For 41 days, the politicians have had their say. Tomorrow it will be your turn.
And yet by all early indications, Ontarians may set a new record for non-participation in this provincial election. Advance poll numbers are down by 6 per cent compared with the 2011 campaign; that follows a decline in election-day voting of some 12 percentage points since 1990.
Perhaps this year’s campaign has been marred by too much negativity. Or maybe there are so many undecided voters, displeased with all the options, that they’re waiting for June 12 to make a final decision and vote.
Whatever the reason behind the low numbers, this campaign provides many good reasons to reverse that downward trend.
No matter which party prevails on Thursday, the Liberals, Progressive Conservatives or the NDP, Ontario is at a political crossroads. And it’s far better if a substantial number of voters make their voices heard and set the province’s new direction.
The choices are stark, to say the least. From one day to the next, polls have swung between the Liberals under Leader Kathleen Wynne and Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives, with the Andrea Horwath and the NDP consistently placing third.
Wynne is offering a progressive platform with promises for investments in jobs, health and transit while eliminating Ontario’s $12.5 billion deficit on schedule in 2017-18.
Hudak is promising austerity, including the loss of 100,000 public service jobs, likely in education and health, in order to eliminate deficit one year earlier. And Horwath’s plan mimics the Liberals, while tossing in a few populist goodies like a cut to the provincial HST on electricity bills.
Given the divergent political views — and the Star has already made clear its view that Wynne and the Liberals have earned a new mandate – much of the population will be dissatisfied. That’s to be expected.
But when the political direction could swing dramatically to the right, or veer to the left, it’s far better to register your view on the province’s future. Jobs, education, social services and health care are at risk. As the cliché goes, if you don’t vote, don’t complain.
Still, unless something changes dramatically overnight, it’s likely that voter turnout will continue its downward slide. As the Star’s Richard Brennan reports, Democracy Watch predicts a turnout of just 45 per cent, down from 48.2 per cent in 2011. “I think we will hit a record low, unfortunately,” says spokesperson Duff Conacher. That’s a shame.
While many voters seem uninterested in all options, others are displeased with the negative turn of the campaign, especially in the final stretch.
From the early days, Hudak and Horwath have attacked the Liberals as “corrupt,” while Wynne only recently got into the game, claiming that a vote for the NDP is actually a vote for Hudak.
However uninspiring, that’s hardball politics. It’s no reason to avoid exercising your personal responsibility to ensure that democracy is upheld.
With that in mind, here’s another cliché: we get the leader we deserve. On Thursday, just go vote.