Election day is fast approaching but looking at the local election race you would not know it. We are over three weeks into the election, and the lack of engagement of most of the political parties in Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry is discouraging and damaging.
Most parties were ill-prepared for an election, despite knowing there was a minority government in power. Local Liberals and Green Party members waited until after the election call to nominate candidates. At least those candidates live in the riding. The local NDP riding association had a candidate but could not get him approved in time. The national party parachuted in a candidate of their own at the last minute who has yet to appear in the riding. They also missed the lone all-candidates event last week in Cornwall. The People’s Party of Canada candidate, while not local to the riding, at least has some ties and made the effort to attend that event.
The incumbent Conservative candidate and his riding association were the only ones prepared for the election. This riding is not at risk of an upset; that’s why he is out in other ridings across Ontario helping his fellow party candidates in their election bids. He is also hosting the party leader’s virtual events in Ottawa. These are all indications that his SDSG seat is pretty safe.
Additionally, with under two weeks to go before the vote, there has only been one all-candidates meeting in SDSG instead of the usual five-to-seven events. The pandemic may be a reason for a lack of events, but in other ridings, organizations have found ways to bring candidates together to debate.
The lack of preparedness by some parties and candidates, and the lack of spirited and rigorous debate that we should expect during an election is troubling. There are plenty of issues facing the country and this riding that should be discussed, but it’s not happening. When most of the political parties in the country treat a riding as unimportant, there is a great risk of disengagement in the political process. The impact of that goes far beyond federal politics. Provincial and municipal elections are both set within the next 13 months. If voters feel like their vote doesn’t matter, why should they engage?
The blame for this falls equally on the local riding associations and national parties for treating ridings like SDSG as second class. Citizens in a democracy have the right to be heard, respected, and treated like their vote matters. To do anything less is disingenuous and breeds contempt for the whole process.