As everyone in Canada is aware (whether they want to be or not), Ontario is having a provincial election. Support for the current Liberal minority was tenuous, and the unofficial Liberal/NDP coalition fell apart.
I felt it was about time. Especially as, in my view, the Wynne Liberals had introduced a budget that tried to out NDP the NDP. People called it the most progressive budget ever. I thought it was just a huge grab bag of spending commitments that this province couldn't afford. Not to say all the ideas presented were bad, they were just all grouped together like a Christmas gift giving spree that would cause regret when the bills came due in January.
I saw the budget as pure political calculation designed to challenge the NDP, double dare them to vote down the budget and trigger an election. The budget wasn't about Ontario's future, it was all about the Liberal party's desire to beat the NDP at their own game.
My political affiliation leans liberal, but I cheered when Andrea Horwath stood up to the dare and said she would not support the budget. While it was a political decision, it was a principled decision in my view. And then the mockers came calling.
"Elections are expensive and unnecessary."* "Congratulations Andrea, you've just handed Ontario to Tim Hudak."** "That budget was awesome! We'll never see it again!"*** "Proposed legislation before the government that I support is gone!"*** and these were comments I saw from NDP supporters. Liberal and PC partisan hacks I expected, but from NDP supporters?
*In a democracy elections are an essential, and often the only, way for citizens to exercise their democractic rights and obligation. A government of the people needs the people to participate. And minority governemnts may need that input more often than we are used to. They are a sign of an unsure population, of tough issues needing more input and direction.
**In an election, campaigns matter. If the outcome is predetermined when the writ is dropped, why do we vote? Granted, Horwath is running a lack-luster campaign so far, but that wasn't predetermined when the election was called. Her campaign is an indictment or endorsement of her fitness to lead this province.
***If there were good ideas in the budget, and I grant that there were, then they can be reintroduced by any future government. To wail and weep at the loss of the budget over the measures proposed is to support the notion that ideas have a lifespan, that they can never be proposed again. Same with any legislation that died. Ideas have a life of their own, they survive, change and grow. If they are good ideas they will be introduced again. If it is something that you really care about, push for new governments to support them. You know, like in a democracy where people have a voice.
People complain that there is too much politicing and not enough contest of ideas in our political system. But the very voters that complain about this, resort to playing politics and attack the personality, the motives and the character of those that run to lead us. They express the worst aspects of the political process they profess to hate.
Yes politics is often a depressing and soul sucking experience. But an election is our, your, opportunity to effect positive change. If you want to make it better, break the cycle and participate. Call out the pointless partisan attacks on all sides (muffin expenses, really?) and engage the ideas and the policies. Shout down those that engage in personality sniping. If you want politicians to rise to your expectations of behaviour, show them how it is done. Because otherwise we are getting the "government of the people" that we deserve. Don't like it? Look in the mirror first.