In 2011 I ran as an anti-poverty candidate in the federal election.
I lost, while in the same election a Conservative named Chris Alexander who said real poverty didn't exist in Canada won.
Despite that I still believe strongly in the issues of poverty, housing and fairness. At the doors, very few care and I think perhaps fewer voters care now.
That pains me deeply.
What also pains me is that the recent Provincial Leader’s debate had no questions about health care, poverty, affordable housing and other systemic issues that create inequality. More troubling - I haven't seen one major media outlet tackle this. Many studies show that health care and inequality are top issues on the minds of citizens but the major cable companies have failed at recognizing this. I'm happy that Andrea Horwath, despite this brought up health care, poverty and the fact that the Liberal and Conservative mantra of reducing corporate taxes at the cost of everything else hasn't worked to get Ontario where it needs to be.
I'm a social worker and I'm a politician.
Having a foot in both worlds you see directly the effects of political apathy and misunderstanding and how they reward mediocre governments.
Progressives are so afraid of Conservatives that they often reward Liberals who enact many of the same policies. In Ontario we don’t hold Liberal governments to account even if they waste money, break promises and make sure to act on their least progressive policies first before never quite getting to their more progressive platform promises.
As my friend Lucas reminds me “My only problem with the Liberals is how they govern.” Tom Mulcair was recently in Brantford and to a room of 150 local residents I think he said it best “Liberals flash left but turn right and we all know that causes accidents.”
How do they get away with it? Years of consultation on a variety of progressive issues with very little concrete action.
Years of scandal and wasted billions that could have gone to health care or inequality but hey as long as they aren’t as scary as the PCs they don’t have to follow through on their more progressive promises.
I think its the hidden catch-22 of “strategic voting”.
It rewards the muddy middle. Voters don’t reward what they want, they reward what they less afraid of. We blame political parties for being shortsighted but we are often very short-sighted with our own vote and it creates parties all shooting for the middle.
Then we lament that all the parties vie for centrist votes.
With strategic voting we’ve ignored bold platforms for generations by voting with our fear instead of our conscience. In Ontario we’ve used our votes to say don’t be bold, be liberal.
Then we blame the political process.
Non-political activists need to do more to change the minds of the voting public on the issues they care about.
I say this as someone who has done a lot of work on systemic issues and as someone who also goes to doors to find out how - for how many people it is not a voting issue. People care about it to some degree but tend not to vote around that.
I'm very critical publicly at all the parties including mine on their abandonment provincially on affordable housing this election and I plan on using my experience in my party to continue to advocate for it, but to also explain at every opportunity I can the benefits to everyone when we invest in affordable housing.
Finally, we believe all parties are the same and we perpetuate that. Well it is simply not true.
How many times have you heard - all the leaders said they would cancel the gas plants? No - the PC and the Liberal leaders said that. Andrea Horwath said she would have to get more information on the true costs of cancellation before she would commit either way.
But the lie is repeated again and again.
The NDP platform is running to the right of the Liberals. Another whopper.
It’s more centrist than our other platforms but I do think there are some things that - from my personal experience as a social worker and as someone who grew up in the poverty system that are being offered in this election that would actually provide tangible help to the most vulnerable in our community including:
- raising the minimum wage to $12 and indexing it,
- closing corp tax loop holes and reversing the corporate tax cuts by over 700 million a year,
- modestly raising taxes on the top 2% of earners,
- investing 260 million in childcare,
- freezing tuition, keeping the 30% subsidy and not charging students provincial interest on their debts. We currently encourage students to get an education but then treat them as profit centres for years afterwards.
- 50, 24 hour nurse practitioner led health clinics to make health care more accessible,
- increasing and indexing the Child Benefit,
- providing stable/predictable/increased funding for child nutrition programs up to 15 million dollars,
- and reducing energy costs for citizens and employers. Controvertial to some but when employers site this as the number one reason for leaving the province and seniors and those in poverty site it as something they are most afraid of hurting their already strained budget action needs to be taken.
These are all things that I feel are progressive and will directly help vulnerable people. All offered by Andrea's NDP and like other NDP provincial governments the assumption is that as the provincial books get healthier the money doesn't go to more corporate tax cuts but to things that will help Ontarians.
The Liberals on the other hand are presenting a bunch of progressive budget promises but their track record for follow through on progressive promises is abysmal. Wynne’s one time spending spree will be followed by the deepest cuts since the Harris years, read the fine print of the Liberal plan and look at their record of promises - who else is excited for 11 more years of poverty consultations? Not me.
Strategic voting - it's your right but in my opinion its just code for voting Liberal and allows them to not be very ambitious in their own right - they just have to be a little less scary than the PCs. I think it breeds mediocre representation and is part of the reason ALL parties have been aiming for the centre - you get what you vote for.
We complain about politicians only thinking of the short term but then we reward those same politicians by voting with our short-term impulses too. So now voters and parties both are creating a system of short term gain instead of long term.
If everyone voted their conscience I bet we'd have an NDP government and a more progressive one at that, it's still the most progressive option however by a long shot.
Thanks for letting me share, hope all is well beyond politics because in politics things are not well and definitely need to change.