Three people have told me that they can't wait to see the provincial leadership debate tonight. Are we just nerds? I must admit that I have made a lot of assumptions in this election, and I am looking at the debate to provide some validation.
For all of you non-Ontarians, for Ran in Hong Kong, and for my American friends, we are about to elect a new provincial government here in the province of Ontario. October 2 to be precise.
What follows is my very uneducated and completely amateurish explanation of why this debate is so exciting to me, given the history of Ontario politics. Feel free to correct me on mistakes I have made, but to quote former premier, Mike Harris: "Sometimes too much knowledge is a dangerous thing, almost, in some areas, in my view."
The citizens of the province of Ontario had the jackboot of Tory politics at our throats for eight years, now (I like the word Jackboot, even when inappropriate. I borrowed it from the feds).
Four elections ago, we urbanites prematurely heralded the end of stodgy Ontario conservatism with the election of the New Democratic Party. Woo hoo! We thought. Finally a progressive, socially-minded party in old-money Upper Canada. Also: Sunday Shopping!
Then came the recession. Never ones to be associated with economic heights, the provincial pinkos became inextricably linked to new economic depths. You can read the NDP version of it here.
The law of backlash seems to hit politics with particular resound, and the next time we went to the ballot boxes, we vote in the Progressive Conservative Party. They cut everything from environmental protection to emergency rooms and serve it up with a rigid paternalistic attitude that refuses to acknowledge dissent, even with an unprecedented (for Toronto, I believe) amount of public protest. Read Toronto's veneer of civility frays (eye 1996) . Harris greets the protesters with shockingly violent riot police who club and bloody those assembled.
There was a whack of "downloading" happening at the time, which kinda sounds like pooping, which it kind of is. The Feds were pooping fiscal responsibility onto the provinces without adequately reimbursing them. The province, in turn, pooped the costs onto the cities, same raw deal. Toronto gets mad.
Then-premier, Harris,starts saying stuff about welfare mothers who buy beer and suggesting a boot camp for young offenders, spends millions on consulting firms to do welfare reform...the list goes on and on. With the help of his finance minister, Ernie Eves, the party continues the massacre of social programs.Ontarians start consulting the map to make sure we are actually North of the border.
Harris is so bad, he earns the nickname "chainsaw". People are fuming in Toronto, but he doesn't care. It isn't Torontonians who elected him, but ridings in more suburban areas. What does he care about the increasingly acrimonious relationship with the school boards? Those who vote for him love the Father Knows Best schtick. He takes that attitude to win another election.
Warning, upcomin mixed metaphor
Two years ago, after rough ride at the polls and a rather scandalous affair with a woman whose husband's mysterious death is a scandal in itself, Mike hangs up the chainsaw and hands the reigns over to his former finance minister, Ernie Eves.
Tories (incumbents in second place): By now, the disintegration of services held dear (like MRI's for prompt cancer diagnosis) are affecting all Ontarians, even in the Tory strongholds. And Ernie Eves does not have the polish of Harris to unblinkingly pull it off. He has also been running a muck-throwing campaign that includes a well-circulated story citing one of his staff calling Mcguinty a "Reptilian kitten eater from another planet". Nice!
Liberals (acc. to polls in first place): Claiming to have never consumed kitten, sublunary Dalton Mcguinty has suffered from a perceived stiffness and lack of passion. He loosening up a bit (prob due to some fab image makeover - queer eye for the stiff candidate?). His message - he will neither raise nor cut taxes - is ironically titled "choose change". He may, however, suffer from Liberal party-itis - he is a member of the long-ruling federal party that many voters can't wait to stick it to.
NDP: Howard Hampton is pretty consistent with his "publicpower" message. But he is not as pretty or as polished as Mcguinty, and his comparison of the Tory power strategy as Swiss Cheese (he actually held up a piece of swiss cheese as a prop) earned him more bemusement than respect, perhaps. But in the age of rampant and reckless privatization, his message is clear: "Keep the public services in the public trust." Left-leaning voters more instinctively trust a party that does not take corporate donations. Unfortunately, the spectre of Rae and the recession still looms large enough to cap his popularity. His party lost seats in the last election due to strategic voting, when NDP supporters voted for the candidate most likely to defeat Harris.
Read more about the election here (Dope slammin' site, Dwight)