While Ontario was poised to discover whether or not our provincial minority government would be converted to a majority in today’s By-Election, we looked at TV news to see what was happening. It’s been years since I’ve had television; normally I get me news online, but I was away from home so we tried it out.
CTV has a 24 hour news channel. Unfortunately it wasn’t running anything about the election.
Granted, By-elections usually don’t change the status quo, but this was different. One seat could make a huge difference to all Ontarians, by transforming a Liberal minority government into a majority.
With our winner-take-all electoral system, minority government is the closest we get to democracy.
The results of this By-Election will impact on the whole province. So there is a lot of interest in this one. So why wasn’t CTV’s news channel covering it? Maybe they think Canadians aren’t interested in politics?
Okay, there was one little factoid squib floating across the ticker along the bottom periodically, but the news they were covering? Well, they kept cutting back to Jo Biden droning on and on live from the American Democratic Convention. This wasn’t news, this was filler. Although the outcome of the American Democratic convention will likely have impact on the rest of the world, this wasn’t it.
And it certainly wasn’t more important than the actual breaking news of an important Ontario election in Ontario.
CBC has a news channel too. Although they had a piece on the Quebec provincial election, they weren’t actually covering the breaking news of the Ontario election results ~ they were cutting back to the American convention as well.
Maybe they think we aren’t interested in Canadian politics?
Poppycock. Maybe the “news media” isn’t doing the job we think it is.
Breaking out my computer I popped into Twitter and lo and behold, breaking news.
Turns out that the Liberal Candidate Steven Del Duca won in Vaughan as expected.
But the Kitchener-Waterloo riding was a different story: NDP Candidate, Catherine Fife won big. Here are the unofficial results
The television part of the mainstream media has certainly failed us; it is, at best, entertainment, not news. Real news lives online.
Just as our antiquated 18th Century electoral system fails us every time.
Although I am quite pleased with Catherine Fife’s win in Kitchener-Waterloo, the disturbing reality is that, although she won the vote handily, 59% of Kitchener-Waterloo voters did not vote for her.
In spite of all that, I’m sure she’ll do an excellent job, so I’d like to congratulate Catherine Fife, Kitchener-Waterloo’s new NDP MPP.
Currently two Ontario electoral ridings are in the grip of By-Elections. In the riding of Vaughan everyone seems to assume the Liberal candidate will be a shoe-in. Although predictions are made in every election, we wouldn’t need to bother with the expense of elections if any poll or prediction’s outcome was guaranteed.
No such assumption has been made in Elizabeth Witmer’s Kitchener-Waterloo riding, where Witmer has reigned under Progressive-Conservative colours for decades. The only reason her staunch conservative seat is up for grabs is because she’s resigned to accept a plum job offered by Premier McGuinty. Nice to see such consensus in government, eh?
Governments can do whatever they want when they hold a majority of seats. Which is why it is important to the rest of us as well. After all, minority government is the closest we get to democracy in these parts.
My favorite, multipartisan, grass roots, electoral reform group, Fair Vote Canada, is hoping to change all that. Fair Vote WRC hosts events and seminars throughout the year so citizens can learn and discuss the issue of how to re-inject democracy into our political system.
Politics On The Patio Goes Underground
Last year during Democracy Week they held a “Politics on The Patio” event which happened to occur in the midst of the Ontario election. It was a relaxing change from the tightly managed election events, instead providing a forums so candidates could mix informally with the public and actually get an opportunity to meet one another.
Since this By-Election will be over by Democracy week, Fair Vote Waterloo Region held a “Meet The Candidate” event in the Huether Hotel’s basement Malt Room Museum. Almost all the candidates managed to attend, so it was an excellent opportunity to meet candidates in a relaxed setting — in this case, the Lion Brewery Museum and Dining Lounge, located in the depths of Waterloo’s Huether Hotel.
There was an excellent turn out of candidates. Here they are in alphabetical order (by first name):
In these days of copyright maximalism, it is important to have accessible photographs of people in public life available to citizen journalists and bloggers. I’ve been taking every opportunity to photograph local politicians; all these blog photos are by laurelrusswurm and licensed with a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Although Conservative Candidate Tracy Weiller did not attend the Fair Vote “meet the Candidate” event, I can share this photograph of the candidate for tomorrow’s election.
