (front) Liberal attack flyer (back)

I could write an entire blog post about everything that’s wrong with this flyer.

C’mon guys, you can do better than this. You’ll have to do better than this if you want me to vote for you.

Tracey Weiler (Progressive Conservative)

As far as I can tell, the Tories are going to do pretty much everything the Liberals are going to do (except, of course, for all the things I actually like), but they’re going to be meaner and angrier about it.

I was never going to vote for them anyway. We still haven’t recovered from the damage they did last time they were in government (and this is something else that I’m annoyed at McGuinty about).

Stacey Danckert (Green)

The Green Party is my go-to vote when the Liberals are pissing me off for whatever reason. And, if I’m honest, I love the Green Party. We’ve had some really good Green candidates. They bring things to elections that would never be aired if they weren’t there. And their platform more closely reflects my views than the Liberals. But only just.

Ms Dankert’s pitch is she could be like Elizabeth May in the Ontario legislature. Except she’s wrong. Elizabeth May is an outspoken defender of what she believes in in a Conservative majority government. She’s very good at her job. But practically speaking, she’s largely impotent.

If a Green won this one seat, she’d have real power. She would hold the deciding vote on whether the Liberal government lived or died. She could use that power to push for policy changes. She could manoeuvre the political waters, negotiate hard and make things happen.

I don’t think Stacey Danckert has it in her.

If she was Elizabeth May, I’d vote for her in a second.

Catherine Fife (New Democratic Party)

I’ve never voted NDP. I don’t particularly like NDP policies. Some of them I do, and on some issues I agree with them more than I agree with the Liberals, but I usually get the impression the NDP and I see the world differently. C’est la vie. I do respect them, however.

Catherine Fife is clearly the best candidate of the four parties. She’s smart and well-spoken and I think would do a fine job if elected. I think she would take my dissenting viewpoint seriously, at least more seriously than Mr Davis. (James from King & Ottawa disagrees, but then she won’t be in a position where she has to defend whatever bad thing the government might hypothetically be doing to me).

And she has momentum. Her signs are everywhere. The Record is running editorials about how she might actually win. It’s plausible she has a chance. For the first time since the NDP was the CCF and Waterloo was part of a much more rural riding, the NDP could actually take this seat.

So what the hell, I’ll get on board. Like I said, I like interesting in politics, and handing this seat over to the NDP would certainly be interesting.

My one reservation for voting for Catherine Fife is the message it sends to NDP party strategists. If they get it into their head that the Orange Wave is sweeping across Ontario and they need to topple the government ASAP in order to bring about the second NDP coming, that will make me very sad. Because I have a strong feeling it’ll mean Tim Hudak will become premier. And I don’t want that.

If this were a general election, I doubt I’d be considering voting NDP. If Catherine Fife turns out to be an OMG AWESOME MPP and the Liberals roll out another red-painted dog, maybe. We can talk. But I’m pretty sure my vote will be different in the next real election.

All the fear tactics about the NDP during this by-election are just stupid and wrong. It’s still a Liberal minister who will be negotiating with the unions. If they really want to break the unions, the Conservatives will gleefully help them out with that. Giving this seat to Catherine Fife doesn’t significantly change the political landscape in practical terms. What it does is send a message.

I want the Liberal government to serve out its mandate. But I want them to do it in a way that doesn’t make me hate them. Which means Dalton McGuinty needs a smack upside the head. If the first NDP MPP for Kitchener-Waterloo is what it takes, I’ll happily jump on that bandwagon.

The Others

There are ten candidates running in this election, not four. Communist Party candidate Elizabeth Rowley has been very vocal about being excluded from supposed all-candidates meetings (including the one I had time to go to). And I agree with her. I respect anyone for expending the time and energy to run in an election. I also think minor parties get majorly shafted by our first-past-the-post system. The least we can do is hear them out come election time.

I haven’t had time to go digging around their websites or anything, though. I make no pretence about being a serious reporter. As with Stacey Danckert, this would be a fine time to vote for a strong independent. I don’t think we have one of those, though. Because if you’re the sort of person who could pull off the political manoeuvring necessary to work your one vote to our advantage in this minority parliament setting, you’d be the sort of person who could make yourself heard even with the media steadfastly ignoring you.

To her credit, Ms Rowley is making herself heard. Trouble is, I’m a bit of a bourgeois capitalist, which makes it hard for me to vote Communist.

If the four candidates with party name recognition aren’t doing anything for you, I’d seriously consider checking out the minor party candidates and independents to see if one of them does. You never know.

8 thoughts on “By-Election

  1. Gordon Hatt

    I share many of your perceptions and will cast my ballot similarly, however, I do disagree with you on one point: Negative advertising may be unpleasant and in this case it may seem a bit desparate, however it works. The OLP knows that the public is sceptical about the relationship of the NDP to public sector unions. They fear that when it comes to a trade-off between the taxpayer and the unions, the NDP will decide in favour of the unions. The OLP is playing on that fear. With regard to the teachers, I feel that the OLP already has the support of the PCO so regardless of how the election goes, the legislation will be passed.

  2. Tweeting Ninja

    @Gordon Hatt:

    I think the point DC was making about the ad isn’t its negativity, but rather it’s clumsy and mendacious manner of smearing the NDP. Even calling that a “quote” is suspect. More like two quotes sharing two pairs of inverted commas.

  3. Brachina

    I don’t see one bielection win as inspiring the NDP to bring down the government, Andrea’s too level headed for that.

    Not that it matters, I have a feeling that the attack on teachers is just the first of a string of deals Dalton is going to be making with Hudak, who will support Daltons minority in exchange for regressive change.

  4. @dacaldar

    Excellent summary. What is up with that NDP flyer… I mean Liberal flyer ;)

    I feel 95% similar to you and have come to the same conclusion. I still would rather vote Green, but thanks to our crappy system, and polls usually being somewhat accurate, it would seem to be a wasted vote (I hate even saying that).

    In the last federal election, I did a vote swap – hoping to directly help elect Ms. May, but instead voting Liberal here for a stranger, and trusting the stranger voted Green on my behalf elsewhere in Ontario where his Liberal vote was “wasted”. This is legal now. Votepair.ca

    I’d like a system where I can rank candidates, so I could still vote Green first, and also give a vote for Ms. Fife over the other frontrunners assuming Green is eliminated early. As it is, I’ll go with Ms. Fife this time. She does seem like the best individual, and I like the NDP having a strong voice against McGuinty’s Harper-like approach to minority governing. I don’t think I’d want the NDP in power, tho. Subsidizing non-green energy is backwards thinking. There are other ways to help the poor.

    It will be more difficult next time if Karen Scian (she’s no puppet! and she’ll listen and share all ideas) is the Lib candidate and Stacey Dankert has a bit more experience.

  5. James Howe

    An interesting read Darcy. I especially like how you outline that a “majority” for the Liberals isn’t really a majority. The breathing room however is important because it will reduce the partisan game playing and posturing we’ve been seeing from the opposition. If we have still have a minority government on Friday, I predict you will be voting for a third time in a year and a half in the spring.

  6. Darcy Casselman Post author

    That’s okay. I like elections.

    My fear is if their incompetence continues, the next election that rolls around, the Liberals will lose badly. If Eric loses on Thursday, I’m hoping we’ll take it as a learning experience.

  7. Bevan

    I agree with a lot of what you said and while I will vote I’m not enthusiastic about any of these candidates. I don’t really trust any of the parties right now to do the things that need to be done competently.

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