(Featured image from TVO)
For most of the last two months, the upcoming Ontario election has kind of been a representative microcosm of how most timelines of recent elections in the “Western world” (for lack of a less exclusionary term) have progressed:
- Phenomenally unpopular, uninspiring centrist status-quo government exists, as the right-wing opposition salivates in anticipation for the chance to knock them off.
- Right-wing opposition presents “populist” candidate and/or platform that offends every moral sensibility held by decent people.
- Right-wing opposition gets incredibly popular anyways on the basis of “not being the phenomenally unpopular centrist status-quo government.”
- Right-wing opposition pulls ahead in polls, unhindered by smug, matter-of-fact contentions from the phenomenally unpopular centrist status-quo government.
- The election happens.
- Everything continues to be shitty.
These story beats are all-too noticeable when examining the lead-up to tomorrow’s Ontario general election between the incumbent Liberal Party , the Progressive Conservative Party, and the New Democratic Party. However, the race has gotten unexpectedly competitive as of late, and there are some added quirks thrown into this particular linear path towards the inevitable violent overthrow of the ruling class that make a post worth everybody’s time. And by “quirks,” I mean oh my God, they’re going to elect Doug Ford, aren’t they?
Part 1: How the hell did we get here???
Our story begins after the the NDP’s dissatisfaction with a Liberal budget resulted in the provincial election of June 2014, a year in which Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” had entered its second consecutive week of making me want to headbutt the business end of an ice pick, in which Boyhood had not yet convinced morons that it was anything more than a self-indulgent wankfest for people who think they know what teenagers sound like, and in which 17-year old me was about to develop an addiction to goddamn Amiibo.
Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals had managed to gain enough seats to cement a majority in the Legislature, after Wynne, as well as her highly unpopular predecessor, Dalton McGuinty, had been forced into depending on the New Democratic Party’s support for the previous three years. After the election, Wynne and the Liberals held a solid grip on power, while the leader of the Opposition, Tim Hudak, resigned his post as leader of the Progressive Conservative party and was dispatched to the backbench to rot in perpetuity. Meanwhile Andrea Horwath’s NDP never really looked like a threat to Wynne or Hudak, and resumed their traditional position of “eternal bronze medallist,” after failing to gain or lose a seat and generally being completely unremarkable.
Wynne now found herself in a position to finally be able to forge ahead with a progressive liberal platform without having to worry about stepping on the Opposition’s toes. Gone were the days of McGuinty’s government sucking up to consultants and corporations, resorting to austerity, and stomping on worker’s rights. In were the days of Wynne’s government, putting forth bold new initiatives such as sucking up to consultants and corporations, resorting to austerity, and stomping on worker’s ri- Hey, wait a minute…
Part 2: “Sorry, not sorry!”
Liberal Party of Ontario
Leader: Kathleen Wynne (MPP for Don Valley West)
Political Position: Centre to centre-right.
To give credit where credit is ostensibly due, Wynne’s majority government has taken some genuinely good steps, with the (albeit non-radical) raising of the minimum wage and the new sex ed curriculum coming to mind. Like most Liberals governments, her’s has also been mostly inoffensive with regards to social issues. Overall though, she hasn’t been the least popular premier in the country for nothing.
Aside from things that are mostly out of her control, such as inheriting the McGuinty regime’s baggage and also having to deal with some supremely dumb shit as a result of being the province’s first female and first gay premier, there are more than enough legitimate reasons for the sheer vitriol directed at her government. Wynne’s government has been ineffective with regards to the growing housing crisis, overseen cuts to social services, corporate handouts… The list goes on. And that’s to say nothing of the disastrous privatization of Hydro One, which resulted in the clearly predictable subsequent inflation of hydro rates. Because obviously, the profit motive was something we need to incorporate into the business of, you know, keeping people alive.
As a result, Wynne and the Liberals take heat from the Left because of their tepid, technocratic reforms and perceived shallow allusions to progressivism whilst being decidedly neoliberal. Meanwhile, the Right hate them because they’re to the left of Ronald Reagan, therefore, they must be raving Marxists. Not exactly helping matters at the moment is a problem that seems endemic of liberal status-quo government: An insistence that they know what’s best without really acknowledging the legitimate reasons that people might be upset with them.
Y’know, “We’re sorry that you feel that way about us effectively being almost exactly the same as the Conservatives. Have some platitudes and a cut to taxes on small business- WAIT WHY ARE YOU VOTING FOR THE OBVIOUS RACIST???”
