TVO has asked each of the four major parties to blog on their site throughout this provincial election, dealing with several specific issues/questions each week. I’m blogging on behalf of the Green Party of Ontario, beginning today. I’ll crosspost everything to here, but the back-and-forth between myself and the other bloggers will happen on the TVO Election Battle Blog.
Today’s Question: “What do you think will be the most important issue of the 2007 Ontario Election campaign?”
Of course, absent a crystal ball it’s impossible to know what the most important issue will be in this election, and most campaigns end up taking unexpected twists and turns. So far, funding for religious schools has probably played most prominently in the media, and I know several people plan to vote based on that issue alone. From a strictly selfish/partisan point of view, I wouldn’t mind if that stuck. With the Liberals and NDP supporting the status quo of one religion receiving funding to the exclusion of all others (in opposition to most Ontarians’ sense of fairness, as well as two separate United Nations censures for religious discrimination), and with the Conservatives’ wildly-ridiculed and unrealistic plan to divert money from the public school system in order to fund all religions, the Green Party of Ontario’s plan to create one, publicly funded and cost-efficient school system is clearly the most reasonable, and, according to polls, enjoys the support of most voters.
I think a more interesting and important question, however, is what should be the most important issue of this campaign. Or, in other words, when we look back at the end of the next government’s term, what will we wish we’d spent more time debating? In that case, three things come to mind. First, for those of us familiar with the science of climate change and the fact that it’s accelerating far more rapidly than climatologists predicted, it’s hard to consider that any other issue could be more important than meeting our green obligations to ourselves and the world. When we’re talking about climate change, we’re talking about the uncertainty that our planet will continue to be able to support life as we know it via clean air, drinkable water, and fertile soil. And we are no longer talking about “the world we leave for our grandchildren;” The IPCC says we only have 8 years to make the significant changes that must be made. By the time we have another provincial election in 2011, half of that window will have passed. Therefore, it’s critical that our provincial government makes the right decisions in the next 4 years in areas where they can make a difference, like, for example, energy policy.
Which brings me to the second issue I think voters should think carefully about: the Liberal/Conservative plan to spend $40 billion dollars on nuclear power. If in the next 30 days we decide to go down that path, we will have made a mistake with a million-year legacy. The reasons to oppose nuclear power are many, and I’ve outlined them in detail on my blog. For now, suffice it to say that nuclear is extremely fiscally irresponsible, and, despite expensive PR campaigns, is ineffective in addressing the climate crisis. The last nuclear plant built in Ontario went 270% over budget, and we’re all still playing down the debt from those plants. Do we really want to add another $40 billion to that debt, to say nothing of the environmental or health concerns, or the fact that nuclear takes 12 years to build, and we’re in an energy crisis now?
Finally, and somewhat ironically, the most important issue in this election may have nothing to do with which party or candidate you vote for. October 10th is not just a provincial election, it’s also the date for a referendum on electoral reform. In my opinion, the most important vote I’ve cast in my lifetime will be to vote for Mixed Member Proportional (MMP), as recommended by the 103 randomly-selected citizens who worked on our behalf. MMP is not a perfect system (nothing is), but by a vote of 94-8 the Citizens’ Assembly concluded that it’s better than the one we have now. Under MMP you’d get to cast two votes: one for your preferred candidate, and one for your preferred party. It would also mean that a party that got 40% of the vote would get 40% of the seats (not 60%), and that more women and minorities would be represented in the legislature. For more information, visit voteformmp.ca.