Thursday, September 29, 2011

McGuinty's got my vote

I've had a love-hate relationship with Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty for a while. I still haven't fully forgiven him for the 2007 Ontario referendum fiasco, in which he hobbled the once-in-a-generation chance to reform our First-Past-The-Post voting system. Ultimately, the crushing defeat for proportional representation in Ontario foreshadowed similar crushing defeats elsewhere. So I've buried that hatchet.

In this 2011 election, McGuinty has been running a mostly strong campaign encouraging voters to stay the course and keep his vision of moving forward together. His record on supporting public health care, public education, green energy and many other issues has been inspiring. He's pursued innovation and has shown an admirable willingness to make very unpopular decisions for the greater good.

There have been mistakes. But for the most part, McGuinty has been able to show us what thoughtful, hard-working, progressive, reasonable government looks like.

Compared to the pie-in-the-sky NDP plan put forth by Andrea Horwath in this election, McGuinty's record and plan for the future is far superior. In addition, the Liberals are now well-positioned to humble Tory Tim Hudak next Thursday, a delightful and welcome development after a year of disgusting conservative victories.

Alice Klein puts it well in today's NOW Magazine when she describes the choice for progressives in this Ontario election this way: "...the irony is that one relatively progressive party is running on a platform of stability and staying the course while it actually promotes a platform of positive change. Meanwhile, the other relatively progressive political party is supposedly running on a platform of change but is actually wooing voters on the basis of resistance to the changes being thrust upon us by forces far beyond anyone’s control."

I'm heartened by the polls which show McGuinty is in close contention for the top. Ontarians seem willing to stay the course and keep the leader with a passionately-articulated and reasonable plan in these hard economic times, versus a Tory pretender who has only uttered conservative generalities and old prejudices in this campaign.

I will be voting for Liberal Cristina Martins in my Davenport riding. She may not win against NDP upstart Jonah Schein, but I hope she does. The Liberals need every seat they can muster to hold back a horrifying Tory trifecta. The NDP plan is simply not a plan at all. It would be a shame to lose the gains the Liberals have produced.

My message to progressives in Ontario: Get real and please vote Liberal.


MD said...

Very nice assessment of the election. The concept of modern, activist government is under attack acoss the continent, and a third term for the Liberals would be a rare and welcome victory.

I respectfully disagree that the 2007 referendum was a "fiasco." MMP didn't happens. Even if the threshold was 50%+1 it would have lost badly, unlike the attempt in BC. Marie Bountrogianni herself later admitted she was in favour, I don't think you can reasonably say she sabotaged the effort. Ontarians just didn't want it...I think they just like stability. Interestingly, the need for "stability" seems incredibly strong this year. 2011 will see one federal and 5 provincial elections, and there is a good chance the incumbent governments will win all of them.

Matt Guerin said...

Thanks, MD. I quite agree with you about activist government.

As for 2007, it was McGuinty and Sorbara calling the shots on the referendum, not the Minister (who decided not even to re-offer herself in her riding in that election.) Nothing was left to chance if you consider the 60% threshold, the late start of the citizens' assembly, the lack of any real education campaign except for a clinical and dry info campaign by Elections Ontario, etc. People made a quick judgment call, saw the 39 list MPPs and decided it was too complicated to bother adopting. Few people knew much about voting systems prior to the referendum and McGuinty made sure they stayed mostly that way on voting day.

However, I do agree that voters in the commonwealth it seems want no part of any form of PR. Not even tinkering with instant run-off. They're just not interested in this issue. I have to admit that we are stuck with First Past the Post. The only benefit, we get our election results quick on election night instead of waiting for complicated counts and re-counts...and it does produce stability, even if the mandates are not democratic (Harper with 39.6% does not have the moral right to dominate the agenda as he will no doubt do over the next 4 years, claiming a "mandate" from the people.)

MD said...

I think what spooked people in BC was multi-member constituencies, not the idea of STV per se. I do think people may one day try a modest change like instant runoff as you mentioned (preferential ballots in the same single member consituencies we have now). The bottom candidates are eliminated and the second choices on their ballots are counted until someone has over 50%. It would get rid of the concerns on principle that many people have with list MPs, would not require the redrawing of any ridings, would reduce need for "strategic voting" and worries about FTPT vote splits. More importantly, it would give some incentive for parties to broadcast rather than narrowcast their messages, since they need to be palatable to supporters of other parties. It would be as stable as the current system but it would take a lot longer on election night to figure out the results.

I actually think the much easier democratic problem to fix is the overrepresentation of rural ridings vs urban. I vote in Toronto Centre, and my vote counts less than it would in most rural ridings. I'm sure its the same with Davenport. There should be less tolerance in the formula for population differences between ridings. It wouldn't take a referendum to increase the number of ridings (and undo yet another piece of Mike Harris' damaging legacy in the process), just a bill in the house.