Alan Broadbent is chairman and CEO of Avana Capital Corporation
A number of commentators have declared Ontario’s political leadership beyond hope, and have seriously recommended a ballot revolt by either spoiling or rejecting the ballot. Their view is that the three largest parties have leaders so bad, and platforms so unacceptable, that no reasonable person could possibly prefer even one of them. “The least bad” is the dismal choice to be made, in their view.
The accompanying portrait of Ontario is one of a failing state with dismal prospects. The picture of widespread hardship, impending collapse from debt and businesses fleeing to sunnier climes is enough to make us check if our passports are still valid.
Is it really this bad? If we were to presume that these commentators were not dyspeptic, jaded or superannuated, is there substance to their sorry evaluation?
How bad is Kathleen Wynne? How dismally has she performed? First it must be said that anyone who knows her says she is a good person − even political rivals. Has her government made mistakes? Certainly, as all governments do, particularly when “mistakes” are often what choices get called by those who disagree with them. Has there been corruption? Not that has been proven in a court. Have there been any positives? If you are working in a precarious, low-paying job, or been stifled by rural hydro rates, or are a transit rider, there have been.
And what about Andrea Horwath? The main accusations against her seem to be that she has been around too long without becoming premier, and that she doesn’t know how to add. She has been around and has managed to keep the confidence of her party, and to consistently raise issues that matter to people who vote for her party. That she is performing well in the polls this election is very creditable for a leader of Ontario’s traditional third party. She has done nothing to disgrace politics or public life, and in fact done much to honour both.
Doug Ford is a newcomer to provincial politics and has had a relatively short time in public life, serving one term as a Toronto city councillor after which he ran a close race for mayor, losing to John Tory. He has been best known as the brother of the late former Toronto mayor, Rob Ford, known for his bad boy behaviour while in office. Doug Ford in that regard is not his brother, but rather a businessman with an orientation to bottom-line business issues.
And Ontario is not about to sink and be drowned under the waters of the Great Lakes or Hudson Bay. Many indicators are strong, such as the unemployment rate. The vibrancy of the technology corridor running from Kanata through Kitchener-Waterloo to Windsor holds its place with Silicon Valley, England’s M4 and the Milano-Veneto corridors.
Toronto’s financial-services sector is internationally competitive, its medical science research capacity respected around the world and its information and design firms leading projects around the globe. Ontario’s universities and colleges are engaged internationally in teaching and research consortia, and there are spokes of excellence in steel research, water management and physics.
Ontario is far from a basket case. Its citizens enjoy as good a combination of health, wealth, safety and security, education and freedom as any place on earth. It isn’t as evenly distributed as it should be, and governments over the years have worked to lift up and support the most vulnerable. They’ve made sure that work pays, that young people receive the education they need to succeed in life and work, that the sick get healed and the hale stay healthy. Ontario’s well-being shows up in ratings of the best places to live, often reported in the same media as our current doom-saying commentators.
You can’t have it both ways, damning the leaders for what has gone wrong and not giving them credit for what has gone right. Kathleen Wynne doesn’t deserve the vitriol being aimed her way. Andrea Horwath doesn’t deserve the doubts, and Doug Ford should be judged on his own merits.
And at any rate, very few of us are going to cast a vote for a party leader, unless we live in the riding they are running in and are one of the little more than 50 per cent of Ontarians who bother to vote. Rather, we’ll be voting for one of the hundreds of other candidates who have offered to stand for office, a group of people from a wide range of backgrounds and with a wide range of abilities and views. If from among the four or more people whose name might be on the ballot we’re handed on voting day we can’t find one we’re prepared to vote for, well shame on us.
Governments aren’t perfect, party leaders aren’t perfect and elected officials aren’t perfect. In that, they’re just like us. They’re our peers. We ought to get over ourselves and cast our vote. Declining or spoiling a ballot is a cop-out.