Buying votes fuelling cynicism

On Sept. 6, residents of two provincial ridings will go to the polls in what will be the most important by-elections in Ontario history.
On the line in the ridings of Kitchener-Waterloo and Vaughan is the balance of power at Queen’s Park.
Following the Oct. 6 election, Kitchener-Waterloo was held by Progressive Conservative Elizabeth Witmer, who has since been appointed as the head of WSIB, while Vaughan was represented by Liberal stalwart Greg Sorbara, who has chosen to retire.
Winning both would give the Liberals their much-desired majority government.
Given the premier’s track record of sparing no expense to win southern Ontario ridings, such as wasting $180 million of taxpayers’ money to cancel a Mississauga power plant that he previously had approved, it is fair to assume he will stop at almost nothing to ensure victory in these ridings.
In fact, it’s recently been speculated that the newly-announced highway construction near Kitchener-Waterloo was his first attempt to buy the votes needed to win.
With these types of tactics at the premier’s disposal, it’s no wonder why so many are cynical about politics. Governing is supposed to be about serving the public—about putting partisan needs aside and doing what’s best for the province.
These recent examples show very clearly that this is not taking place.
It is for that reason I believe we need to review these significant and non-essential powers of the premier–in addition to limiting the types of appointments recently-retired MPPs can accept—to ensure governments no longer can “buy-out” elected officials.
Among the limits that should be imposed is protection for taxpayers that prevent a newly-elected government from making expensive cancellation decisions once work already has begun.
In this regard, we need to cap the length of contracts governments are able to sign.
In my view, no government should be able to sign a contract that extends decades beyond its term—something we’ve seen recently in the energy sector and even locally with MTO contracts.
Immediately after an election, there often is a great deal of discussion which centres on low voter turnout. Pundits lament and suggest that Ontarians—and Canadians—generally must be content with the status quo or else they would get more involved.
I contend that this isn’t necessarily the case. I believe it is antics such as those I have described that cause people to lose faith in our democratic system.
Actions aimed at benefitting a party over the province lead many to believe politicians are self-serving and only concerned with their own fortunes.
Many of us take democracy for granted. But it isn’t a dictator, alone, who is responsible for turning democracy into tyranny. The greatest threat to democracy is cynicism.
I believe we need to put partisan politics aside and work to restore faith in government and the political process.
Only then can we say we are doing everything possible to increase participation in our democratic process.