Oh No, Another Election


Well, Ontario is going to the polls again to vote, well, some of the voters will no doubt go. The rest will either ignore it all together or look at the choices and despair. I tend to fall into the later camp but will muster my courage (liquid or otherwise) and head out to the polls on election day. Problem is that representative democracy lives or dies based on voter participation. Further problem is that I am not at all sure that this is a democracy although various people flatter themselves by claiming it is. The MPP for this riding, Randy Hillier, seems to be working hard for the interests of his constituency and has even been known to respond to email inquiries with a personal phone call. Amazing and wildly different from my experience in Toronto. Unfortunately this MPP seems to be in bad odor with his boss for not toeing the party line of the moment. So whether the concerns the electorate voice to our MPP makes it to the top is hard to tell. Hence my quandry.

Watching the Agenda the other night I was horrified to hear that the faithful for the party in power are not concerned about the scandals, waste and general abuse. Or, it seems from the many conversations our new Premier claims to be having, with no evidence that there is any listening going on. Or the panels that are formed to ‘study’ an issue — but with no evidence that anything that results is other than just ignored. Quite frankly, if it happened to me I would be most annoyed even if there was a fat consulting fee associated with it.

Meanwhile, the ‘blue’ party seems to have dusted off the Mike Harris campaign strategy and is threatening to bring back the old days of layoffs, outsourcing and tax cuts for big business. Some folks are encouraged, others horrified. But with no evidence that the prior experience has been evaluated and learned from. One though troubles me — I was once told that unlike some other governments around, the employment strategy in Canada is to maximize government employment. One might guess that in a land of hewers of wood and drawers of water working for the government is as effective a welfare approach as any other make work solution (my mind goes to the CCC of US Depression fame). Despite an abundance of natural resources and skilled people, it would seem that no one wants to locate a plant here — soaring power costs, taxes and poor transportation and communications infrastructure suggests those jobs should be elsewhere. So I don’t know if cutting taxes even further and laying off government workers will be much help — what non-government jobs there were have moved offshore and there are only so many burgers to be flipped. And as long as the 11th Province is pouring taxpayer dollars into marketing for the oil sands and the pipelines to get them to China and other offshore markets there seems no hope for any movement on climate or reducing the somewhat surreal energy prices here.

Maybe if it would help if the people in government, especially at senior levels, had some sort of career outside of politics before. A quick sampling shows that most got into politics right out of school and have spent their entire working life inside the government hot house. Probably explains a lot. But as was once pointed out to me, the intricate ballet of Canadian politics requires decades of apprenticeship. (The cynic would think it is a matter of learning what to kiss and when…) So no possibility for anyone with some real world (as opposed to hot house) experience. There are exceptions to be sure but hard to tell if a difference will be made.

As mentioned before, nothing would make me happier that to see some glimmer of evidence-based policy making. No matter how convinced our leaders are of their unshakeable rightness of thought, reality has other opinions. One wonders how things would end up if instead of just being dicta from above, policy makers would articulate their objectives, measurements and expected results and have the courage to change or cancel policies if the (public) results were not being achieved. I recall reading in a book on major project failures that the number one cause of (big, expensive) project failure was the overcommitment of the executive to a project — pouring endless resources down a rathole of failure because their egos somehow got entangled in doing the project rather than the results. Nothing exotic about this — more likely business as usual, especially here.

Speaking of which, across the channel the first close-in wind turbines are being erected. No doubt soon to be followed by even more surrounding us in this formerly peaceful rural haven. Be nice if the power was needed someplace — but no, it is dumped at giveaway prices to benefit the New York economy and our power bills continue to soar. This illusion of green masks the conversion to natural gas burning — so ‘green’ energy is really going backwards. Less hydro, less nuclear, more gas. Terrific. Now what was the point of this exercise again?

So as we stare at the threat of yet another election, the thought goes through my head ‘Red seems to be skilled at making more (accounting) red. Orange is really just another shade of red these days. And Blue? Thinking of blue just makes me blue.

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