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Editorial: Whatever you do, don’t forget to vote

Carve out some time this week to have your say
Elections Ontario Vote
(File)

Whatever you have on your agenda this week, make sure you make some time to cast your ballot.

If four decades of trends are any indication, just a little more than half of Ontarians are likely to vote in this election.

Voter turnout fluctuates naturally, from election to election, depending on the issues at play at the time, but generally between 48 and 66 per cent of us will head out to the polls for the 2022 election.

Conservative leader Doug Ford and his Tories are hoping the steady hand they provided at the tiller during the pandemic will carry them through to a majority government.

At the moment, the polls seem to bear this out, but after several elections (perhaps notably Donald Trump’s presidential win in 2016) in which pollsters were very wrong, how much stock we can put in poll numbers is anybody’s guess. Electors can be fickle, after all.

At the moment, Ford is the preferred candidate for premier with 36-per-cent support to Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca’s 27. As always, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is comfortably in third place with just over 23 per cent.

All indications are that the Conservatives will secure more than 63 seats in the legislature, which is the amount needed for a majority government.

The Green party continues to have issues securing widespread support in Ontario and are projected to win just a single seat. And while this is not great news for the party’s supporters, leader Mike Schreiner continues to make headway and his campaign made a few ripples with voters.

Every party has some platform plank related to climate change, and while some of those planks are more tacit than others, the Greens can at least console themselves that their decades of work trying to convince voters climate change is real, dire and must be addressed have at least helped push the other parties to act.

The side effect of the party’s efforts on the environment, unfortunately, is likely that many still see the Greens as one-note, focused solely on environmental issues, despite the fact their platform is quite robust.

Meanwhile, for Liberal Leader Del Duca, this election could be a referendum on his brief time as the head of the Grits. Decimated in the 2018 election, the Liberals have just seven seats in the legislature, and Del Duca himself lost his Vaugan-Woodbridge riding to Conservative Michael Tibollo in that election.

So not only is he fighting for his party’s political future, he’s fighting for his own, but as of now, polls show voters the Grits are not resonating that strongly.

The 2018 election that was so damaging for the Liberals was better for Andrea Horwath and the NDP, who wound up as the official opposition. This is Horwath’s fourth election as party leader and while she has made gains for the NDP and consistently polls well personally, Ontario voters remain wary of a New Democrat government as the party continues to lug around the baggage of Bob Rae’s 1990-1995 government.

Still, whereas the Liberals and the Tories have traded the reins of power for the past 30 years, the NDP has played a valuable role as the conscience of the Ontario legislature, always pushing for a kinder, gentler and more just government. 

Now while the Conservatives appear to be on track for a win, we are troubled by their cynical approach to campaigning in this election. They appear to have muzzled many of their candidates from participating in debates or in sitting down for interviews with reporters.

This includes Sudbury candidate Marc Despatie and Nickel Belt candidate Randy Hazlett. 

Elections are supposed to be about the exchange and evaluation of ideas for how to best run our society. It’s supposed to be about the candidates and the service and representation they can provide to their constituents — it is, in effect, supposed to be about us, the voters.

The Conservative approach makes it clear that, for them, it is not about us at all. It is about winning. It is about what is best for the party. It is also insulting to their own candidates because by forcing them to stay out of the media the party is saying the candidates themselves cannot be trusted to speak; they are only qualified to wave the party banner.

This election has also seen the rise of two new, ostensibly conservative parties that seem to have more in common with the U.S. Republican Party than with anything resembling Canadian conservatism.

The New Blue Party and the Ontario Party emerged within the past couple of years and are running candidates in most ridings. There really is not much difference between the two if you look at their platforms, which are focused on nebulous concepts of freedom and inaccurate interpretations of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Both are born out of opposition to pandemic mandates and both have attracted a great deal of support from those who thought the Freedom Convoy was a good idea.

Both parties also place the Christian faith front and centre, which is a new wrinkle in Ontario politics and one which should concern us. Religion has no place in how we govern a province that boasts dozens and dozens of different faiths and ethnicities.Both parties are also obsessed with the strange notion that social movements aimed at making the workings of government more equitable for vulnerable minorities, like the Black and immigrant communities and the LGBTQ+ community, are somehow wrong and misguided. They sum up their dislike of minority rights by attacking the concept of being ‘woke’, a term which really just means being aware that social injustices exist in our society.The term though is being twisted by some on the right to mean the exact opposite, turning it into a dog-whistle term for disaffected mainly caucasian voters who, we think, are not actually opposed to social justice but who have been fed the lie that more rights for others means less for them.

While they don’t appear to be outright bigots, the language they use has certainly been embraced by those who are, which should concern us all. Political parties are supposed to stand for something, but the New Blue and Ontario parties are defined only by their outrage: at minority rights, at liberalism, at multiculturalism — the very concepts that western democracies were built upon, the idea that government should work for everyone, that it can benefit all of us, not just a certain class of people.

Regardless of how you decide to cast your ballot, whether Conservative, Liberal, NDP, Green or otherwise, the important thing is to get yourself to a polling station and exercise your franchise. Democracy cannot be passive. And neither can we. Election day is June 2.

Sudbury.com's editorial opinion is determined by an editorial board made up of senior staff.