Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2011/ Provincial Election Apprehension

Provincial Election Apprehension

I know that this has somehow turned into an election blog, but even so I wish that this October's provincial election would just go away. At the very least, I wish that it would be done and over with without the month and a half of electioneering that is heading our way. For two years I have been dreading this election, and now I guess the suffering gets more intense.

As far as I can tell this election is a forgone conclusion. Ontarians hate the HST and hate the higher cost of electicity. That is enough to sink Dalton McGuinty's government, but in addition the Liberals have accumulated enough scandals (and "scandals") that they are vulnerable on many fronts. The NDP are going to exploit the federal "Orange Surge" and/or the untimely death of Jack Layton to split the Liberal/NDP vote, and the Progressive Conservatives will cruise to an easy victory that the newspapers will call a "landslide". The Greens will be largely invisible, and the Family Coalition will nominate candidates who don't bother to show up to all-candidates meetings.

Probably some of these predictions are wrong, and the day after the election I will be eating crow (or some soy-based crow substitute). I would never have predicted that John Tory would lose the last provincial election either, but his team focused on an election issue (funding for religious schools) that turned out to be a political loser. In addition John Tory seemed to be a thoughtful and reasonable guy -- qualities that don't help you get elected.

So far it seems as if Tim Hudak has no compunctions about getting down and dirty in politics, which is probably a winning strategy. The Liberals and NDP are trying to paint Hudak as "the next Mike Harris," which I think is going to backfire. The voters that count -- middle-class suburbanites who are sick of taxes -- like Mike Harris. I guess it is possible that the Progressive Conservatives will lose this election, but in order for this to happen Hudak will have to make some colossal mistakes.

In my riding of Kitchener-Waterloo I expect the results are even more predictable. PC incumbent Elizabeth Witmer has held on to her seat for years and years. People like her, and the usual Liberal/NDP/Green vote-splitting will no doubt work in her favour.

Things are murkier in Kitchener Centre, where Liberal incumbent John Milloy is fighting for his seat against a PC candidate whose name I don't even know yet. I'll learn the PC candidate's name soon enough, I expect, and it doesn't really matter anyways -- as usual, people will vote for party leaders much more than for local candidates, and many voters won't know (or care) what the names of their local candidates are either. I guess I should mention that my coworker Cameron Dearlove is running for the NDP. Good for him, I guess. I do worry that a coworker running against Milloy (minister for Training, Colleges, and Universities, which gives my workplace a lot of its funding) will have negative impacts, but such thoughts are undemocratic and paranoid. In a weird way election campaigns are teambuilding exercises; the candidates go through a shared struggle and often respect each other much by the end of the campaign than they had at the beginning of it.

The primary reason I dread this election is because of its impacts on my workplace and my job. I work at an employment centre which has way too many of its funding eggs in the provincial basket. I have reasons to believe that my workplace was scheduled to lose a big chunk of funding under the current Liberal government. I cannot imagine that the situation will be any rosier under a new regime.

Meanwhile, the government faces a huge budget deficit in the billions of dollars. If a new government (regardless of whether it is NDP or PC) gets elected, it will play the tired old trick of looking at the books, declaring that -- oh noes! -- the deficit is much bigger than the Liberals had declared, and that as a result they have to forgo their expensive election promises. An NDP government will then raise taxes, and a PC government will slash funding dramatically. Either way, money will be tight. My employers have a good track record of making funding miracles happen, so I should not assume the funding cuts at my workplace are set in stone. But things look pretty bleak, and I have no backup plans. Maybe I lose my job, or maybe I quit my job. Then what happens?

Unlike me, you probably are not thinking about this election in terms of job security. There are many other reasons to be digusted. The craziness has already started. The PCs have declared that smart meters have forced Ontarians to do their laundry at 3am to avoid higher electricity costs. In other words, the free-market PCs are saying that the laws of supply and demand should somehow not apply to Ontario taxpayers. That is not going to be the worst of the nonsense, either.

One concrete promise the PCs have made is to scrap the Green Energy Act. I have argued vociferously that offering an 80 cent tariff on solar photovoltaics was nonsense, and that it would paint a big bullseye on the legislation. Sure enough, that is what has happened. But there will be a lot of collateral damage caused by scrapping the Green Energy Act. Let's hope that green energy really is a fad, and that throwing away our reputation as a green energy haven will be inconsequential.

I hope that the next government keeps greenbelt legislation, at least. It's not perfect either, but it is a good principle. But who knows? First past the post tends to elect governments that happily undo the results of the previous government.

I guess the biggest mystery of this election is whether the Liberals will remain a viable political party in Ontario, or whether they will collapse like the federal Liberals have. That much is not clear to me either way.

So why am I not fighting for the future I want to see? Because I am selfish, of course, and because it is much easier to write a blog and complain than it is to fight. But I'm also so tired of politics. I am still burned out by the 2007 election, and I may never recover from that. Most of all, I have a limited amount of energy, and I want to direct that energy where it will make a difference. Throwing huge amounts of energy at hopeless causes does not seem like "making a difference" to me. Maybe if I found politics fun I could treat electioneering as a hobby. But I don't find politics fun. It is just another drudgery to deal with.

And of course the referendum of 2007 haunts me. If MMP had passed, then this would be the first year we would be voting using the new system. But the MMP referendum failed miserably, and I am partially to blame for that. If the Liberals lose a lot of ridings due to vote-splitting then maybe they will have some regrets about staying "neutral" in 2007 as well.

No doubt I will break my resolutions and pay more attention to this campaign than it deserves. I will probably attend at least one all-candidates meeting for the local ridings, and I might well report on the candidates. But as much as possible I want to pretend that this campaign is not happening, to decline my ballot on election day, and then to prepare for the fallout of whatever government gets elected on October 6th.