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Column: Whatever you do today, don’t forget to vote

This week, Northern Life refused to endorse a candidate for today’s provincial election.
In the end, we could happily vote for many of our local candidates if it were a race of independents. It is not. It is a race for a political party to lead our nation. We think this country is at a crossroads. Supplied photo.
This week, Northern Life refused to endorse a candidate for today’s provincial election.

We took this step not because of the quality of our local candidates — quite the opposite, in fact — but because the platforms said candidates’ parties are pushing would do a disservice to Ontario and those of us who call it home.

When it comes to the candidates in Nickel Belt and Sudbury, we have to say many — but not all — displayed an impressive understanding of the issues of the day and of their party’s positions. In the two debates brought you live on the Internet, the candidates demonstrated their commitment to represent us to the best of their abilities.

No, it is the platforms that convinced us the only way to protect this province from four years of poor management and bad decisions was for no one party to have a majority. That way, no party could do any long-lasting damage and, under a minority, potentially the best aspects of each party’s platform would float to the top.

What we need right now is a minority government. It might send us to the polls again soon, but a functioning minority is a far cry better than a damaging majority.

Truth be told, none of the party leaders are terribly impressive, and their platforms less so. Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne leads a scandal-plagued party that has held onto power for too long, becoming both arrogant and complacent.

Tim Hudak could have almost walked into the premier’s office if he wasn’t such a poor campaigner, and if he hadn’t gambled on a platform that is so far right it alienates many moderate voters. If he’d taken a more centre-right position, he might have actually earned a majority, especially given the quality of his opponents.

The NDP’s Andrea Horwath looked like premier material at one time, but was utterly underwhelming in the leaders debate and on the campaign trail — unacceptable for a senior politician faced with opponents like Wynne and Hudak. Those are awfully big targets and she had trouble shooting straight.

Despite the awful platforms and despite the disappointing leaders, it is still important to get out there and vote. Governments are elected by those who don’t cast a ballot, it’s often said, and given the quality of the choices we have in front of us, voting is all the more important.

Leave your cynicism about politics, politicians and political parties at the door and do your duty as a citizen. There are so few areas in life where one small choice can have such a massive impact — voting is one of them.

It really does matter.

And if you are so dissatisfied with your options that you’re considering skipping the vote all together or (equally worse) spoiling your ballot as a form of civil disobedience, don’t. The rest of us need you to participate.

Ontario doesn’t offer a “none of the above” option, although it should. A significant number of such votes in an election would send a clear message to Queen’s Park.

This does not happen when you spoil your ballot. A spoiled ballot is as useful as a dirty tissue — both end up in the trash.

If you can’t bring yourself to put a checkmark next to any candidate’s name, you have a little-known option, one that serves a similar purpose as “none of the above.”

Under Section 53 of the Ontario Elections Act, Ontario voters have the right to “decline” their ballot. When you decline your ballot at the polling station, it is tallied — not trashed — among voters who refused to support any candidate.

The point is, the vote counts.

Check out if you’re curious about it. The site is part of an effort to get “none of the above” included on provincial election ballots.

Voting is a powerful form of social action. Including “none of the above” would provide dissatisfied voters with a real option, other than skipping the vote entirely or spoiling the ballot. And, ironically, it makes the refusal to participate a form of participation.

Whatever you decide to do, please decide to participate. Ontario needs change and we — voters — are the only ones who can make it happen.

Mark Gentili is the managing editor of Northern Life and