Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Suppose they gave an election and nobody came

In just a few weeks, on June 12, Ontario residents will go to the polls to elect a new provincial government. For some voters putting Liberal red lipstick on a pig would get it elected. For others, painting it Tory blue would do likewise.

pig red lipstick           pig blue

But for most of us the decision is not a brain-dead one but rather a considered choice based on party platforms and personal situations. We might vote Liberal one time and then Conservative in the next campaign. Or NDP. Or Green. We are what are known as swing voters and we are the most actively courted demographic by all parties. We are the antithesis of ‘the base’.

And if no candidate or party strikes our fancy we are also the demographic most likely to simply not show up to vote. And that’s a problem. Far better to clearly communicate the fact to the powers that be that there is no one on the slate of candidates that we trust or whose platforms we feel are worthy of our support.

It’s not widely advertised but in Ontario we have that ability. (Most provinces do not, nor does it exist in federal elections.) It is called declining to vote. And it’s very easy. When you are handed your ballot by the returning officer just hand it back to him/her and say you decline to vote. They will mark the ballot accordingly and retain it to be tallied when the votes are counted.

Why should you do this? If you seriously don’t believe any option is acceptable then this is the only way to communicate that fact. Spoiled ballots aren’t considered a statement but rather just sloppiness on the part of the voter. And not voting at all is viewed as laziness. A declined ballot is in fact a vote for “None of the Above” and by law must be tallied. You have exercised an important democratic right (and responsibility) and made your views known.

I have been voting in Ontario elections since I first moved to the province in 1970 and never can I recall hearing as much antipathy towards all the parties and their leaders as I have this time. And I am hearing of far too many voters suggesting they may not cast a ballot at all because the choices are so bad. But imagine if all those people instead went to the polling station and effectively chose “None of the Above”. Imagine further if on election day the tally showed tens or even hundreds of thousands of other Ontarians felt likewise. Perhaps then the politicians would get the message that they are not meeting the legitimate needs and expectations of the province’s citizens.

Something to think about.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Omnibus bills – my take

Envision this scenario. A few years ago you fell on hard times. Your income had fallen and accumulated debt was dragging you down. So you took drastic action. You cut back on your spending, eliminated many nice-to-haves and pared essentials to a level you could afford. You moved out of your big house into a basement apartment. And eventually you got your finances under control and were actually seeing some black in your bank statements for the first time in many years. Feeling pretty optimistic you decide you’re ready for the next big step, to own your own home again.

You go to the only real-estate broker in town, Harper and Associates, and explain that you’d like a modest, starter home to ease back into home ownership again; something like a small two-bedroom bungalow in an older part of town would be fine.

The next day you get a call from your broker and arrange to meet him in the driveway at the specified address in Rockcliffe Park. The conversation goes like this:

Mansion1“Here’s your house. It’s 20,000 square feet, 30 rooms, on a 3-acre lot. It includes a swimming pool, a spa, a sauna, a home theatre, and a games room in the basement. It was owned by the High Commissioner to Fort McMurray before he tragically fell into a tailings pond and died. A steal at $60 million.”

“Uh, that seems a bit excessive. All I wanted was a small bungalow.”

“Well this is all we’ve got for you. Take it or leave it.”

“I only wanted 2 bedrooms.”

“This has more than that. I’m not sure how many more but you’ll like them.”

“Don’t you have anything smaller?”

“Well there is a small house in there; just ignore the rooms you don’t need.”

“But I’ll have to pay for all of it even if I only want 2 bedrooms.”

“If you want 2 bedrooms you’ll have to take all of them. We can’t divide the house.”

“Is that a gazebo I see through the fence?”

“Yes. It’s a Tony Gazebo, the best your money can buy.They say you can see the US border from in there.”

“Really? And a pool? I can’t even swim.”

“Doesn’t matter. Your neighbours at 24 Sussex will use the pool. You just need to keep it cleaned and properly maintained.”

“Why am I keeping a pool for my neighbours?”

“They want one and don’t think they’d get planning approval if they asked the city separately.”

“I see, I think. Three acres seems like a lot of grass to cut.”

“Not really. Three acres is a good size for an off-leash dog park.”

“An off-leash dog park?”

“Yes. The neighbourhood needs one. You’d like to be a good neighbour, wouldn’t you? So we included it in the agreement.”


“The purchase agreement also includes the cost of fencing, so you needn’t worry about the dogs getting into your Koi pond.”

“My Koi pond?”

“Yes. See, right here, on page 289, the fine print says, “The owner will provide and maintain a Koi pond for environmental testing on the effects of neighbouring dog parks on native fish populations.””

“Koi aren’t native.”

“These are. They’re Fort Chipeweyan Koi. Kind of ugly with the deformities and all but they grow on you.”

“All I wanted was a small 2 bedroom house.”

“We’ve discussed this. We’re not going to talk about bedrooms any more. You said you wanted a house; this is a house.”

“But I haven’t even had a chance to look inside.”

“I’ve told you all about it so you’ll just have to trust me. We’re done discussing this. You have 10 minutes to decide whether you want a house or would rather spend the rest of your miserable little life living in a basement.”

“Well, since you put it that way…”

And that, folks, is how the Harper Conservatives use omnibus bills.