The byelections are being held tomorrow, Thursday September 6th, 2012. I can’t vote in either riding, but I can hope the Ontarians who can don’t lock Ontario into an unfortunate majority. Fingers crossed!
Either way, get out there and vote!
Oh yeah, this *is* Canada, after all … if any stranger ~ human or robot ~ should happen to call you up to tell you you need to go somehere different to cast your vote, please check it with the official information available at Elections Ontario.
If memory serves, the well respected Elizabeth Witmer, was one of only two or three Conservative MPs who actually retained their seats after the Mike Harris Government was voted out. Ms Witmer has been Minister of something more often than not during the course of her career, so her Kitchener-Waterloo riding was the very definition of a Conservative “safe seat.” So long as she occupied it.
So there will be a by-election in her vacant Kitchener-Waterloo riding. Strategically this election is very important, since a single seat is all that stands between the McGuinty Liberals and a majority. Dalton McGuinty has got to want that seat very badly.
Not even close, and my phone number is clearly tied to a street address in my riding. So why did I get the call?
Probably because I listened to a robo-call “Town Hall” over the very same phone line during the last election. It turned out to be what sounded like a tightly scripted conversation between Tim Hudak and my riding candidate, and felt kind of like a personalized election commercial. My guess is that the party would assume anyone willing to listen to such a thing would be a supporter.
Thing is, I’m not. I don’t support any political party. I don’t even like the party system, particularly as practised here. I don’t vote by rote. Every election campaign is a new adventure, and I learn who the candidates are and try to find out what they stand for before casting my vote.
As long as we continue with this antiquated electoral system, the absolute last thing we need is a majority government. Still, even if I went to the meeting and decided Tracey Weiler was the perfect candidate, I can’t vote for her unless I move there. Not gonna happen.
So why would the PC party want me there? Perhaps to pack the hall with party faithful, more than can be drummed up from the actual riding. Having a full house would make for better photos. These days the appearance of strength has the power to tip an election. When you have an adversarial system like ours, backing the winner can be its own reward. In the same way polls can help manipulate an electoral outcome, this is a clear case of messing with the electorate’s perceptions. It’s exactly the type of thing that makes me dislike party politics.
Even so, if you live in the Kitchener-Waterloo riding, you might want to check out this Town Hall.
I can well understand why Mr. McGuinty would want to regain a majority: it’s much more difficult to govern a province democratically. Except for the term limit, any majority won under our inequitable electoral system is indistinguishable from a dictatorship, so a government majority is never good for citizens.
I agree with the Fair Vote Canada contention: “Your vote should count,” which is why strategic voting is not something I ever endorse. Even if it brings the short term result I’d like, but it is really an attempt to game the system that only helps entrench it. We’ll never change it if we think we can fool it into working. My thinking is simply that we will never elect the candidates we want if we don’t vote for them.
And it’s another reason I dislike our system. Although the politicians we elect to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario are supposed to govern Ontario on our behalf, the winner-take-all nature of our adversarial political system discourages anything like co-operation, instead polarizing the parties into enemy camps. Political parties look out for the party first, and constituents second. I’d prefer to live in a place where the Premier would make such an appointment because it was the right thing to do, not because it gives him a second chance at a majority. Instead live in a province where patronage is the norm.
So although I don’t actually live in the Kitchener-Waterloo riding, I would be seriously considering voting strategically in this by-election if I did. Because no majority government is ever good for the citizens. And I wonder,
Can Ontario really afford another majority government?
Since it was part of Fair Vote Canada‘s first annual Democracy Week, I planned to take still photos both for my blog and for my Fair Vote WRC and CAPP friends. But it was only while sitting in the front row listening to introductions that I spontaneously decided to record the debate.
I’m still learning Free-Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) so I didn’t know if I’d be able to edit video at all. If I’d known it would be important to share the video, I wouldn’t have snapped noisy photos during the debate. But it was only listening to the information and arguments of the debate that I realized just how important the issue is in the here and now.
Right now, Ontario is at a crossroads. If we proceed as we have been, Ontario will soon decommission some existing nuclear reactors and will then have to make substantial new investments. Part of the urgency to decide how to proceed now is that it takes a lot of lead time – decade or so – to build new reactors. The question is, is it necessary?
