Friday, June 13, 2014

Five observations on the Ontario election

1) A record of corruption and incompetence doesn’t disqualify a party from forming government. The Ontario Liberals cost taxpayers almost $1 billion when they cancelled two power plants in 2011 to improve their election chances, and were either dishonest or incompetent in covering up the real costs. It wasn’t enough to get them kicked out of office. In fact, their share of the popular vote rose from 38 per cent in 2011 to 39 per cent this week. 
Opposition parties can't count on voters to punish parties for past wrongdoing.
2) Changing leaders, as the Liberals did, appears to be like a shaking an Etch-a-Sketch over your head. Everything is erased and you get a fresh start.
3) A large number of voters are more-or-less happy with the status quo or don’t believe the promises of those proposing change. The Ontario Conservatives said they would cut 100,000 public sector jobs and cut spending sharply. It didn’t sell. (The Conservative campaign also stumbled when its plan to create one million jobs was revealed to be based on bogus numbers, and leader Tim Hudak refused to acknowledge the giant error.)
4) Our winner-take-all election system doesn’t reflect voter preferences. The Liberals took 39 per cent of the votes and 55 per cent of the seats; the Conservatives 31 per cent of the votes and 25 per cent of seats; the NDP 24 per cent of the votes and 20 per cent of the seats. (The Greens captured five per cent of the votes, but didn’t elect any candidates.) 
5) Third parties face a tough road. Despite the Liberal record, the NDP failed to attract voters, up just one percentage point from 2011. There was little to choose between Liberals and New Democrats in terms of policy, and the electoral system encouraged those opposed to the Conservatives to vote Liberal.