By Jason Menard
Politics has long been a game of dirty pool. With only 30 days to go before Ontarians head to the polls, we can only hope that voters will decide they want a straight shooter — and that politicians will remember that when we go to the polls, we’re electing someone who will represent us.
And that means candidates must act in a way worthy of our voice. I know how I would represent myself in the legislature — so I expect my elected voice to behave in a similar fashion.
There are a number of factors that go into how people vote: some go simply by name recognition; others vote for whomever their parents or friends choose; some go by the tried-and-true eenie, meenie method (figuring that it doesn’t matter who gets in); and finally there are those who take the time to analyse the issues, review the candidate’s literature and the content of their speeches, and base their vote on a combination of what the candidate will bring to the constituency, the party policy, and — hopefully — the candidate’s character.
The first two parts of that formula are fairly simple to judge; the final part, however, is much more subjective — but thanks to social media, we’re afforded a greater window into the candidate’s behaviour than ever before. And, for some candidates, they’re wasting an opportunity.
Recently, in the wake of Jack Layton’s death, there was some thought that perhaps the outpouring of affection heralded a new era in Canadian voting consciousness — one in which constituents were demanding more of their elected representatives. Unfortunately, that message hasn’t seemed to filter to all of our provincial candidates.
I currently live in the London-Fanshawe riding provincially. I enjoy the political game and consider myself a well-versed observer. I take my voting seriously, not aligning with any party, but rather choosing the candidate who I feel will best represent my interests. Essentially, that means my vote is up for grabs — but some candidates seem to be throwing it back.
To give the not-so-innocent a chance, I’m not going to name names. However, social media feeds filled with puerile name-calling and misrepresentations of party policies do nothing to inspire confidence in those voters who are looking for responsible representation.
Unfortunately, sloganeering and dirty politics have been proven to work. People believe attack ads and ascribe thoughts and behaviours to candidates that exist only in the fantasies of those sitting around the party war room tables?
Shouldn’t we demand more from our candidates? Shouldn’t we expect them to behave in a manner that shows they realise they’re asking us to honour them by given them our voice? When they walk through those doors at Queen’s Park, they do so not as a Liberal, Conservative, or NDP member, but rather as the collective voice of a constituency. We are not a nation of kindergarden-esque name callers, but that’s what federal and provincial debates have devolved into.
We have no one to blame but ourselves. We choose these people and then we don’t do enough to hold them accountable. We get the government we, as a society, deserve.
One of my first exposures to politics — possibly even my first — was the old Schoolhouse Rock video for “I’m just a bill.” Many of you (of a certain age — or my daughter) will remember the story of young Bill, sitting on the steps of the U.S. Capitol suffering through his “long, long wait, while he’s sitting in committee.”
Bill simply hoped and prayed that one day he’d be a law — and he got his wish. Unfortunately, in Canada, it’s sad to think that the kids Bill was singing to behave better than some of the people who have their names on the ballot.