Did we get what we deserved from this election process?

By Casey Cosgrove

BURLINGTON, ON  October 5, 2011  –  For the last six -weeks, a process has been underway that is aimed at influencing who we cast our ballot for in tomorrows provincial election.  What should we expect from this election process?   Is it naive to expect spirited debate on the issues, clear communication about candidates ideas and vision, and perhaps a firm handshake at the front door?  Or, have we just become accustomed to, and accepted the fact that campaigns leading into elections are dominated by negativity, ‘spin’, attack ads, smear campaigns, and avoiding responsibility?

Elections are a great opportunity for aspiring ‘leaders’ to actually show leadership, to show vision, but instead, they have become a very ugly, tactical, 6-week communications battleground aimed at swaying voters.  Getting elected is the only focus it seems.

I would have liked more debate on the issues, less 'smoke and mirrors', fewer 'attack ads', more 'taking of responsibility' from the sitting government, and a little bit of 'giving credit' from the 'challengers.

In the past six weeks, we have watched a Premier that is unwilling to acknowledge the mistakes he has made in the past eight years, as if everything has been just fine in Ontario.  Voters may be willing to forgive, but the liberal strategy to simply ignore the mistakes, and hope people forget by the time they go to the polls, is not an accident.  Perhaps it is just not good ‘politics’ to take ownership of the things that did not go well, but it is good leadership.

We have seen challenger Tim Hudak obsess over the Premier, forgetting that voters want to know if he has any ideas of his own.  If you look at the refusal of the Burlington Post and Toronto Sun to endorse his party, it is clear that the jury is still out, even among those that normally support the PC’s.  It seems Hudak has waged his whole campaign on ‘don’t vote for the other guy’, and this is not resonating with Ontarians. We also saw Hudak spend way too much time and attention on a small program that he referred to as an ‘affirmative action program for foreign workers’.  These issues are distractions simply used strategically to knock the other candidate off their game, but I think Hudak erred on this one.  With an 11 point lead in the polls last summer, Hudak may have been better off not campaigning at all.

The NDP leader has fared well throughout the campaign, avoiding any costly gaffes.  Few would argue that she is the most ‘likeable’ leader.  Yet, a key question remains.  Will Andrea Horwath be propped up by the outpouring of support the NDP has received over the past few months across Canada, or does the reluctance to forget the ‘Rae Years’ still exist among Ontarians ?  It seems few are giving the NDP a real chance to govern, but they have run a solid campaign, will have improved numbers, and could hold the balance of power in the Legislature.

Locally, we have even less to go on from those competing to become Burlington’s next MPP.  We have seen a Conservative candidate that has been all but hiding, sharing very little about herself, her credentials, or her past accomplishments.  Jane McKenna’s campaign website is a basic PC party template with very little about her or Burlington, and is just another vehicle for the overall party platform Hudak has set out.  Her brochures are mostly about McGuinty, with little about McKenna.  They are banking in the fact that Burlingtonians will simply vote for the political party, and don’t care to know more about the person who may become their representative in the Legislature.

The Liberal candidate, Karmel Sakran, has a more impressive list of accomplishments and credentials to share with voters, but at times has also relied on touting the ‘accomplishments’ of the Liberals and their leader, which may not resonate.  Voters are upset with McGuinty. Sakran has enough substance and community connection to have distanced himself a little more in my opinion, and has shown focus on two key local issues – the hospital redevelopment and stopping the mid-peninsula highway from paving across our escarpment.

The NDP candidate, Peggy Russell, showed the most balance in trying to connect voters to herself, her party, and its leader, and she has been elected here before, as a Trustee.  This is a much bigger job, a larger stage.

If the majority of voters here cast their ballot for ‘party-first’, we will see another PC candidate claim victory here, as the PC brand has shown 60+ years of staying power in this community.  If voters take a long look at the accomplishments and credentials of those seeking office here in Burlington, we will likely have a Liberal or NDP candidate representing this community.

I would have liked more debate on the issues, less ‘smoke and mirrors’, fewer ‘attack ads’, more ‘taking of responsibility’ from the sitting government, and a little bit of ‘giving credit’ from the ‘challengers. Is it too much to expect clear, honest, communication about the ideas, platform, and vision of each candidate, and their party? Apparently, that is asking too much.   However, I will still be casting my ballot tomorrow, as it is my cherished right to have my say in who governs us.  Whether the candidate I support is elected here or not, I will at least know that I shared my voice in the process, and will support them in their new role as MPP for the riding of Burlington.





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