In our quest to be a “World Class City” we’ve been spending far too much time on comparison and too little time taking a hard look at the places and things to which we compare ourselves. The best example currently is Yonge-Dundas Square, the north side of which is finally taking shape. I am constantly hearing people refer to Yonge-Dundas as “Toronto’s Times Square”, a place of light and action that will serve as hub for the city. But what are we emulating? Is Times Square the heart of New York City? And even if it is, is Toronto similar enough to New York that we should have a similar heart?
You have to feel for provincial politics. They have all the practical issues and none of the passion. You’d think that people would be more interested in discussing health, education and crime, so why then does this provincial election seem like such a none event? What do municipal and federal elections have that the provincial doesn’t? Simple. It lacks philosophy.
At the federal level we’re always talking about “what kind of Canada” we want to leave for our children and discussions at the municipal level tend to run along a similar line. But what about the province? Ontario is a rich province but not so rich that it can define our identity. We are also not so culturally distinct (I think of the Newfoundlanders here as much as Quebecers) that we require our leader to be a defender of uniqueness. We are just Ontarians, reviled for our central location and dominant history yet also somewhat plain. As a result, Ontario’s leaders have the benefit of not being burdened with such nebulous dilemmas and can focus on managing the basic and important facets of our lives with which they are charged. Yet, there is so little public interest.
The leaders in this election have tried to bait us with the ultimate philosophical debate, religion. Specifically how to fund religious schools, if at all. Although the media dug into the bait with greedy fangs, the public seemed to pick their side and quickly become bored. Proof that religion is too polarizing to be the prominent feature of an election campaign. The real tragedy is that there didn’t seem to be any other meat that the 2 front-running leaders cared to chew. John Tory continues to run around pretending like Mike Harris never existed. The Premier and Howard Hampton try to dig up other issues only to find out that nobody cares. Where are the concerned voters of Ontario? Where is our democracy? I can only imagine that we’re going to see a lower than expected voter turnout.
It seems that even the prospect of a significant change to the way we elect our representatives can’t create a little fire in the people. I suppose that’s because most people I talk to don’t understand the referendum. I wonder if that’s how the voters in Quebec felt? Probably not, they gave a shit.
A strong democracy really needs people to be engaged and with the greater than normal number of elections we’ve had in the last 5 years I suppose I expected a upsurge in interest. But it would seem that either the people are just more interested in the issues that are less tangible, though equally important. It’s likely the blogosphere wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t a greater interest in talking about the big topics rather than dealing with the daily ones.
I tried to create some angst for myself by becoming temporarily interested in the PC candidate here in the heart of Glorious Parkdale. Alas, it was never to be and I shall vote for the candidate and party that is best suited to our depressed, yet eager neighborhood. And as for the referendum…anyone who believes that democracy can evolve should be in favour of MMP. Maybe it isn’t perfect but if this election is any indication what we have is surely broken.