Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Morning After

So what happened? Only 50% of the population turned out to vote, lower than last time, a number that drops with each election, this in spite of the fact that there was a referendum that could have changed the way we voted and reinvigorated our desire to vote, a referendum that I thought would have motivated people to get out and vote. But then, except for one hour hosted by Leslie Roberts on CFRB, there was no intelligent analysis of the question and so people have little idea of what the question was all about. There was also a lot of media BS that reflected a lack of understanding of the question. And speaking of the media, they were a big part of the problem.

The media have devolved into a bunch of people running around after press releases and regurgitating them as news items. They went on and on about the faith-based funding issue, this after years of talking about when it was election time they would pin McGuinty to the wall on his failures. Really did a fine job there. They showed no desire to examine the issues, no desire to question each leader on how he'd fix our health care mess or tax inequities or our environment. The Toronto media didn't pin any of the leaders to the wall about what they'd do for Toronto, nor did they hold up the Toronto Liberals in the spotlight for how they let our city down. Instead the whole bloody lot of them went on and on about faith-based funding until I was ready to scream, I don't know about you. It was an easy thing to do, far easier to harp on one topic with little new to say on it, than to read extensively, dig deep, and report on how each party would affect our lives and our health and on what each Toronto candidate would help our city.

The media also took the lazy route, as they always do, by reporting over and over on polls. Every election it's the same thing, we drown in poll results until watching the news is like listening to nails scratching down a board and it makes us feel like why bother. Why bother to vote, the decision has already been made.

The electorate has grown increasingly cynical about voting. More and more the idea that all politicians are crooks has gripped the populace and that no matter who you vote for, the same guy will get in, resulting in learned helplessness, the idea that no matter what you do, you can have no effect on the outcome, so why bother. This sense is so strong that people voted down the referendum even though in this very election, we could see the difference that MMP would have wrought in the final results. (Table courtesy of the CBC.)

These were the results, courtesy of first-past-the-post, the system you prefer.

LIB7107142.19%
PC2602631.67%
NDP1001016.79%
GRN0008.01%

Reverse it, that is translate the seats to percentages, and this is how it would look:

LIB7107166.35%
PC2602624.30%
NDP10010 9.35%
GRN000 0%
OTH000 0%

Kind of puts into perspective just how much FPP skews the results, eh?

Now, under MMP, the results, based on percentage of the vote, would have been:

LIB46
046
42.19%
PC34
034
31.67%
NDP1801816.79%
GRN9
09
8.01%

A bit different, eh? Did you realise the difference it would have made? Given the piss-poor job Elections Ontario and the media did in educating people just what MMP is all about and how poorly some media folk understood it, it's not surprising you probably didn't and that it was voted down. So next election we can look forward to less than 50% turnout, as people feel even more apathetic, more disenfranchised, more devoid of hope that no matter how they vote, it won't make any difference at all, so why bother.

And then there was John Tory. The man has good policies, strong principles, but has absolutely terrible political instincts. He let down Kim Campbell with that negative ad campaign, and he didn't learn from that fiasco. Yes, point out McGuinty's broken promises, but then immediately follow that up with what he would do. He didn't do that until the last week of the election, and the media fell down on the job too. Because if he wasn't prepared to talk each week, and every day of that week, on a new point of his platform, then it was the media's job to do so, and not just for Tory, but all the parties, all the leaders. The media go on and on about how freedom of the press is so important, and then they show how very shackled they are to press releases and politician's agendas and don't bother to exercise that freedom.

Lastly, Elections Ontario has turned a blind eye to outright voter fraud by the parties. The media apparently know about it as Bill Carroll yesterday said that the most e-mails he gets is on election shenanigans, including parties recruiting landed immigrants to vote in their favour. Again, the media take the easy route and think that voter fraud makes no difference in these majorities, so why investigate. How do they know? If a party is driving busloads of senior landed immigrants to their polls, and if you multiply that by all the senior residences in one riding, you can easily sway one riding. After all with first-past-the-post, you're not going for Ontario-wide percentage of the vote, but concentrating it in as many ridings as you can; that way you'll carry those ridings, especially in light of the low voter turnout -- if voter fraud has remained stable in numbers through each election, and since total voter turnout has dropped with each election, then the proportion of fraudulent votes to legitimate votes has risen. In other words, these criminal attempts to sway the election outcome are becoming more effective.

In the end, the electorate was ill served by the media and by Tory. The pundits are shaking their heads over the low voter turnout; the winners couldn't care less because low works in the favour of incumbents; and the opposition has terrible political instincts and can't seem to grasp what works best in their favour. I have never been so disappointed in my life, and I thought the municipal election was a disappointment. I had gotten to the point that if it wasn't for the referendum, I probably would not have voted. Thank goodness for optimists like James Bow, who continues to write why in the face of crappy reporting, crappy politicians, and voter fraud the police and Elections Ontario allow, we should continue to vote.

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