Be nice to your candidates

The good book says we should love our neighbours but there is no mention of political candidates.

I happen to have a particular admiration for the women and men who aspire to public office and are willing to make the sacrifice of time and effort to go door to door begging for votes and stand on debate platforms praying they won’t make fools of themselves.

Volumes have been written about the foibles of election campaigning with whole chapters devoted to vicious dogs, brats with water guns, and adults hurling verbal abuse and worse.

In more recent times, politicians at all levels are reporting serious threats to themselves and their families as society becomes more polarized and public discourse becomes less civilized.

It’s no job for the faint-hearted.

One of our local candidates in the June 2 provincial election keeps a daily tally of his campaign schedule. As of this weekend, Gary Bennett, the Progressive Conservative candidate, has knocked on 9,122 doors in Kingston and the Islands.

Some of his 8 fellow candidates representing other parties may have an equally hectic record. We’ll find out the results of all this effort when the votes are counted this coming Thursday.

For this veteran political junkie, who has scars to show for her participation in more campaigns than I can remember, I’ve found that this 2022 provincial election has been about as exciting as watching paint dry.

Televised debates usually provide red meat for voters interested enough to switch off Netflix or the sports channel and watch the party leaders duke it out. Alas, the leaders of the four main provincial parties engaged in only one debate and it turned out to be a genteel 90-minute exchange of ideas.

It was definitely in sharp contrast to the verbal knife fight viewers witnessed when the contestants for the current leadership of the federal Conservative Party took off the gloves in two televised debates leading up to the September 10 vote.

Locally, in the provincial election, there have been a few all-candidates debates but they have been poorly advertised. Local media coverage has been limited and uninspiring. Except for these past two weeks, my guess is that most households are unaware---or don’t care---that Canada’s most populous and biggest economy province is in the home stretch of an election campaign.

I can’t remember when there have been so few lawn signs---- joy no doubt for the eco-warriors who regard signage as wasteful and a hazard to the environment. To me, a visual reminder that citizens are actively engaged in the democratic process is both healthy and encouraging.

I love the environment but I also love democracy and a burst of enthusiasm and support for the process every few years is just what we need---especially in these days when respect for and confidence in our democratic institutions is under siege thanks in part to the pitiful state of politics in the U.S.

Barring something unexpected in the dying days, the results of the June 2nd vote have been pretty well tracked since the opening gun and Doug Ford is sleepwalking his way back to the corner office at Queen’s Park—possibly with another majority government.

Even the Liberal-leaning Toronto Star could not bring itself to urge voters to throw out Ford’s Tories. Its election editorial on the last weekend before the vote went only as far as calling for strategic voting by progressives to ensure Ford is denied a majority.

For the Fordites, this has been a remarkably gaffe-free campaign.

He and his team have been accused of running a peek-a-boo campaign but there’s not a political advisor on the planet who would suggest this is a bad strategy. If you’re winning the war, why expose yourself and your troops to unnecessary risk and harm?

Ford is a frustrating opponent. People are attracted to his folksy persona and his appeal to both drivers of pricey electric vehicles and second-hand pickups.

Folks might not always agree with what Ford is telling them but he’s talking to them in language they understand. He’s the guy next door who helps you shovel your sidewalk or boost your battery---not the slick politician or bureaucrat who lectures, hectors and beats around the bush. To many, he is unsophisticated but a breath of fresh air.

Critics say he’s a phony---that he might have a big heart but the object of his affection is his developer and donor friends. They say his promise to build a new Highway 413 connecting suburbs in the Peel region west of Toronto will swell developers’ pockets while swallowing up farmland and protected areas of forest and wetlands.

Supporters of the highway---including commuters and private sector unions—see critically-needed additional housing and other economic development and the jobs that go with it.

Ordinary voters like most of us don’t know which side is right and we can only hope and trust in the wisdom and honesty of those we elect.

Me? I’m voting strategically.

If Doug Ford is re-elected Premier---and especially if he gets a majority mandate---it is critical that we have a strong government caucus to advise and help direct the government for the next four years. We are living in troubled economic times.

In Kingston and the Islands, we are fortunate to have strong candidates representing the three major parties and one of the three will be our next MPP: Gary Bennett of the Progressive Conservatives, Mary Rita Holland of the NDP and Ted Hsu of the Liberals.

I have followed their careers and I believe them all to be experienced politicians with strong credentials and proven leadership abilities.

I’m voting for Gary Bennett because with a Conservative government in office, this riding will benefit most from a Conservative MPP. And Gary Bennett promises to be a strong voice for this riding---hopefully at the cabinet table and definitely in the government caucus.

This riding has not sent a Conservative MPP to Queen’s Park since Keith Norton was elected in 1975 and served for 10 years. People who voted for and remember Keith as a senior cabinet minister in the Bill Davis government now have grandchildren of voting age.

Former Liberal MPP John Gerretsen showed us the importance of being on the government side. In his years as a senior cabinet minister in the Liberal McGuinty and Wynne governments, this riding benefitted from his presence and influence.

Just as Keith Norton brought what is known locally as the OHIP building and its well-paying jobs to this riding, the new Providence Care Hospital is probably the best example of the John Gerretsen legacy.

There was a time when Kingston and the Islands were represented in cabinet at both the federal and provincial levels at the same time. Conservatives Keith Norton and Flora Macdonald were known as the dream team in the 70s and 80s. Before that, both Tory Syl Apps and Liberal Edgar Benson were stars at Queen’s Park and on Parliament Hill.

When we didn’t have a federal cabinet minister, our Liberal MP Peter Milliken was highly regarded and influential as Speaker of the House of Commons.

In more recent times, when this area’s politicians have been in the headlines it was more often than not thanks to whack doodles like former MP Derek Sloan (Hastings-Lennox and Addington) and former MPP Randy Hillier(Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston) both of them social conservatives with extreme views on social issues.

Ah, the good olde days!

The countdown to election day 2022 has begun. It’s almost all over but the shouting.

Get out there and vote----it will at the very least give you the right to criticize and complain.

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