Preliminary ﬁgures shows that only 49.02 per cent of registered voters cast a ballot. For the ﬁrst time in Ontario history, less than half cast a ballot to decide who would form the next government. This means more people essentially chose “none of the above.” The emphasis on “registered” is important because there are thousands of working-class citizens, so marginalized that they don’t even appear on the voter’s list (and to this we should add thousands of disenfranchised immigrants with “no status,” some of whom have lived here for decades.)
What are the implications of this massive abstinence? What does it tell us about the supposed “democratic” system in which we live?
For example, the Liberals, who gained only 37 per cent of the vote, have the right to govern this province with the votes of only about 18 per cent of the registered voters. If we take into account non-registered Ontarians we can see how small a mandate they really have.
So why is this the case? More voting options were offered this time than anytime in history. Internet voting was introduced in some parts. There was even “assistive voting technology” to help those with hearing and seeing impairments.
“Educated” elites (or cynics of all types) like to tell us that this is due to the electorate’s ignorance that they don’t have a sense of “civic duty.”
I, however, would argue that the problem doesn’t lie with people but with the system.
Looking back at the platforms of main political parties during the Ontario elections, we should ask ourselves if there was a single one who offered real solutions to unemployment, our ailing economy, and prevailing social inequalities. The answer is none.
The NDP, the party that was built by workers and progressives to challenge the status quo didn’t offer much more either. Horwath, who was mostly unknown to people before the debate, promised “change that puts people ﬁrst.” But her platform didn’t have much that was different from the parties of big business.
Looking at NDP’s platform, one actually wonders what Horwath meant by “change” since all she offered was the status quo. For solving the job crisis, she proposed to hire a ‘jobs commissioner,’ basically, another overpaid bureaucrat who could somehow beg the big business to please invest and “create jobs.” She suggested freezing already very high transit fares. For workers who drive, the NDP’s long-time policy of creating public auto insurance was abandoned (for the ﬁrst time in recent history).
When it comes to areas where NDP has usually fared better (health care and education) again, nothing more than status quo was offered. In fact, the NDP promised an additional $53 billion investment in health over the next four years. That is $7 billion short of what is required to cover the current rate of increase in expenditures. An NDP government was going to cut health care by 2015.
And ﬁnally, no doubt, the most disappointing section of NDP’s platform was post-secondary education. Directly going against its own policy, again and again ratiﬁed at its conventions, the party promised a freeze on already skyrocketing tuition fees.
We can see that none of the parties — not even my very own NDP — offered policies that would stand up to the austerity agenda that the capitalist governments are offering around the world.
While I had many positive reactions when canvassing in this election, I felt sympathy with every door that was shut on me with every working-class person who told me “these politicians are all the same.”
After all, this is the true balance sheet of the bogus capitalist “democracy”: Three successive governments (NDP, Progressive Conservatives, Liberal) have carried through cuts and austerity, and today, none of them promises anything else. Besides, there is no accountability whatsoever. Once elected, there is no meaningful way people can participate in making decisions that determine the course of their lives. (let alone the fact that most important decisions are not taken in Queen’s Park but in the boardroom tables that none of us are invited to).
This system offers little avenue for any sort of political participation.
Previously in this newspaper, I asked a question: with the situation as it is can our system even be called “rule of the people”? When I wrote that article, back in December 2010, I also said that these are not just “far-left musings” and that “thousands of Canadians [are] asking themselves this question.”
I might have been proven correct because merely a few weeks after this dismal turnout, thousands around the country are planning to launch #occupymovements
similar to the one in New York. By taking aim at big corporations and banks, they show that they know very well where the power lies. They are voting with their feet.
It is the job of political activists, including those in the NDP, to offer a solution that people can rally around so they can abolish this non-participatory dictatorship of capitalism and replace it with a democratic socialist system, where resources are owned collectively and people can rule directly through their own institutions.