The whole “sorry, not sorry” incident is a solid example of this. It’s a pretty paternalistic attitude that only really serves to alienate people who aren’t always reactionary shitlords, but might just be struggling to, y’know, pay hydro bills that are really high because your government privatized Hydro One.
Part 3: Etobicoke Über Alles
Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario
Leader: Doug Ford (Running in Etobicoke North).
Political position: Right-wing.
This obviously isn’t quantifiable, but I would be interested if there was ever an instance in Canadian history of a political campaign so deeply fucking themselves over by any conventional metric, and still winning the election anyway. Because that’s what I’m assuming is gonna happen. Because we live in Hellword.
After Tim Hudak pissed away the 2014 election, The PCs found themselves scrambling for a new leader that possessed something in the way of electability. A leadership election was handily won by the federal MP for Barrie; Patrick Brown, who had served under Stephen Harper’s Conservative government for nine years. Brown’s leadership focused on appealing to a broader base of people to form sort of an all-encompassing coalition to beat the Liberals, gaining support from immigrant communities, urban capitalists, social conservatives, and even making some attempts at luring unions, which is usually deemed unthinkable by most mainstream political parties, let alone the Conservatives.
Brown’s vision for premiership was pretty standard right-wing fare, but it didn’t need to be particularly inspiring to defeat Wynne, whose reputation in the fickle court of public opinion was pretty much unsalvageable at this point. It didn’t hurt that his stances on social issues went the tried-and-true Stephen Harper route of “pretending social issues don’t exist.” What could possibly stop this well-oiled machine of inoffensive big-tent conservative blandness?
Surprise! Patrick Brown is (al̩̿lͦe̵ͪgedͩ̓̀᷅ly) a sex pest! Quelle inconvenience!!!
In an effort to salvage what should have been an easy path to victory, the PCs pressured him, along with PC president and fellow (al̩̿lͦe̵ͪgedͩ̓̀᷅) scumbag Rick Dykstra into resigning their posts, replacing Brown on an interim basis with Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli, and scheduling a leadership election for March. After briefly presenting himself as a candidate for the leadership election, Brown made some noise about running in as an independent candidate in Barrie-Springwater-Oro Medonte after he claimed that a lie detector cleared his name (The Supreme Court would say otherwise), but eventually decided on slinking back to the shadows to write a book about his downfall. And who said sexual misconduct can’t be a lucrative business opportunity?
So, anyway, the PC party had an election, which I briefly covered. It went about as well as I expected. Exit Brown, Enter Ford.
The hackiest take I could give is to just compare Ford to Donald Trump, and to be fair, it’s not that much of a stretch. Both have capitalized on the discontent towards ineffectual liberal leadership. Both make overtures at being populist, anti-corruption working-class heroes while favouring corrupt policies that benefit the upper class over the people they claim to champion. Neither of them have any substantial platform or ideology of their own, or any idea of how the government actually operates. Both are scandal-ridden. And both are just so, so, SO fucking stupid.
So, with this bonafide mouthbreathing cartoon character boldly leading them to the election, it’s a small wonder that they’ve managed to repeatedly shoot themselves in the foot, with reports of bigotry, intimidation, being weird to kids, and Doug Ford being a dick to his late brother’s widow coming to light seemingly daily. It hasn’t really affected them in the polls though, so if it ain’t broke…
Part 4: Boldly announcing: “We exist too, dammit!”
Ontario New Democratic Party
Leader: Andrea Horwath (MPP for Hamilton Centre)
Political position: Centre-left
This is going to be the shortest part profile by far, because since Wynne and the Liberals formed their majority government in 2014, the ONDP had pretty much been a non-factor, instead taking a backseat to the comical incompetence of the government and the comical vitriol and… Uh, also incompetence of the PCs.
That said, with the Liberals being as unpopular as they were and the Conservatives being completely unable to unfuck themselves, the ONDP really had no one to blame but themselves for their lack of notability. The most interesting thing that happened to the ONDP before the campaign was deputy leader Jagmeet Singh leaving to be leader of the federal NDP.
And then, that once-in-a-generation happening became a reality: The NDP moved out of third place.
Through a combination of “not being the other two parties,” Andrea Horwath turning in impressive performances at the leader’s debates, and offering a progressive platform that actually aimed at offering relief to the working class instead of the status quo or “literally the worst possible option,” the NDP have made it a two-horse race between themselves and the PCs.
Just goes to show: When the two mainstream options are “bad” and “abhorrent,” sometimes “OK” seems pretty fucking peachy.
