Wednesday, October 05, 2011

My Completely Biased Look at the 2011 Ontario Provincial Election

I briefly looked at the Ontario election last week, but with the election now breathing down our necks, I thought I'd go a bit more in-depth.

Liberal Dalton McGuinty: It looks like my fear of the spread of the blue terror seems to have been a little pre-emptive, and Liberals have gained some momentum since last week's debate. McGuinty has taken a beating the last several months, and it appears he may actually have been able to weather it. I think a large part of that is due to the Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak being unable to properly capitalize on voter's frustration.

I'm not a card carrying Liberal and I am not a McGuinty fan club member, but I do think McGuinty has brought a lot of good to this province. I recognize times have been tight for many families and that raised taxes are always going to cause knee jerk uproars, but Ontario has seemed to recover fairly well compared to many other provinces and states that have been rocked by the recession (and may get rocked again by yet another feared recession). As I stated last week, the HST is despised among most (as any new tax typically will be), but I think things over in BC are proving the absence of it can be even more detrimental. It should also be pointed out that even though every opposing party likes to jump on the HST, none of them actually are going to eliminate it (showing they recognize it is a likely necessary evil).

The economy is going to continue to be a major issue among voters, because many families are extremely tight right now. I also don't think lowered taxes are the guaranteed road towards making life easier for financially struggling members of this province. The key is putting programs and tools in place that make life easier and supportive for citizens of the province. The reality is some of those improvements are going to cost money, but of course, the matter is how that money ends up being spent. McGuinty has pushed forward some key initiatives such as making some major improvements to the public health care system, creating new jobs in innovative sectors like green energy, expansion to day care and Kindergarten, and attracting some major businesses.

I'm not actually trying to promote McGuinty here, but I do feel he has brought a lot of positives to the province. Though, I am a huge fan of my local MPP David Levac who has been a great advocate for Brantford and Brant County. He has been incredibly accessible, and been a fair voice for my region. And I don't think McGuinty has been a strong enough negative to necessarily deter me from voting Levac (though I honestly haven't made my 100% decision on who I'm voting for).

McGuinty's campaign and his stance during the debate has been focused on defending his decisions over the past 8 years and trying to make most believe Ontario is in fantastic shape. I know there are many people living near me who would be against such a stance, but again, I think some of the hits can't be blamed on the provincial government. I do have some hope that McGuinty has some solid plans to try to redirect things and point Ontario into a more positive direction.

One of McGuinty's golden carrots is his focus on the Green Energy Act and his promise it will create thousands of new jobs. I appreciate the fact McGuinty is trying to jump on a growing industry and cause Ontario to be one of the global leaders. Based off current trends and global opinion, I would say that green energy is one of the growing and profitable sectors to enter into. At the same time, it is still largely unproven, especially in the amount of jobs it will create. The reality is many of the manufacturing sectors will never be a fountain of wealth in North America again, and it is time to start opening up new industries and job opportunities. I think, McGuinty is making a gamble, but one that could potentially mean a lucrative pay off for several currently unemployed Ontarians (in the obvious form of creating well-paying jobs), McGuinty is pointing towards the real jobs that are being brought forth rather than tossing around empty promises of big conglomerates that will come charging in thanks to lowering corporate taxes.

The other major hot topic provincial issues beyond finances are education and health care. McGuinty has been touting the fact Ontario has the shortest wait times for surgery in the entire country, and I haven't down a thorough country wide hospital tour to dispute this fact. I do know that more doctors are entering the province and there has been a clear increase in families with family doctors. The health care system has its issues, but I'd argue it is heading into a positive direction rather than a negative.

As for education, I'm a huge fan of the full day kindergarten, but do hope steps are put in the place to continue to keep class sizes low. I've heard that in some of the lower income areas in Toronto, the classroom sizes have ballooned to some ridiculous sizes. I am a huge proponent of smaller class sizes leading to a better education, because some students really do need that more intimate and focused learning experience. But from what I've read, I largely approve of most of the major changes to curriculum and the direction the Liberals have tried to go with education.

As of this morning's polls, McGuinty has gained a 10% lead over Hudak, but this has been a pretty competitive race so far. I'd say McGuinty is far from getting a clear victory, and it is this final day of campaigning that could make a major difference.

Progressive Conservative Tim Hudak: I'll admit straight up that I have a hard time listening to Hudak's platform as I experience our country continually see diminished rights and liberties. I've said it before that I realize Hudak is not Stephen Harper, and the Ontario Progressive Conservatives are not the federal Conservative party. But the parties are linked. So, I struggle being comfortable with the Tories being in charge of the province, when they're embracing the joys of dictatorship at the federal level. I know you probably tire of me claiming Harper to be the worst leader of Canada since I've been alive, but I'll continue to believe that while he aggressively rams forth policies and bills that we aren't in the need of having.

Hudak is adopting Harper's campaign approach by playing to the 'poor and strapped families' of Ontario and promise to relieve us all of the heavy taxation. He's also addressed several policies in regards to crime, but has seemed to lighten up on that strategy after it has become clear it isn't a major issue among voters(probably once people suddenly realized crime is actually on the decline without the implementation of harsher policies). His approach instead has been convincing us all that our financial woes and unemployment has more do to with McGuinty incompetence rather than a global recession. It was the smart strategy since focusing on economy has worked twice for conservative types in Ontario these past few years, but seems like three times may not be the charm. Hudak's momentum has slowed considerable from June when it looked like he was going to run away with the election, and it might be largely due to the fact he hasn't put a lot of concrete plans in place of how he will be giving Ontarians financial relief and more jobs. If anything he has promised to get rid of the recent contract with Samsung, which will not only result in more lost jobs but a financial burden in the form of penalties. Of course, he has also promised more tax breaks to corporations, which conservative types across the globe seems to believe always equals in an influx of jobs for the downtrodden (but usually just seems to lead to more perks for the already fat and rich).

