Paul's Internet Landfill/ demons/ Wake up and Vote!

Wake Up and Vote!

Maybe it's natural that people are so laid back about the upcoming Ontario election. For the most part, the weather has been sunny and warm, the Leafs are in the playoffs, and the airwaves are saturated with Star Wars hype. You have to give Mike Harris, the premier of Ontario, some credit. He called his election exactly when we would be preoccupied with other things, and he made the campaign period nice and short -- barely a month long -- so that the days would whip by, we would semi-consciously re-elect him, and we would all enjoy four more years of his government sucking up to the rich and the powerful while tyrannising the weak and the poor.

You will have to excuse my passion and strong words. I am feeling angry and helpless about this entire election campaign, because a little voice is telling me that Harris will win in his bid for re-election, and I am not sure I can deal with that. What bugs me even more is that we, the people of Ontario, aren't even considering the issues at stake in this election. Is Harris going to be re-elected because people think he would make the best premier, or because he is the default, incumbent leader? I suspect the latter, and the knowledge of our apathy is making my iron-rich blood boil.

I am not a big fan of election signs. I think that they are ugly and a waste of good resources, and they make a mess when people don't pick them up after the election. I would rather have people understand the issues and have the election in their minds without having to rely on election signs to jog their memories. Maybe I should be happy that I see nearly no election signs on the streets of my riding -- just the usual three blocks of Rob Sampson signs along Burnhamthorpe, a smattering of George Winter along Creditview where the minivans live, and that's it. But the lack of signs doesn't indicate to me that they are ineffective, that we will make up our own minds for a change. It indicates to me that we just don't care about what's going on. For a while, I was toying with the idea of "Painting the town orange" -- plastering those butt-ugly fluorescent orange NDP signs all along my riding on behalf of Gail McCabe -- just so that people would realize that we are in the midst of an election campaign. But then I had second thoughts, for reasons that I shall explain later. In addition, I chickened out, which just goes to show that I am more of a hypocrite than any of you.

Why is this election so important to me? Because I cannot believe that we Ontarians are so mean-spirited and short-sighted that we would welcome the Progressive Conservative Harris government back into power. This is the man who campaigns on a platform that he's going to authorize the police to confiscate the squeegees and buckets of the squeegee kids in downtown Toronto. Hooray, you say? I spit in your face.

Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty may be a fool in some ways, but he is completely correct when he calls Mike Harris a thug. I would like to extend that description to his entire party, and anybody who supports this mad notion to deal with the squeegee kids by terrorizing their lives and taking away their buckets. You are all thugs.

Don't get me wrong: I am not some sort of squeegee-kid lover. In fact, squeegee kids bug me, and I hate seeing them on the streets for the same reason I hate seeing panhandlers -- they are essentially begging for money to get by in the world. That is what bugs me. I wonder why these kids choose to live on the streets and why they are not in school. I wonder whether they will spend their entire lives in poverty. I wonder whether they are here willingly, or whether they have been forced onto the streets by circumstance or broken homes. I wonder how many of them will get off the streets, and how many will go on to lives of crime. I read of the attitudes some of them hold in the paper, and I often cringe. But I sympathise with them, too. They are kids, and their attitudes are no more painful to listen to than the teenager who thinks that he has a god-given right to a big allowance and the right to party all weekend without any responsibilities. Furthermore, I understand that I am closer to their lives -- lives on the street -- than I would like to admit. Maybe that biases my judgement a little too much for your comfort. Phooey on you.

In any case, I don't like the thought of squeegee kids on our streets, and I feel uncomfortable when I see them. I would like to see them making something of their lives instead of trying to earn a few bucks an hour washing windows. But they obviously think differently. I may be overgeneralising a bit, but it appears that they think they are businesspeople, offering a service in exchange for cash. I have problems with that, but I don't think Mike Harris and his cronies should, because they support free enterprise and the needs of business. The squeegee kids have discovered a niche, but the Progressive Convervatives want to crush them. Why? Because they are a nuisance.

News flash: Telemarketers are a nuisance, too. So are the McDonalds billboards advertising their new specials, and the incessant advertising that bombards me from all sides, and Star Wars. Star Wars is a big nuisance to me, too, Mikey. Why aren't you getting rid of Jar-Jar Binks while you are at it? Simple. Because telemarketers and McDonalds and Star Wars all make lots of money and have lots of power and can fund PC election campaigns, while squeegee kids can't. That's why. Mike Harris really isn't into supporting free enterprise. He is into keeping the people who can help his party -- those with money and those with power and those with votes -- happy. And he is willing to pick on the weak and helpless to do so. He is more than happy to demonize squeegee kids and welfare mothers and environmentalists and everybody but teachers unions (who ended up being too powerful for him to tick off safely) because they are not powerful enough to matter.

