If David Miller wins the campaign to become Toronto's next mayor (and, with two weeks to go, this is by no means certain), then something interesting will have happened in Ontario politics.
As you will recall, Dalton McGuinty became premier of this province after running an honourable campaign. Ernie Eves, at the end of his rope after a year of bad luck, bad government and the growing realization among Ontarians that tax cuts weren't making life better, launched into a negative campaign maligning Mr. McGuinty and everything he stood for. McGuinty would raise taxes. McGuinty would cozy up with the teachers unions. McGuinty was a reptilian kitten-eater from another planet.
The campaign was an unmitigated failure.
McGuinty stood back, let his attack dogs handle the negativity for him, and then presented himself as the clean, non-mudslinging candidate. He refused to speak to limited interests and instead spoke to all 12 million Ontarians. "No one of us is as strong as all of us" became his motto, "let us invest in our future". The voters responded and granted him a landslide victory. In short, Eves campaigned with fear, McGuinty responded with hope, and McGuinty won.
John Tory and David Miller started their campaign for mayor as men with ideas, putting forward constructive and imaginative solutions for Toronto's problems that played well with voters tired with Barbara Hall's coasting into the mayor's office. However, Miller picked up more momentum than Tory. He leapfrogged past Barbara Hall and became the candidate to beat. As the days ticked down, John Tory changed his tactics, focused on Miller, and went negative.
Tory pounced on what was seen as Miller's first major gaffe: an admission that, should the provincial and federal governments not come through with promised new funding for public transit, he'd consider tolling Toronto's expressways for the money. "Highway Robbery" cried Tory. Except that it was an oversimplification of what was said. Miller has always said that road tolls were a last resort, to come if the city had nowhere else to find the revenue. And now that McGuinty has reaffirmed his party's promise to turn over $312 million in gas tax revenue to the cities, the toll proposal is off the table.
This hasn't stopped Tory from hooking onto this issue and hammering at it, as if this was the only chink in Miller's armour. This hasn't stopped his campaign team for spinning and distorting the facts, including putting words in Miller's mouth. This hasn't stopped the Tory campaign from using Photoshop tricks to make David Miller look like a criminal.
In short, the Tory campaign has started to fearmonger: David Miller will toll your highways! David Miller will raise your taxes! David Miller will cozy up with the teachers unions -- er, sorry, just unions!
Sounds familiar, doesn't it? What's surprising, though, is that some major players who worked on McGuinty's campaign are now on Tory's team. They should know what made the McGuinty campaign work, but now they are taking pages from Eves' playbook.
It's too early to say that John Tory is making the same mistake that Ernie Eves made at the start of the provincial election campaign. For one thing, John Tory could still win. For another, unlike Eves, John Tory has solid ideas on how to improve the city of Toronto (as evidenced by the fact that you don't have to dig too deep among the Miller and Tory camps to see the grudging respect each has for the other). However, if this fearmongering campaign continues (it is showing signs of easing off) and David Miller ends up winning anyway, then Toronto residents will have chosen hope over fear; they will have voted for something instead of against something else.
Once, with the McGuinty campaign, might have been a fluke. Twice could well be the start of an interesting new trend.
Oh, For the Love of Pete!
Remember when I said that the elections in Kitchener-Waterloo just aren't interesting compared to Toronto? Well, they just got a lot more interesting. And, of all places, they got more interesting in the campaign for Catholic School Board trustee.
Greg Reitzel and Don DeMarco, during an all candidate's meeting, spoke out against free access to information in our libraries. According to the K-W Record (Thursday, October 23rd edition, page B3):
"We should have more books that are strictly Catholic," said Reitzel, a New Hamburg father.
He said he has seen material that made him blush while browsing in the St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School library, which is shared with the City of Cambridge library. Reitzel said he thought that partnership decision was unfortunate.
(Don) DeMarco, who works in the high-tech field, said there should be a review of books and resources in the libraries.
"We have to find those books that appear to be Catholic, but aren't entirely," he said.
And do what, I wonder? Burn them?
Further statements show that Reitzel and DeMarco are less interested in educating Catholic students than they are about foisting their limited brand of religion on them, but it's the statements against the libraries that really gets my goat.
The Catholic and public school boards have pooled their resources with the local library system, saving a lot of taxpayers' money while still fostering a love of reading among our students. Statements such as these affects the general public, not just the students of Catholic schools. The library at St. Benedict's Catholic Secondary School (in Cambridge) is open to the general public and lends to the general public. Reitzel is either advocating throwing out some of the books in the collection, or breaking the agreement between the two organizations and using taxpayers money to build a separate library for the school -- one with a sanitized collection free of books which challenges his narrow worldview.
Before you say that this is a matter internal to Catholics, I have to point out that the Catholic school board in Ontario receives government funding as if it were a public school board (it's a constitutional thing; I won't bore you with the reasons why). The decisions made here affect the way my tax dollars are spent, so you can be darn sure that this issue is of interest to me.
Besides, Erin is a good Catholic (despite what Reitzel might say) and we intend to raise our children Catholic. They will be going through this same school system, and I intend to do my best as a voter to make sure that this system gives my children the best education possible.
Unfortunately, I can't show up to vote against these people, as they're running in the Waterloo, Wellesley, Woolwich and Wilmot portion of the region, and the City of Kitchener has a separate slate of Catholic school board candidates. There is a Carol Reitzel running here, whose platform is similarly loopy, so chances are that I'll be voting against her.
But this does emphasize the importance of getting out and voting. The municipal governments are the ones that effect your daily lives the most, especially if you are a parent, and yet these elections suffer from the lowest participation rate. When voter participation is low, the crazies get in, and have more of an influence on your lives.
Let's not let that happen.