Two bites at the electoral cherry in 2018

“What’s in it for us?” is the standard question that so many communities and business groups ask themselves in the run-up to the municipal and provincial elections that are scheduled for this year 2018.

Torontonians will be doing themselves a great disservice if they consider that they are simply choosing between John Tory and Doug Ford.

Similarly, Ontarians will be doing themselves an even greater disservice if they think that they are simply choosing among Kathleen Wynne, Patrick Brown and Andrea Horwath.

While the personality and character of the candidates are important, special attention has to be paid to the policy agenda that each candidate and each party brings to the table.

The two elections are of such importance for our present and our future that we cannot take them for granted. We need to start off by setting some serious ground rules for ourselves.

Rule number one: Go out and vote.

Rule number two: Hold all candidates to account, throughout the campaign.

Rule number three: “None of the above candidates” is not a viable option.

Those are some basic rules that are strongly recommended for both the municipal and provincial elections.

On the first rule, suffice it to say that abstention guarantees that we have no say in who gets to govern us and in what decisions they choose to take. If we abstain because of disinterest, we take whatever we get. If we abstain in protest, we hand over power to those who vote and to the candidates and parties that the other voters choose.

On the second rule, it is in our interest to choose candidates who offer or commit themselves to providing policies and programs that serve our needs and wants as we define them. We must also include in this personal and self-centred agenda the goals that we set for the broader society in which we live: poverty reduction; equality and equity; social security; education, health and housing; and freedom from oppression and discrimination.

On the third rule, if we are really in a jam because none of the candidates meets with our approval, then we need to think three times before we vote. We will have to choose between selecting the least objectionable candidate(s) and making the most strategic use of our vote. As intellectually challenging as this choice can be, our decision may become the most valuable contribution that we make to the political process.

But there is one caveat: be careful about what you wish for. The unintended consequences can be fatal.

Voters who set out to punish Kathleen Wynne and her Liberal party may be opening themselves and the rest of us to the greater pains of Patrick Brown’s conservative policies.

Are we prepared to expose ourselves to a second dose of Mike Harris’ budget cuts and his cruel reduction of government supports and investments in the social economy? That is all that the provincial Conservatives under Patrick Brown have to offer us.

Hopefully, most of us are not so desperate and reckless in seeking to register our disapproval of the Wynne government’s political missteps and sometimes misguided policy decisions.

On the contrary, those liabilities have been significantly counterbalanced by a progressive agenda that Andrea Horwath and her NDP’ers cannot match.

On the other hand, the municipal elections do not present us with the same challenges. In the absence of any other candidates considered as potential or actual “heavyweights”, the choice boils down to two options: the mildly centrist policy platform of incumbent Mayor John Tory or the “Mr. No” policy position constantly adopted by Doug Ford whenever expenditure is being considered for our City government to make the necessary investments in the social economy.

If we want to have any significant influence on the electoral process and on the society’s political process, we have to get involved. We can be advocates for the policies that we want, political party volunteers, or even political candidates. We can also encourage suitable members of our community to do the same, and then give them our active campaign support.

In both elections this year, we owe it to ourselves to invest our hopes and our energies in the progressive political agenda that we wish for ourselves and for the wider society.