Ontario’s brief provincial election campaign is already well-past the halfway mark and is entering the home stretch towards the June 2 election. Given the short time frame of the campaign, there is a worrying lack of dialogue – both at the provincial and local levels.
All four party leaders, Steven Del Duca (Liberal), Doug Ford (Progressive Conservative), Andrea Horwath (NDP), and Mike Schreiner (Green) have met for two debates. The first centred around northern Ontario issues, the second covered the whole province. That’s all.
Outside of managed public appearances, there is little discourse happening. The parties have presented their platforms and the leaders trotted out their practiced lines, leaving voters to figure it out.
In the case of Ford, many of his public appearances are in name only, with media again not invited to attend. Public means everyone except for the media to which holds them to account.
Instead of debate between party leaders, voters are left with politically massaged messaging, sound bites, and social media posts.
The local race in Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry is faring better than the provincial race, with three meetings scheduled. The first, hosted by the Cornwall and District Labour Council, was attended by only three of the six candidates seeking election here. Those who did not attend all represent the conservative side of the political spectrum. A coincidence, perhaps? Most surprising of the no shows was PC candidate Nolan Quinn, who instead attended a meet and greet, which had originally been scheduled for a different day.
Two other opportunities for the public to see the candidates together will take place on May 25 in Cornwall at the Social Development Council/Cornwall Chamber of Commerce all-candidates meeting, and May 26 in Chesterville. The May 26 meeting is hosted by the Dundas Federation of Agriculture, South Dundas Chamber of Commerce, and the North Dundas Chamber of Commerce. Outside of these three meetings, local voters are getting opportunities to digest party messaging, sound bites, and social media posts, all with a local flavour.
There is just over a week left in the campaign and at this point, there isn’t much evidence that there’s an election going on in SDSG. That lack of conversation is worrying. Over 104,000 people live in this riding. To have only three meetings where voters can in reality compare those seeking office rather than browsing their Facebook posts is disheartening.
More concerning is the lack of discourse provincially. Ontario is the most populous province in the country; the economic engine of Canada. To have so little discourse regarding policy and the planned direction of the province for the next four years is discouraging.
Local and provincial politicians need to do more to be available to the people to whom they wish to provide leadership. Voters deserve to have that access. Political aspirants should be willing to meet and debate to earn those votes.