The major platform is definitely the promise of decreased taxes and the ability to income split up to $50, 000. Of course, he doesn't like to harp on the 2.1 billion deficit this will cause or the fact it won't all come into effect until 2015. I'm still not entirely convinced that the tax cuts won't lead to program cuts, because I honestly don't feel things of the past few years have been as poorly mismanage as most have claimed. The tax cuts are going to be extremely appealing to some, and I am not one to whine about paying less, but I don't want it to come at the cost of actually hurting the groups these very cuts are claiming to help.

For the most part, I've seen lots of promises for improvement without any detailed outline of how to get there. I love the idea of improving the transportation infrastructure, but unlike the other parties, Hudak hasn't come up with how that is actually going to be accomplished. He largely tried to ignore most environmental issues, which isn't a huge shock since that is a typical Conservative tactic (what? We have an environment?)

He has promised to rid the province of the smart meters, which I actually think are imposing and unhelpful (essentially dictating when one can use energy in their home -- which is a pain in the ass for shift workers or the elderly). I am not entirely against everything being rolled out by Hudak.

I won't vote for his party, but I do hope he sticks with his claim of being an open and honest government. Maybe he can change my view of the Conservative government, and inspire me vote for them in the next election. This will happen right after I see a pig fly a jumbo jet.

NDP Andrea Howarth: NDP has had a tough run in Ontario ever since they flopped in provincial government in the 90s. I think it is a very different party now than the one that was in power, but it doesn't seem Ontario is willing to be too quick to forgive. Despite saying that, Howarth has made some amazing strides in the last few weeks and garnered some momentum since last week's debate. She is still a severe underdog, but one should never discount a magic of the last day of the campaign. She lands that right quote and things could swing come tomorrow. I think most want a new government, but are wary of the alternatives. Howarth has potential to prove she really is something different. I personally jump back and forth between Liberal and NDP at this point (with my respect for Levac being the major plus for the Liberal's side).

She is following the typical NDP rallying cry of standing up for the cash strapped families, but isn't promising relief through focusing on tax cuts. Instead, her major platforms have been on making secondary education more accessible, creating an influx of jobs into Ontario, and improving/overhauling the health care system. She seems to realize financial burdens are not all due to high taxation, but also come from other major cost of living factors (or just the straight absence of any family member having a good paying job).

She's also laid out some clear strategies of how her changes will happen. She's promised a strong transportation infrastructure thanks to increased bike lanes and freezing transit costs (thus making it more affordable and viable) -- though admittedly, she hasn't necessarily addressed what type of strain this will put on municipalities. Unlike the other two big parties, she is actually pushing for an increase in corporate taxes, and only offer breaks to the major companies that are creating new jobs (which in theory hopefully would encourage companies to create new positions -- though one may fear it will just drive away businesses). Her main focus on secondary education has been to make it more affordable, which includes forgiving interest on student loans (I haven't looked in-depth on how she plans to implement this since I luckily have been able to vanquish those vile things already). She has also promised some tax relief to small business owners, and plans to encourage the growth in that sector (this again would need cooperation from municipalities). In regards to health care, her biggest strategies have involved decreasing wait times and creating more definitive public services (especially in regards to home care). Many may accuse NDP of being the more expensive and tax heavy party, but at least they seem to have some well laid out plans.

My childhood has ingrained in me to be a little fearful of 'tax happy' parties. But I've found myself siding more and more with NDP polices over the years. I'd love to see them have a real chance at implementing some of their plans. I am not sure if they have a real shot this time around, and that may largely influence me into siding more with the Liberals. I do like Howarth as the leader because she seems less likely to use political jargon and isn't afraid to speak plainly about real issues. She'd have made Layton damn proud (yes, I know he was the federal leader and not the provincial).

Mike Schreiner Green Party: The recent surge of NDP popularity seems to have been at the expense of the Green Party. I've heard almost nothing out of them in the last several weeks. The party has been growing over the last several years, but during this provincial election, they seem to have become ghosts. I'm not sure if it is partly due to NDP adopting similar policies and approaches, or if it more due to the media blatantly ignoring them. I'm saddened Green Party is pushed the backburner, and even embarrassed I actually had to use Google to remind myself who was the leader.

The party platforms seem similar to many of the NDP's stances, except with the obvious larger focus on environmental issues. They're also leaning towards larger tax cuts for families and local business, and attempting to be actively involved with municipal governments. They also want to implement extensive training in several new fields that they feel are expanding in the next several years including green energy business, bio medical technology and sustainable transportation.

For the most part, I like the Green Party platform, but I also don't see them even getting a single seat this time around. The momentum has stalled on the provincial level, which is a huge pity.

So, no matter your political stance, I hope you decide to cast your vote tomorrow. If you don't know where you stand then please go read up on all the parties or watch the debate from last week. The thing that is worse than a non-voter is an ill-informed voter. Figure out what matters to you and your family, and what you expect from government, and then find out which party is representing that the closest. It is tough, but the effort is well worth it.

2 comments:

  1. Believe it or not Ontario Green party membership is at all time record high - more than double from where it was last election. As a member I get their enews letter and that's what they keep telling me at least. It's too bad that they have been completely ignored in the media, but I am getting the impression that they are very happy with their campaign. We are really pushing hard in Simcoe, with the strong emphasis on local farming I'm hopeful Mike will get elected! Happy election day!

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  2. I happily stand corrected then. I put the blame on the media basically ignoring them. Though they didn't do great according to the polls and some 'experts' were claiming they'd lost some of their support to NDP. But all that matters is how they perform today, I'll be very interested in that outcome.

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