Why I voted as I did in the Ontario Election
Oct 18, 2011

Why I voted as I did in the Ontario Election

While I wrote quite a few blog posts on the 2011 Ontario Election, both generally and specifically with regards to my riding of Parkdale-Highpark, I never actually indicated precisely who I was voting for. I thus explain my reasoning here, belatedly, partly with the intent of being a record for myself in the future, and partly with the hope that exposure to people's varied reasons for voting as they do would be interesting or illuminating.

I voted for the NDP incumbent Cheri DiNovo, who was ultimately re-elected. I generally believe that we ought to at least check if there is a strong case, based on polling numbers, to vote strategically, and that while there is certainly a role for ideological voting, if one accepts such a term, it is worth being at least cognizant of the broader context.

The context in my specific riding was that polls indicated an overwhelming chance of reelection for Cheri DiNovo, with a perhaps thirty point gap between her and the Liberal Candidate, Cortney Pasternak. For the province, the likely outcomes were a Liberal majority, a Liberal minority, or possibly a Progressive Conservative minority. As we know, the end result was one seat short of a majority for the Liberals.

Given the situation in the riding, the choice was rather inconsequential, and one could either essentially ratify the candidate or vote for one of the other parties with the goal of shifting the political conversation, building momentum for multi-election goals, etc.

Given that there was a reasonable chance of a Liberal minority—an outcome I favored for reasons explained here—it was important to have strong and excellent NDP MLAs who could lead the opposition in a formal or informal coalition. Cheri DiNovo is both recognized as one of the leaders of the ONDP and was, from my perspective, a pretty good candidate. Thus, ratifying her vote and expanding her support would give further credence to her popularity and mandate as a leading member that would have real influence in a minority government situation.

The main reason I liked her was because of a very genuine and impassioned support, in a completely egalitarian way, for the poor and otherwise downtrodden in our society. She performed the first gay marriage in North America, which really demonstrates her progressive leadership, in my opinion. In her ministry (she was a United reverend, religious author, and PhD in Theology) she was a champion of drug users, homeless, impoverished, gay, transgendered and the like, and she has carried this through to her politics. She has apparantly shared many of these as past experiences growing up. Many polititians touch on egalitarianism as a value that it is recognized one ought to support, but few really champion it and mean it to the extent that she does. I thus found it corresponding both with my ideological sentiments as well as with my pragmatic strategic sentiments to vote for her.

I had no real problem Cortney Pasternak, the Liberal candidate. She wasn't particularly inspiring or experienced, but would have made a fine back bencher if she had been elected and corresponded with enough of my values to have some support from me. However, given how she had little chance at winning according to polls, there seemed to be little point because there isn't any narrative shifting or multi-election movement building purpose in voting for the establishment parties the way there is for third parties.

The obvious third party to consider was the Green party. I rather liked the Green candidate, Justin Trottier. He is an important voice in the secular community, something I fully endorse, and I wish him well. However, what excites me about the Green party is the focus on global warming and clean energy. That is the viewpoint that I would attempt to bring to prominence in our discourse, and eventually our policy, by voting Green. However, at the debate I went to, Justin never brought these concepts up once and his background, laudable though it may be, is in secularism and not environmentalism. With the Liberal party making real gains in Green issues, I didn't think voting for the Green party in this riding accomplished much in the way of shifting the conversation.

With good reasons to vote for the NDP candidate, and no compelling reason to vote for the others, Cheri DiNovo was a fairly easy choice.

One last issue which did enter my mind quite a bit was the religious one. In an election that pitted an evangelical against an atheist, one might have thought that I, as a staunch atheist, would be far more likely to vote for the latter. All else being equal, and without the above reasoning, this may have been the case. I want to see a diminished role of religion in our society and exposure to explicit secularism is important. That said, much like the environmental issues, Justin Trottier didn't emphasize this topic in the campaign and seemed to almost deliberately hide it. Secondly, Cheri DiNovo represents among the best of Christianity. If more were like her, at would have much less of an issue with it. I thus didn't find this issue, important as it is to me generally, to be compelling in this case.

One final note is that the end result was far closer than the polls indicated in this riding at 46/37/12/3 for NDP/Lib/PC/Grn. NDP and PC both were about 10 points lower than the last www.threehundredeight.com projection and that was made up by the Liberal candidate. Knowing this doesn't substantially change how I would vote (althought the Liberal candidate would deserve at least more consideration) but it does indicate how much more variable individual riding polls are compared to province wide polls. This is largely due to extremely poor data (there are few if any individual riding polls, most are just regional extrapolations) and perhaps ought to lower the sensitivity we put on individual riding polls in making voting judgements.

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