Under Canada’s “Westminster” form of representative democracy, we voters don’t directly choose our Prime Minister or Premier. Rather, we choose our local MP or MPP, and the leader of the Party who can demonstrate and maintain majority support among all MPs/MPPs gets the mandate to form the next government. Many of us mark our ballots for the local candidate who best exemplifies our values and/or who we believe will best represent our community and interests in Ottawa or Queen’s Park. If you are a Kingstonian who votes in that manner, it should be an easy choice. Over the past four years, Sophie Kiwala has delivered unprecedented results for our riding, all the while being respectful, caring, and fundamentally nice. While it’s sometimes said that a politician can’t be effective if they’re too nice, Sophie’s amazing achievements utterly put the lie to that premise (ask yourself why anyone would want to vote for someone who isn’t nice; i.e., relates to others in a bullying, disrespectful, in-it-for-themselves manner). However, if you prefer to base your voting decisions on the party which you want to form the next government or the person you wish to be Premier, you may be interested in the following considerations.
Doug Ford becoming leader of the PC Party has dramatically raised the stakes for Ontarians in the June 7th provincial election. Most available evidence, including his behaviour as a Toronto City Councillor (and de-facto co-mayor with his brother Rob), points to Mr. Ford being an authoritarian populist. We in Ontario have had only one populist Premier in living memory, Mike Harris, and that was certainly a learning experience, one from which many years of effort were required to repair the damage done. But beyond our borders we’ve seen lots of other populist leaders, most recently in the United States, giving us more than enough accumulated evidence to reliably assess the consistent gap between their empty promises and what they have actually delivered, as well as the consequences for their respective populations.
One consistent promise by all such leaders is to eliminate budget deficits without raising taxes by ‘rooting out waste and inefficiencies’ and firing ‘fat cat’ bureaucrats who ‘don’t accomplish anything anyway’. What’s not to like about that? Well, if you look at what the Ford brothers did in Toronto, Mike Harris in Ontario, Stephen Harper in Ottawa and Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Donald Trump in the US, in every case it turned out to be much ado about nothing. Ontario’s net debt grew 21.4% during Mr. Harris’s 6.8 years in power. Canada’s grew 31.8% during Mr. Harper’s 9.7 years. On a much larger scale, the US debt mushroomed by 186% during the 8-year Reagan presidency, 101% during Bush’s 8 years, and is projected to rise by 41% at the end of the next fiscal year (an astonishing increase of $8.3 trillion in less than two years).
Those jaw-dropping increases in debt are partially due to the simple fact that the promised savings are illusory, but even more because of the populist conservative imperative to deliver corporate and personal tax cuts to their core supporters. In every case, they have promised that those cuts would pay for themselves by boosting economic growth, which would supposedly lead to higher tax revenues. It has never happened! Tax cuts don’t stimulate the economy because most of the savings accruing to corporations and wealthy individuals leaves the country and because “trickle-down” economics has likewise never worked. What the cuts actually do is to further increase inequality. By contrast, more money in the pockets of ordinary people is immediately spent locally, directly boosting the economy. Conservative cost-cutting exercises disproportionately target programs which help the poor and the marginalized, further hurting the economy and incurring large long-term health and social costs. In fact, the Chrétien/Martin Liberals were the one and only government in our time which succeeded in dramatically reducing the debt load inherited from its predecessor. The Mulroney PCs had left an unsustainable debt-to-GDP ratio of 66.8% (way higher than Ontario’s current 38%). The Liberals cut that by more than half, down to a healthy 31.3%, and they did it methodically and without drama, while consulting with experts and stakeholders to avoid disruptions, unnecessary pain and unexpected long-term costs. [Sources].
Unfortunately, the abject failure of the media to provide reality checks on Mr. Ford’s oft-repeated, specious claims that many people accept them as gospel. Worse, his populist bombast appears to resonate with many who of those who are most vulnerable to the actions he will take once elected. Their lives, their prospects and those of their would be diminished by the programs he cancels and curtails through his ill-informed and ultimately futile cost cutting and tax cuts. Income inequality will inexorably increase.
So what can a Kingstonian do? In a close election, one seat can make all the difference between Mr. Ford becoming or not becoming Premier. And your one vote could conceivably decide that seat (it does happen). The inescapable electoral reality in this riding is that, in all probability, our next MPP will be either Sophie Kiwala or PC Gary Bennett. Equally inescapably, the latter outcome would bring Mr. Ford one seat closer to his goal of being our Premier for four long years. If you have already decided to vote for Sophie, you can help to reduce those risks by not letting anything get in the way of your voting , either in one of the advance polls or on Election Day (June 7th), and by encouraging others in your circle to do the same. If you are still uncertain, please peruse my Strategic Voting post, which provides an overall perspective and leads to more specific information for Kingstonians of different political persuasions and circumstances.