Friday, October 05, 2007

A Case for Voting for 'Fringe' Parties

That collective yawn you hear across the province is the sound of the Ontario electorate responding to the current provincial election campaign. And who can blame them? Recent years have seen a steady increase in voter apathy with respect to the political process, both at the provincial and federal levels. This has manifested itself in dwindling voter turnouts and shockingly dismal approval and trust ratings for politicians.
A Leger Marketing poll released last May starkly brought out this latter point. It indicated a paltry 15 per cent of Canadians trust politicians. That’s not a typo. Fifteen per cent. Just a notch above used car salesmen.
As for voter turnout, by the 2004 federal election, only 61 per cent of eligible Canadians were bothering to mark an X on the ballot – the lowest percentage since Confederation.
These numbers are continuing into the current provincial election campaign, with a scant 15 per cent of Ontario voters trusting Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty to keep his promises. John Tory fares a little better, but not by much, as one in four voters believe him when he makes a promise, while 18 per cent think NDP Leader Howard Hampton can be counted on to meet his commitments. The largest chunk of voters doesn’t think any of the provincial party leaders is likely to keep a promise.
At the same time, 17 per cent of Ontarians think their MPPs are likely to solve their problems, while a minuscule 8 per cent believe their MPs will do so.
How did we descend to this point? Many suggest the apathy in the current campaign is an outgrowth of a lack of hot-button issues to galvanize both candidates and voters. But there’s a lot more to it than that. And, on the contrary, there is no shortage of important issues that need to be addressed and debated on.
For one, the province’s schoolgirls are about to become guinea pigs in a vast HPV vaccine experiment, the consequences of which will not be known until sometime down the road. We’re being assured that everything will be all right, but we’ve heard that before. Can anyone say, “Thalidomide”?
On another front, some 35,000 elective abortions take place in this province every year, at taxpayers’ expense, resulting in a rapidly growing demographic crisis, real evidence of injury – psychological, emotional and physical – to many women and the draining of millions of dollars from an already-strained healthcare system. Something to ponder the next time we’re stuck in a lineup in an emergency ward or have to shell out cash for an eye exam.
There are, of course, many other serious issues that could be fodder for a lively campaign. The fact that they have not made it onto the frontburner is an indictment mainly of our “mainline” political parties and the media.
Apart from the above, the conduct of the provincial party leaders and candidates nicely epitomizes why a state of apathy toward politics has developed. In one corner, we have Dalton McGuinty and his Liberal party, which in the previous election campaign smothered voters with promises to not raise taxes, among other noble pledges. As well all know, that quickly went out the window, as most politicians’ election promises do, as soon they seized power.
Then we had the spectacle of McGuinty making a campaign stop at a Catholic high school in Markham recently to tell students that his Catholic faith does not decide his position on political questions. He apparently saw no conflict between attending church and receiving communion while supporting such un-Catholic phenomena as abortion and same-sex “marriage.” What a sterling model for our young people in the fine art of talking out of both sides of one’s mouth.
McGuinty and his Liberals are back with yet another bundle of promises in this campaign. Ontario voters would be wise to meet this with more than a little degree of weariness. As the old saying goes: fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Then we have Howard Hampton and his New Democratic Party. Its support ratings hover somewhere down around those of, well, used car salesmen, and understandably so. Memories linger of the party’s terrible reign in Ontario during the 1990–1995 period, when Bob Rae and company almost ran the province into the ground and proved that socialism is certainly no panacea for what ails us. As the numbers prove, voters are not inclined to go through that again.
One of the most notorious legacies of Rae’s regime was his siccing attorney-general Marion Boyd on the pro-life movement of Ontario, so that oodles of taxpayers’ dollars were eventually squandered on spying and the ideological pet project of extinguishing any sort of demonstrations outside abortion clinics.
Now, Rae is casting his eyes on attaining power at the federal level, albeit with a different party, we presume to wreak similar havoc there. Oh, joy.
Finally, we come to John Tory and his Progressive, er, Conservatives. Although, for some reason, Tory is keeping “conservative” in his party’s name, his actions belie any kind of affiliation with that political philosophy. He has made it a constant point to appear at gay “pride” parades and won the dubious distinction earlier this year of serving as an honorary “distinguished patron” of the Queer Youth Video Project, which was part of the 17th annual Inside Out Toronto Gay and Lesbian Film and Video Festival. The event showcased such cinematic masterpieces as Bad Grrls, Clown F--- Punk and Triple X Selects - The Best of Lezsploitation. One work was described as “the cream of the crop of smoking-hot hardcore porn for dykes and genderqueers of all stripes.” How conservative of you, John.
But wait, you may say. John Tory supports faith-based school funding – now there’s a conservative value. If only it were so. As more than a few have shrewdly deduced, the faith-based school funding plan is a Trojan Horse designed to co-opt such schools into the public system. Insisting that such schools adhere in every respect to a provincial curriculum – which includes objectionable strictures on a number of social and moral issues – pretty well destroys the basis for those schools’ existence in the first place.
Tory more or less confirmed this is the case when he was quoted as saying he has “chosen to fund all because I believe that is the right way to go to make sure not one single student, if possible, is left out of public education." Public education? Hmmm.
So there we have it. Our “mainline” provincial political parties and leaders continue not to inspire confidence or trust among those charged with the responsibility of deciding who gets elected to office. Of course, the situation is little better, if not worse, at the federal level.
The endless trail of broken promises, scandals and corruption among all the federal governments from Pierre Trudeau on need not be recounted here – they are fresh in everyone’s memories, to be sure. And although Stephen Harper has so far managed to keep his nose clean with respect to any major scandals, give him time, as the saying goes. Even then, we note that he has come under severe criticisms from many in the small-c conservative community for his un-conservative management of the government to this point in time, particularly in his spending patterns and handling of the revisitation of the same-sex “marriage” issue. He has also raised eyebrows by attending the top secret, world elite Bilderberg meeting in 2003 (while opposition leader) and engaging in surreptitious negotiations – through the “Security and Prosperity Partnership” - toward what many believe will be a North American Union of Canada, Mexico and the United States.
It was the great Albert Einstein who astutely observed that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” One can be forgiven for being a little harsh in suggesting the Canadian electorate have been at least mildly insane in continuing to vote for the same political parties and receiving the same string of broken promises, poor governance and outright corruption. Perhaps it is time to look at some alternatives and see what the so-called “fringe” parties have to offer.
Despite the rather pejorative moniker, these fringe parties in most cases have remarkably full, well-thought-out and detailed policies and election platforms. And again in most cases, a lot of their policies can be considered generally “mainstream” and certainly not out of line with anything the Liberals, Progressive Conservatives and the NDP have offered.
This may well be the best time to send a message to the political establishment that the status quo won’t do. Poor trust and approval ratings will translate into poor results at the ballot box. The electorate are mad as hell and they aren’t going to take it anymore.
So go ahead. Take the plunge and vote for a fringe party. It won’t hurt a bit and, in fact, will probably do a lot of good.