Part 4.5: The parties that don’t matter
Green Party: While they have absolutely no shot at forming government (business as usual for a Green Party), the Ontario Greens (or more accurately their leader, Mike Schreiner) have found themselves in a position to possibly take the Liberal stronghold of Guelph. I guess their ideology of “The Liberals, but less superficially eco-friendly” really resonates with Guelphers.
Trillium Party: The only one of the three major parties that currently has a seat in the Legislature (due to the defection of Carleton-Mississippi Mills MPP Jack MacLaren from the PCs), the populist, socially conservative Trillium party still has about as much chance of winning a seat in the election as an actual trillium flower has a chance to mutate into a highly intelligent and cruel life form bent on human subjugation.
Libertarian Party: Give it up guys. If you can’t even pass the goddamn Green Party, I don’t think the message of “maybe Ayn Rand had a point” is really getting through to people. Not that it should. Because that’s terrible.
Part 5: Conclusions + Self-indulgent quasi-editorial + Prediction
So, full disclosure: I live in Alberta. I’m definitely not eligible to vote in this election. Basically, I’m excercising my right to moralize without having to actually do anything of substance. It’s pretty great. I would recommend it.
With that said, I don’t think it should come as a shock to anybody that I’m endorsing the NDP. Hold that thought, have I earned the right to say I can “endorse” anything? I have like, seventeen followers. At least ten of those are bots. I should rephrase that.
I highly encourage anyone eligible to vote in the Ontario election to vote for their local New Democratic candidate. And I don’t just say that out of a cynical place of “well, the other two are trash so go with the ineffectual opposition lol.” The NDP have a legitimate shot at this. And while their platform isn’t anywhere near as radical as I would like in a perfect world, it’s a solid progressive platform that will make life a lot better for a lot more people than the other dreck have to offer.
I think it’s also pretty self-evident that I don’t want Doug Ford anywhere near the premiership. As much as I’d like to see snobby Canadian liberals taken down a peg when they claim that there’s NO WAY that Canadians would EVER elect somebody like Trump, I don’t want that enough to, y’know, ruin Ontario. He’s a shitty person leading a shitty party, and neither of them are worthy of an emotion beyond contempt.
So why not the Liberals? Well, because even if they are MUCH better than the PCs, and even if the sheer vitriol directed towards them (and specifically Kathleen Wynne) can be comically overblown sometimes, that doesn’t mean that they’re good. In fact, they embody everything that I dislike about the Liberal Party: They’re ineffectual, cynical (more on that in a second), and they make overtures at progressivism to attract left-of-centre voters before watering those promises down, ignoring them, or outright doing the opposite once elected. I guess those are all the same point. Whatever.
As if to perfectly underline the point, after a few weeks of it being abundantly clear that the Liberals were almost certainly going to be nearly wiped out, Wynne made an announcement essentially conceding defeat. In stunning contrast to other elections across the country in which Liberals would attempt to convince NDP voters to avoid splitting the vote against the Conservatives (which would almost always benefit the Liberals at the expense of the NDP), Wynne has encouraged supporters to vote Liberal anyways to avoid a Ford PC or “reckless” NDP majority.
And therein lies the heart of the issue: The Liberals don’t actually care that much about Ford or the Conservatives getting elected. At least, not as much as they pretend that they do. In fact, I would wager that they fear the NDP more than they fear the Conservatives. Because if they lose to the PCs, and Ford gets a minority, then in four year’s time, they can present themselves as a “sensible, incremental” progressive option to contrast the PCs as opposed to the “reckless, over-reaching” NDP. And if neither the NDP nor the PCs get a majority, then they hold the balance of power, and therefore, a modicum of relevance.
On the other hand, if Horwath and the NDP win, suddenly, the Liberals can’t really present themselves as the progressive option, because the progressives are in power. So they have to present themselves as centrists. And nothing gets the blood doing whatever the opposite of boiling is like centrists.
Sadly, I think it might be too little too late to salvage this election. As awesome a campaign as Horwath has run, the facts that Canada’s electoral system is stupid and outdated, and that the Liberal Party is going to split the vote by virtue of refusing to die gracefully likely means that we’re looking at a Doug Ford premiership. So the question becomes: will it be a majority or a minority? My hope is that, if I can’t have an NDP government, then at the minimum: A Doug Ford minority that can be fought by the NDP and theoretically the Liberals.
However, optimism is a sucker’s game, so I’m guessing the Progressive Conservatives will carry a majority, and we can all laugh/cry at Ford bumblefucking his way through the premiership for four years. So win/win, really.