By Sally Barnes
The good book says we should love our neighbours but there is no mention of political candidates.
I happen to have a particular admiration for the women and men who aspire to public office and are willing to make the sacrifice of time and effort to go door-to-door begging for votes and stand on debate platforms praying they won’t make fools of themselves.
Volumes have been written about the foibles of election campaigning with whole chapters devoted to vicious dogs, brats with water guns, and adults hurling verbal abuse and worse.
In more recent times, politicians at all levels are reporting serious threats to themselves and their families as society becomes more polarized and public discourse become less civilized.
It’s no job for the faint-hearted.
We’ll find out the results of all this effort when the votes are counted this coming Thursday.
For this veteran political junkie, who has scars to show for her participation in more campaigns than I can remember, I’ve found that, with the exception of a few ridings, this 2022 provincial election has been about as exciting as watching paint dry.
Televised debates usually provide red meat for voters interested enough to switch off Netflix or the sports channel and watch the party leaders duke it out. Alas, the leaders of the four main provincial parties engaged in only one debate and it turned out to be a genteel 90-minute exchange of ideas.
It was definitely in sharp contrast to the verbal knife fight viewers witnessed when the contestants for the current leadership of the federal Conservative Party took off the gloves in two televised debates leading up to the September 10 vote.
I love democracy and a burst of enthusiasm and support for the process every few years is just what we need—especially in these days when respect for and confidence in our democratic institutions is under siege thanks in part to the pitiful state of politics in the U.S.
Barring something unexpected in the dying days, the results of the June 2nd vote have been pretty well tracked since the opening gun and Doug Ford is sleep-walking his way back to the corner office at Queen’s Park—possibly with another majority government.
Even the Liberal-leaning Toronto Star could not bring itself to urge voters to throw out Ford’s Tories. Its election editorial on the last weekend before the vote went only as far as calling for strategic voting by progressives to ensure Ford is denied a majority.
For the Fordites, this has been a remarkably gaffe-free campaign.
He and his team have been accused of running a peek-a-boo campaign but there’s not a political advisor on the planet who would suggest this is a bad strategy. If you’re winning the war, why expose yourself and your troops to unnecessary risk and harm?
Ford is a frustrating opponent. People are attracted to his folksy persona and his appeal to both drivers of pricey electric vehicles and second-hand pickups.
Folks might not always agree with what Ford is telling them but he’s talking to them in language they understand. He’s the guy next door who helps you shovel your sidewalk or boost your battery—not the slick politician or bureaucrat who lectures, hectors, and beats around the bush. To many, he is unsophisticated but a breath of fresh air.
Critics say he’s a phoney—that he might have a big heart but the object of his affection is his developer and donor friends. They say his promise to build a new Highway 413 connecting suburbs in the Peel region west of Toronto will swell developers’ pockets while swallowing up farmland and protected areas of forest and wetlands.
Supporters of the highway—including commuters and private sector unions—see critically needed additional housing and other economic development and the jobs that go with it.
Ordinary voters like most of us don’t know which side is right and we can only hope and trust in the wisdom and honesty of those we elect.
Me? I’m voting strategically.
If Doug Ford is re-elected premier—and especially if he gets a majority mandate—it is critical that we have a strong government caucus to advise and help direct the government for the next four years. We are living in troubled economic times.
The countdown to election day 2022 has begun. It’s almost all over but the shouting.
Get out there and vote—it will at the very least give you the right to criticize and complain.
Sally Barnes has enjoyed a distinguished career as a writer, journalist and author. Her work has been recognized in a number of ways, including receiving a Southam Fellowship in Journalism at Massey College at the University of Toronto. A self-confessed political junkie, she has worked in the back-rooms for several Ontario premiers. In addition to a number of other community contributions, Sally Barnes served a term as president of the Ontario Council on the Status of Women. She is a former business colleague of Doppler’s publisher, Hugh Mackenzie, and lives in Kingston, Ontario. You can find her online at sallybarnesauthor.com.
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