Monday, March 12, 2012

Comparing the NDP and Liberal Candidates for Toronto-Danforth

Since I live in Toronto and am curious to see if Toronto will become redder or remain a little orangey, I thought I’d do a quick comparison of the two no-names running in the Toronto-Danforth riding this month. Guess that’s a bit harsh. Everyone has to start from somewhere, and most politicians are no-names to the general public at first until they win and make themselves highly visible in their riding or across the country. It doesn’t help that, in comparison, Jack Layton was not only well-known but well-respected. This is a riding many in Toronto are paying attention to because of it having been Layton’s. It will also tell the Ottawa pundits and political types like me whether the Liberals are actually rising from their election grave or are still their only cheerleaders.

I say two because really the Green and Conservative candidates are not going to win or even come second. The former is earnest, which is better than the latter, which is someone I’m sure the Conservatives flipped a coin to see who will stick their name up but continue on with their life. He doesn’t even have a website (that I could find).

So here they are, the NDP versus the Liberal.

The Website

It isn’t immediately obvious on Grant Gordon’s nice-looking website where to click to find out his stance on things. Not on Craig Scott’s website either. I noticed this problem on some of the parties websites too during the Federal election, almost as if the last thing they figure a voter wants to know is what they think about the issues. Of course, how to get a sign is front and centre.

Social Media

Gordon acolytes are tweeting great things in my Twitter stream. I see nary a tweet on Scott. Gordon also has 1,078 likes on Facebook to Scott’s 635. So the election must be in the bag, eh? After all the social media has spoken. But…if social media had prevailed, our election results last year would’ve been very different and neither the Tories nor the NDP would’ve hauled in as many votes and won as many ridings as they did. So it’s interesting, but is it relevant?

Gordon states on his Facebook Page that he wants “to give back. Our country is headed down the wrong path and we can’t sit idly by and just let it happen. I want to go to Ottawa and make your voice heard.” The problem is these words are nice but tell me nothing about how he intends to give back, which voices he’ll make heard (cause you know he ain’t going to be raising up Conservative- or NDP-type voices), and what his stance is on the issues of health care, the economy, and most importantly Parliamentary reform. Scott doesn’t say on his Facebook Page why he wants to run; I suppose the assumption is that it’s a natural progression of his work.

The Blog

Gordon’s blog is a tab-click away while Scott’s latest post is right on his main page. It’s not surprising Gordon’s is a tab-click away because a quick scan of the headlines shows it’s pretty boring: training dates, testimonials, thank yous. Nice but irrelevant to the person who wants to know where Gordon stands on the issues (I’m rather harping on that aren’t I?). Scott’s latest post as of today is about Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s comment on Toronto subways:

If the Conservative government really wants to help the City move forward on transit, it can start by working with New Democrats to implement a national transit strategy that actually supports urban communities. This kind of meddling is only moving the process backwards,” said Scott.

Alright! We’re getting closer to finding an issue stance! Scott is for a National Transit Strategy. What does that entail? I think we have to go read the NDP website to find out, and I’m just not in the mood to click over. In other posts, Scott brings up Bill C-30 (the privacy violator Bill almost everyone on social media are angry about) but doesn’t take a firm stance. And the rest is the same vapid blatherings as Gordon’s. Oh well, I thought we were getting somewhere.

The Biographies

It seems to me that the only place one can glean either candidate’s opinions on the issues is from their biographies. Gordon is into “ethical and environmentally friendly products and causes.” Basically he does “cutting-edge marketing” for non-profit firms and likes to name drop, which is a necessity for a political candidate but seems over the top nevertheless. He also cares about people, the planet, and profits (in a sustainable way) and is concerned by how many kids go to school hungry (I’m not sure how being a Federal politician will help with the latter since it’s the local programs and city politics that make the most difference.)

Scott meanwhile has fought for human rights and equality. He has also worked much in the international area, seemingly more than in Canada, or that is the impression his bio leaves. Still, he has advocated for anti-poverty issues and Aboriginal rights and has worked on the Afghan detainee issue here. Unfortunately, I have no idea what all that means – he provides no specifics – but it sounds good. Unlike Gordon who markets green, sustainable products, Scott works to make accountable Canadian firms that commit environmental harms in other countries – and to make accountable human rights violators as well. He has also served on a Toronto board “devoted to ending discrimination in housing.”

So there you have it, a meagre comparison of the two front-runners. It feels like Scott has more heft than Gordon, but I’m still left with an awful lot of questions. I think this highlights the fact that our MPs – of all parties – really don’t have their own opinions and are only there in the House of Commons as a numbers game: my party has more seats than your party so my party wins and runs the country. It’s a bit disheartening. The parties are effectively forcing Canadians to vote for the party not the man (or the occasional woman that treads into the arena). So the question for Toronto-Danforth voters really is: which party do you want to see win the seat?

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