Bored to death in Ontario government and politics .. or do strange surprises lie ahead, after all this heat?

Jul 18th, 2011 | By | Category: In Brief

A forest fire burns Friday about 270 kilometres north-northeast of Sioux Lookout, Ont. (Mitch Miller/Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources/Canadian Press).

“Tell me why this coming Ontario election isn’t going to bore me to death,” a friend  who pays only a respectable citizen’s dutiful attention to politics asked a few weeks ago. And I’ve been trying to come up with a suitable response ever since.

Right now, with the headline “Northern Ontario battles 92 wildfires as more loom” on my mind, the best answer seems to be what if half the province burns down before the election this coming October 6?  That should somewhat relieve the boredom, shouldn’t it?

Others will say (as some did when the question was first asked) that “depressing” not “boring” is a better description of Ontario electoral politics right now. An Ipsos Reid poll last week showed the governing McGuinty Liberals with a mere 31%. The Ontario New Democrats, under new leader Andrea Horwath, were at 22% — “a gain of five percentage points in overall support since January.” And Tim Hudak’s Conservatives had a strong lead at 42%.

Ted Danson, Zach Galifianakis, and Jonathan Ames in the excellent HBO TV series “Bored to Death,” which will apparently be starting its third season sometime. If the October 6, 2011 Ontario election is as boring as this show, that will be memorable indeed.

According to Adam Radwanski at the Globe and Mail, the Hudak Conservatives’ Changebook platform is just “an option for ‘keeping Dalton McGuinty’s priorities without keeping Dalton McGuinty.’” If this were the deepest truth, bored-to-death probably would be the most sensible reaction to this fall’s election.

But Changebook has also been called “ a bold combination of deficit reduction, targeted spending reductions and broad tax cuts that have been hotly debated since its release.” This sounds more like Toronto’s new Mayor Rob Ford — or even the old Ontario Conservative premier, Mike “the Knife’ Harris, that the McGinty Liberals try to portray Conservative leader Tim Hudak as (when they aren’t trying to pin the same label on NDP leader Andrea Horwath).

Firefighters from across Canada are battling more than 90 wildfires in northwestern Ontario.

And if there is much to this side of the story at all, then many among us could probably agree that a victory of the Hudak Conservatives over the McGuinty Liberals (as the polls currently seem to foretell) probably would be most aptly described as depressing, at best. (As just the latest sign of how absurd and pedantic but perhaps nonetheless effective Tim Hudak’s campaign has become, today we learn that “Ontario’s sex offenders to wear GPS if Tories elected.”)

Whatever happens, one thing that might make the October 6 Ontario election a bit more interesting is its place in a larger assortment of Canadian provincial and territorial elections this fall. The regional people of Prince Edward Island and the Northwest Territories will be going to the polls on Monday, October 3, 2011.  They will be followed by Manitoba on Tuesday, October 4, then Ontario on Thursday, October 6, and then Newfoundland and Labrador on Tuesday, October 11, and then Saskatchewan on Monday, November 7.

Ontario summer at Bala in Muskoka. Who needs politics, of any desc ription, on a day like this?

Another source of a potentially more interesting Ontario election on October 6 is an intriguing  new (or dramatically renovated) political website called ontarionewswatch.com. From this source today, eg, you can learn that “McGuinty Liberals campaigning against Ford” (according to the Toronto Sun at any rate). You can also watch some thought-provoking video commentary from the likes of former Ontario attorney general Michael Bryant and MPP Gilles Bisson.

In the midst of all the summer heat in Canada’s most populous province, it is unreasonable to expect the still rather quiet Ontario provincial election campaign to become too interesting too soon. But I am personally hoping things will change the closer we get to Labour Day.

That may sound pretty lame. But for the moment — and again in all the heat —  it seems the best I can do.

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