As talk of an Ontario general election ramps up, pundits and the chattering class have no shortage of opinions on possible outcomes.
Polls abound and, depending upon who commissions them, the results are scattered.
Liberal? Conservative? NDP?
It’s all up for grabs.
Nothing is settled.
One poll suggested that an overwhelming majority of Ontarians want a change in government.
Counterintuitively, it went on to say that despite the desire for change, whichever party was viewed as pulling the plug on our minority government would be summarily punished at the polls for causing an election.
Poll or politics? I will leave that to the voters to decide.
Then there is the general consensus that government isn’t won by the opposition; it is lost by the party in power.
You’ve heard the lines. Tired, worn out government that’s lost its compass. Not surprisingly, I think that same poll indicated scandal as a central issue.
Here’s the real problem.
Election campaigns come and go. Fortunes can be won or lost on one slip up, one disastrous position or comment.
Or even one renegade candidate. Just ask the former Premier of Quebec.
In these days of sound bites and gotcha politics, we have yet to have an adult conversation during an election campaign about the kind of Ontario we all want.
Do we want quality, effective public services that forms the common wealth or do we want to sell everything to the highest bidder?
Do we want to auction human capital in a race to the bottom or do we want strong labour laws and effective partnership between government, business and labour?
Do we want a tax system that is fair; that promotes and protects the public good or do we agree with the current set up that has working people paying the burden while their income stagnates and individual purchasing power evaporates?
Do want an Ontario where seniors are respected for their contributions and allowed to retire in dignity with a pension and ample health care benefits; or do we want them working to the grave?
Do we believe that children and youth are indeed our most valuable resource or should they be left to linger in their parent’s basement?
Is health care universal, or can the rich jump to the front of the line?
Is a credit card more important than a health card?
Do we want a transportation and infrastructure system that is world class or are we satisfied with the decay and rot that surrounds us?
Can we recognize the similarities and common goals that we all share or will we continue to divide and conquer based on core constituencies and poll results?
What is the next economy?
Can we jointly and cooperatively produce a modern industrial strategy that provides adequate profits for corporations, a decent living for small business entrepreneurs and a middle-class paycheque for working people?
Will we ever recognize the importance of food security and support our family farms and the rural communities they live in?
Are we in this together or will we continue down the road of purposely-manufactured conflict and wedge issues?
A lot of questions.
And each should be answered by all three party leaders once the election is called.
Ontario cannot afford to continue down the path we are on. Acrimony, conflict and derision have driven us to where we are.
The politics of division has done exactly what it is supposed to do…divide. Divide between rural and urban; north and south; rich and poor; business and labour and sadly along cultural, religious and ethnic lines.
This is not the Ontario I want to bequeath to my children. And that’s what keeps me going. Hope for a better future for all of us.
So if the plug is pulled on this minority government, we at OPSEU will be asking candidates the questions I have highlighted.
Because OPSEU is Ontario’s Union for Changing Times. And now, more than ever, the times have to change.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas