On Thursday, I voted in advance polls for the June 12 Ontario election. I suspect that there will be many Ontarians who won’t do the same come election day. While voter turnout is certainly never high, the sense of disparagement surrounding the election this time seems elevated. And I think we have our politicians to blame. Before you jump in with a rant about voter responsibility – I’m right there with you – let me explain.
From the time that the election was called, the rhetoric surrounding it has been extremely negative. It’s become a race to the bottom, not about which candidate/party you want to vote for, but which is the most bearable. (As I write this, an anti-Hudak attack ad is on TV.) While no one would have expected the Conservatives to support the Liberal budget, the NDP’s reasoning seemed more based in spite than ideological differences. It only got worse with the debate. There were no winners, in my opinion, despite what polls showed. None of the leaders came off as remotely visionary or trustworthy. Hell, they weren’t even debating each other – they wouldn’t even make eye contact most of the time. The debate was exactly what you would have expected (and why people choose not to watch these things): snarky, confusing and pointless. And then there was the morning after. The post-debate hangover featured the NDP and the Conservatives buying wrap ads on newspapers disguised as actual content proclaiming the victory of their subsequent leaders. Has it been done before in other elections? Sure. Does that make it justifiable? Absolutely not. I think this just demonstrates how far our political parties are wiling to sink to try and get votes – they’re intentionally looking to mislead people. I can sympathize with the journalistic arguments for and against accepting this kind of advertising, but I think the fact that politicians are taking advantage of the struggling print industry to push election agendas masked as news says far more.
And then there’s the youth vote. This is always a bit of a tricky issue – should politicians be courting the student vote or should students be pushing politicians to talk about their issues? While this might not be a major issue in some communities, in Kitchener-Waterloo if students were to actually come out and vote in full force, it could completely alter the voting landscape in the riding. Personally I couldn’t imagine not voting, even with the dismal prospects we have to choose from. That being said, hardly any election coverage has been dedicated to student/youth issues. Sure, the parties have policies and plans for post-secondary, but it seemed like a complete non-issue. Did not come up in the debate in any meaningful way. As a recent graduate, I want to know how the jobs you’re planning on creating (or getting rid of) are going to impact my generation. I don’t mean that in an entitled way (that word people love to apply to gen y); it’s just that after four years of accumulating debt during an undergraduate degree, I’d like to know that I’m going to be able to find a job to help manage that. And when I almost inevitably return to school, I want it to be affordable and reasonable. Where was this during the campaign period?
I don’t know if I can put my finger on what precisely has been so terrible about this election period, but I’m ready for it to be over. Whatever the outcome of June 12, I hope that whoever is elected does a better job of actually running the province than convincing me that they can.