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Byelections are hard


My riding is one of two in the midst of a byelection for the Ontario legislature. And I am Undecided.

I have decided against the Progressive Conservatives (I know, you’re all shocked) and the six fringe candidates that are running. That leaves three options: Liberals, NDP, and Greens.

Recently I’ve just been voting for whoever appears to have the best chance of defeating the Conservative candidate, and in this riding, that’s normally Liberal.

But a byelection is not the same. For one thing, I do not have to fear the Conservatives in the same way, because even if they happen to win both seats up for grabs, they will still not form government.

For another, it’s not really so clear the Liberals are the next leading contenders. The NDP have a strong, well-known local candidate, and with voters not having to fear an NDP government resulting from her winning the seat, they might just vote for her. There’s no knowing for sure, but all indications are that this is a three-way race.

So, another strategy I sometimes take when struggling to decide is to just pick the best local candidate. In a byelection, this seems a particular sensible approach. Therefore, I watched the local debate, and came to the conclusion that… All the candidates I’m considering are quite good, really.

The Liberals Eric Davis and the NDP’s Catherine Fife both speak very well and knowledgeably. He’s a lawyer and she’s local schoolboard trustee, and they both already have the politician’s ability to seem like they’re answering a question when they haven’t, really. And it’s in this respect that the Green’s Stacey Danckert was quite refreshing, even though she was soft spoken and less assured. But she was also clearly very smart, informed, and sincere.

Plus, the Greens have some cool policies. Combine the Separate and public school boards? Yes, we can! (Wait, that’s someone else’s slogan.) Reduce income taxes and increase pollution taxes? Sounds good to me. Proportional representation? Bring it on.

But do the Greens have any shot at all in this thing? That is unlikely. Do I consider them anyway, for supporting the candidate and the policies? I’m undecided.

This byelection is also unusual in that actually could change the shape of the Legislature. If the Liberals happen to manage to win both byelection, they’d end up with a very slim majority. Do I want this? Majority governments—including this one—tend to be rather arrogant and undemocratic. But minority governments are all gamesmanship, with everyone threatening elections at every opportunity… All dreaming that majority they might win.

Basically, we have terrible political system, in which both majority and minority governments kind of suck. I can’t change that with my vote. (Ontarians could have changed that in a referendum a few years ago, but they didn’t. I may never forgive you for that, Ontarians. But I’m digressing.)

So… Not much point in voting strategically, no clear favorite amongst a set of good candidate, not really sure who I want to win the seat (except I’d prefer not Conservative or a fringe candidate).

Gosh, I may actually have to read the party platforms, or something.

3 thoughts on “Byelections are hard

  1. Putting switching to some form of PR to a referendum will always fail in this country because people have no clue what they’re voting for. You’re asking people to choose between a system they know (maybe not keen on, but at least they know), and something they’ve never tried before and that the media attacks full-on by dragging up the worst examples in existence (Israel, Italy, etc). Most people also don’t really give a toss about electoral reform – it’s a fringe issue even among political geeks. Plus our stupid insistence that it pass with a super-majority while an MP/MPP can win a seat with less than 40% of the vote, or a government win a “majority” with less than 40% of the vote. Totally insane.

  2. Oh, I know. Completely agree! Was kind of kidding about not forgiving Ontarians for it. Very hard for an electoral reform referendum to pass. Ontario did not require a “super majority”, but it also failed the “simple majority” test. Most people didn’t even know about the referendum; there was no debate on it, no official Yes or No side debating anything. No commericials on TV. Of course it failed. Who would vote for an unknown?

    Miraculously, it did pass in BC once, but they did require a super majority, and didn’t quite get those numbers. Absurd.

    I agree with some of your blog posts that this should not be put to referendum first. Just change the voting system. Governments do much bigger changes without referendum. Then maybe ask people what they think after they’ve had the new system for a few elections. (Also your idea.) If any government was serious about electoral reform, that’s what they’d do.

    The federal NDP *might* actually be serious about it…

    • I know the NDP says it’s committed to electoral reform, bu I have to wonder, if they start sensing that they might actually form the government – maybe even a majority – if they’d stick with that. And even if they did stick with it, most likely they’d put it to a referendum. Because it would then fail. And they could maybe enjoy being a majority government. I know a lot of dippers online, and they all seem appalled at the idea of NOT putting it to a referendum.

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