Change com­ing in On­traio, but none of the main­stream of­fer­ings wor­thy

The Woolwich Observer - - COMMENT - EDITOR'S NOTES

THE THREE TRA­DI­TIONAL PAR­TIES leav­ing much to be de­sired – the Lib­er­als must be ban­ished, and the NDP and Tories each have traits that make them un­wor­thy of our trust – On­tar­i­ans can’t be blamed for be­ing both unin­spired by the elec­tion and un­sure about where to cast their votes.

Get­ting rid of Kath­leen Wynne and her party ap­pears to be the over­whelm­ing theme.

The cur­rent gov­ern­ment has far ex­ceeded the three­strike rule when it comes to in­com­pe­tence, waste and cor­rup­tion. We’ll vote the bums out, and the new ones will likely bum us out.

The so­lu­tion? Some­thing akin to the his­tor­i­cal rev­o­lu­tion­ary up­ris­ings that sprin­kle our de­fence of democ­racy looks good, but we’re per­haps not ready for that just yet. There are rum­blings, how­ever, in favour of that op­tion we’d all like to see on the bal­lot: none of the above.

Don’t like the can­di­dates on of­fer? Vote NOTA and send them a mes­sage. On­tario, in fact, has a None Of The Above party, which is field­ing can­di­dates in 42 of the prov­ince’s 124 rid­ings (the clos­est be­ing Kitch­ener Cen­tre). It’s pri­mary man­date is what it calls the three Rs of di­rect democ­racy – Ref­er­en­dum, Re­call and Real elec­toral and leg­isla­tive Re­forms that give vot­ers con­trol of politi­cians and par­ties. Can­di­dates are ac­count­able to their con­stituents and there are no cen­tral party poli­cies or con­trols of elected MPPs be­yond the bind­ing di­rect democ­racy prin­ci­ples.

In that re­gard, NOTA is part of a world­wide move­ment of new and in­de­pen­dent par­ties and can­di­dates cam­paign­ing for di­rect democ­racy and voter em­pow­er­ment poli­cies. If elected, it pledges to end the par­ti­san sys­tem of pol­i­tics in the prov­ince, invit­ing the best MPPs from other par­ties to form a cab­i­net – a more rep­re­sen­ta­tive form of democ­racy.

Be­yond the NOTA party, None Of The Above as a bal­lot op­tion would be a way to ex­press dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the sta­tus quo.

It’s not a rad­i­cal con­cept. In fact, vari­a­tions of it ex­ist in a dozen coun­tries, in­clud­ing France, Swe­den, Fin­land, Bel­gium, Ukraine and In­dia. Even one U.S. state, Ne­vada, has the op­tion, in place since 1976. The op­tion has weath­ered le­gal chal­lenges, and although NOTA can’t “win” an elec­tion – in the event of a plu­ral­ity, the victor would be the can­di­date with the next-high­est vote count – it can make a state­ment. An As­so­ci­ated Press re­port notes that “in 1998, Demo­cratic U.S. Sen. Harry Reid de­feated then Re­pub­li­can Rep. John En­sign by 428 votes, but more than 8,000 vot­ers re­jected both men and opted for ‘none.’”

Such mea­sures don’t yet ex­ist in this country, but in On­tario you can de­cline your bal­lot. Those slips are sup­posed to be counted sep­a­rately, be­com­ing a de facto NOTA vote.

Given that we at times have only the choice be­tween var­i­ous bad op­tions when we go to the polls, we in­creas­ingly stay away. Ap­a­thy, they call it. Re­ally, many of us have be­come de­tached sim­ply be­cause “they’re all the same” – and we don’t mean that in a good way. None-of-the­above would give us a rea­son to show up, send­ing a clear mes­sage.

Ideally, a large num­ber of NOTA votes, per­haps even a plu­ral­ity, would be rea­son for an­other elec­tion, per­haps in the vein sug­gested by the up­start po­lit­i­cal party: can­di­dates who had their chance and were found want­ing would be sent on their way.

Con­ven­tional wis­dom holds that main­stream po­lit­i­cal par­ties won’t push for elec­toral re­form be­cause the cur­rent sys­tem serves them just fine. At the fed­eral level, the Lib­er­als, and oc­ca­sion­ally the Con­ser­va­tives, have formed ma­jor­ity gov­ern­ments while cap­tur­ing less than 50 per cent of the pop­u­lar vote – at times much less. Justin Trudeau cam­paigned on elec­toral re­form, then quickly found a way not to de­liver.

This state of af­fairs is pre­cisely why we need elec­toral re­form, from tweak­ing the Elec­tions Act to sweep­ing changes to the way we vote.

Ad­vo­cates of change call on all the par­ties to com­bat voter ap­a­thy brought on by un­fair elec­tion prac­tices, chronic ly­ing by politi­cians and the cur­rent elec­toral sys­tem.

A loss of faith in pol­i­tics and politi­cians can be tied to the way busi­ness is done in Ot­tawa and, of course, in the pro­vin­cial leg­is­la­tures.

We all know most politi­cians are in for them­selves, to get all they can take – all the talk about serv­ing the peo­ple is some much smoke up our col­lec­tive back­sides. Maybe they should just ad­mit that re­al­ity: Call the sys­tem bloated, self-serv­ing and ill-suited to the needs of most ci­ti­zens. Tell us you’re in it for your­self. Tell us that money greases the re-elec­tion skids, that once in of­fice the only pri­or­ity is stay­ing there. We know it. You know it. Then put in place a process to min­i­mize the most bla­tant abuses – yes that would mean hand­cuff­ing your­self and put­ting the cookie jar out in plain view.

Per­haps we should give up the il­lu­sion. Maybe this is the crux of re­cent talk about demo­cratic re­forms: de­volve the cen­tral pow­ers, give vot­ers more op­tions (ref­er­enda, pro­por­tional vot­ing) so that there’s less fo­cus on the top. We don’t have any real lead­ers, so we don’t need the in­fra­struc­ture.

Left to their own de­vices, to­day’s crop of politi­cians will not make changes to ben­e­fit the pub­lic – oh, they’ll pay lip ser­vice to that, but that’s all. Clearly, re­form is needed. Politi­cians and bu­reau­crats won’t move away from their cul­ture of en­ti­tle­ment, but per­haps if the pub­lic lets them know we want none of it ...

On­tar­i­ans are un­likely ready for such a step. In­stead, the fo­cus is on re­mov­ing a Lib­eral gov­ern­ment that long ago revealed its con­tempt for the ci­ti­zens of this prov­ince, though it’s taken many of us a long time to rec­og­nize that fact. Some strate­gic vot­ing and an­other strate­gic blun­der by the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives may net re­sults we’ve not seen in the bet­ter part of three decades.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.