The Role of Nuclear Power in Ontario’s Clean Energy Future: A Debate
Ron Oberth of The Organization of CANDU Industries (OCI) gave an excellent presentation, explaining both the history and the current system. Currently Ontario’s energy generation revolves around the nuclear power “baseload.” This is the foundation of the energy grid which powers Ontario.
In fact, our system is so efficient that more than once Ontario has had to pay neighbors to take surplus power off our hands. You can’t instantly turn off a nuclear reactor, and too much unused energy could burn out part of the grid.
Kind of makes you wonder why consumers need smart meters.
Derek Satnik, renewable energy expert at Mindscape Innovations, gave a thorough run down of alternative energy options. The most surprising thing was that Ontario is at a point where it is possible to wean our province off nuclear energy through a transition into the emerging alternative energy industries.
Although in its infancy, wind power provides about 1% of the power to the grid. Solar power is another incremental player. Derek Satnik explained the potential: a federation of renewable micro-power generation facilities could generate a more robust baseload by virtue of flexibility.
But new clean energy resources can’t be added to the grid without reducing some resources. And right now, we have safe and clean energy sources that the government won’t use, because there isn’t room for it on the grid. Right now we could replace nuclear power with green renewable energy.
I’m sure we have careful and capable people watching over our nuclear power plants. Even so, Ontario is very lucky not to have had a 3 Mile Island.
Or a Chernobyl.
Or a Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
Because Nuclear Power is not 100% safe.
And thirty years later, we still have no way of making nuclear waste safe; our only disposal method is to bury it.
Nor is nuclear power cheap. We are still paying off nuclear facilities that are no longer in use. Instead of signing on the bottom line to build more expensive nuclear facilities, Ontario could make the transition to less expensive safe alternative energy, and simply phase out our use of nuclear power.
This is the most important issue in this election.
Watch the debate for yourself:
My 32 minute video isn’t perfect. But you should see it now. Before we elect a new government.
Penelope: “You can’t really vote for a kid, but you can vote for her future.”
It seems Fair Vote and CAPP aren’t the only folks who think that Ontario’s Clean Energy Future ought to be an issue during this electoral campaign. Eight year old Penelope has joined the provincial candidates on the campaign trail, criss crossing the province and asking candidates questions about the environment. Penelope4ontario.ca is leading a campaign to direct voter attention to environmental issues. The idea is that we need to think about the environment we will bequeath to our children when we cast our votes.
Besides being a little girl, Penelope is, of course, an actress, fronting the campaign put on by environmental consortium Environmental Defence. Still, she knows her stuff. Kitchener-Center NDP MPP Candidate Cameron Dearlove had a good chat with young Penelope. Of course, I’m sure that it helps that the environment is one of the NDP platform’s strengths.
The best thing on Penelope’s web page was the Environmental Report Card which compares all the party platforms on environmental issues.
Last week Waterloo Region played host to a cross-riding Environmental Forum in at the Rockway Mennonite Church in downtown Kitchener. This forum allowed candidates from various parties to discuss their party’s environment platform.
Kitchner-Centre Green Party Candidate Mark Vercouteren, Kitchener-Waterloo Liberal Party Candidate Eric Davis and Kitchener-Centre NDP Candidate Cameron Dearlove, all had an opportunity to explain their position to local voters and to answer questions following the debate.
Unfortunately, there was no representative from the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party at this Environmental Forum. Did the party decline to attend because they have no environment platform to speak of? I noticed the OPCP was the only party that declined to participate in the Penelope4ontario.ca poll as well. This makes me a bit nervous.
I think it is disturbing that the Ontario Conservatives are so cavalier about Ontario’s energy future. Even if the Progressive Conservative Party is convinced nuclear power is both safe and the best source for Ontario energy, can we afford to cavalierly forge ahead when nuclear power is also the most terribly expensive option? Particularly since it’s getting more so?
Still, it is especially difficult to take a hard line about nuclear costs, because we can’t afford to be cutting corners when a nuclear mistake cand render large parts of our land uninhabitable. I always thought one of the most important Conservative party cornerstones was fiscal responsibilty.
The twin issues of energy and environment are crucial to Ontario’s continued health and prosperity. Candidates who can’t find the time to carefully consider these issues are not candidates I want to see making these decisions for our province. Our future is at stake.
Ontario’s electoral system is every bit as broken as the Federal system. But the very fact that ever vote is not equal makes it even more important to cast our votes, and just as important, to cast them for the candidate we want to elect.