Perhaps I'm just naive, but that sounds like thuggery to me.

There's another aspect to this that makes me really mad: The manner in which Harris wants to deal with the squeegee-wielders. Does he want to get them back in school? Does he want to improve their lives? Does he want to help them get onto their feet, into paying jobs so that they don't have to beg for their food and rent? Does he care one whit for what happens to the squeegee kids?

No. He wants to authorise the police to confiscate their squeegees and buckets. Maybe he has written them off already, or maybe he just does not care. Whatever the case, I doubt that he will solve the problem, endearing the squeegee kids to authority and magically transforming them into productive members of society. Mike Harris does not want to solve the problem of poverty on our streets. He wants to take away the squeegees and toughen our laws, in hopes that the problem goes away. He wants to brush the real problems into the gutters where we cannot see them, so that we can forget that problems even exist. That's Mike Harris's solution.

And we, the people of Ontario, are fine with that. We are as mean and narrow-minded as the Harris government, and we are just as comfortable with picking on the weak and helpless and poor -- the undesireables in our rich society -- as they are. And we are going to prove that on June 3rd, when Mike Harris is elected Premier of Ontario for a second consecutive term.

I would draw parallels between us and the German electorate in the 1930s, but that would surely be taking things too far. We're more tolerant than they were, right? We have sympathy for those of us who are not as rich or not as fortunate as we are, right? We don't classify people into groups of "the worthy" and "the unworthy," right? Of course not.

I'm just glad I'm not a welfare mother, or a street kid, or a first-year student who has to decide whether university is worth $30 000 in debt. And I do wish I was a private health-care provider, or the CEO of a big corporation, or somebody who wants to plunder Ontario's northlands for fun and profit. That's all.

I could go on. Consider, for instance, the rationale this government used when they decided to close down a slew of hospitals and cut funding for a slew more. The Harris government promised that we would soon see an improved health care system, a grassroots-based system of home-care providers and smaller community organizations. I saw none of that. All I saw was that Harris poured money back into the very hospitals he claimed were the problem in his pre-election budget. And since it sounds like Harris favours privatized health-care for the home-providers he will fund, I have to wonder what the agenda of the Progressive Conservatives really is -- to provide Ontarians with high-quality health care, or to keep the economy rolling by privatizing services that would be better off in the public eye.

There is a personal sidenote to this healthcare mess: my mother works as an RPN (Registered Practical Nurse). For the past four years, she has been working two jobs -- one at a hospital, and another at a nursing home. She works almost every day of the week, and the effect on her health has been noticable. Why is she stressing herself like this? Because the Harris government promised to close down her hospital four years ago, and she has been left hanging ever since. She doesn't want to give up her hospital job, but she won't give up her nursing home job because she doesn't know if and when she will be laid off. So while Harris and his government play their political games, at least one person -- my mother -- is suffering because of their politics.

The flip side to this is that the hospital at which my mother works now closes its emergency ward at 8:00pm. This makes perfect sense, doesn't it? Nobody ever has emergencies after 8 at night, and if somebody did they could drive down to the next nearest hospital -- 20 minutes away. People have already died because they haven't been able to get emergency treatment soon enough. I find it hard to believe that policies like this -- initiated to cut costs and "trim the fat" -- are not going to cost more lives. Meanwhile, the government pays for expensive advertising boasting how wonderful our health-care services are.

And the people of Ontario are okay with this. That's what really freaks me out.

The Harris record on the environment is infamous. The Liberal election propoganda states its case well -- pollution has gone up under the Harris government. Sensitive forests of Northern Ontario were opened up for mining and logging claims. The Ministry of the Environment had its funding slashed repeatedly. The Progressive Conservatives have been able to get away with this because the real impacts of their actions are not directly traceable to them, and because we prefer a strong economy to a healthy environment.

I could go on and on and on, but I think I have made my point. There is lots of information available, and most of it is presented more convincingly than what appears here. All I can do is hope that people come to their senses and look at the issues before they vote. If Harris gets into power legitimately, there is little I can say -- that's democracy in action, I guess. But if the current apathy of Ontarian voters continues, then we will have a tragedy on our hands.

What will I vote? Who knows. I would like to support Howard Hampton and the NDP, but I would rather see Rob Sampson not get elected, so I might sell my soul, vote Liberal and hope for support from the minivan set. But who knows? I am as lost as everybody else with respect to this election.

If there is one lesson the past four years should have taught us, it is that once this government is in power, it won't listen to anyone or anything that doesn't serve its interests -- and for the most part, those are the people with power and money. Even potential votes are not a concern for the Tories. Our electorate is forgetful and gullible enough that votes can always be bought.

If you are interested in looking at the propoganda I support, you might start your search at:

I'm not usually into listing interesting links, so these propoganda sources should come as no surprise: