Ontario provincial election becomes more fantasy than fact

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This is, it would appear, the election of fantastical numbers.

There's Tim Hudak, who by some counter-mathematical wizardry -- stolen from the American right, apparently -- intends to cut 100,000 jobs in order to create a million. So maybe it should be called the 900,000 Job Plan?

Now Andrea Horwath's NDP has unleashed the latest barrage in fantasy number wizardry: Andrea's Plan Savings Calculator.

Deftly designed to meet the needs of an era where flashy apps substitute for political ideas, the calculator shows you how much money you will save in a future Andrea Horwath's Ontario.

But is saving money the only thing that matters? Let's go through the process.

It's a fairly painless online exercise:

"Do you live in a house or an apartment?" -- Apartment, of course.

"Do you own a car?" Haha, no.

"Are you a university or college student?" University!

"Are you a graduate with a student loan?" -- Duh, it's Ontario. Who doesn't have a loan?

"Would you be interested in retrofitting your home to be more energy efficient?" Home? You mean that apartment I have? Wait, by retrofitting, do you mean getting the landlord to add a reliable hot water boiler and fix the windowpanes?

"Are you a caregiver for an elderly or ill friend or someone with a disability?" No.

Anticipation mounts. How much will I save?!

Stop! Before telling you the magic numbers, "Please enter your name, email address and postal code."

Sigh. Well I've gone this far, and chances are they'll be ringing my doorbell anyway. Ok.

Voila! You will save $850!

Wait…that's it? I mean, $850 is nice, but do I even get to know how I'll save that money?

Herein lies the most counter-intuitive part of the process.

Instead of explaining how certain NDP policy proposals will save me money, the app apparently presumes I won't understand and simply leaves me with the magic number: $850! On which basis I suppose I'm supposed to vote NDP.

If amounts of money saved were the only thing that mattered, we'd be a fairly dysfunctional democracy. You see, politics are not about how to save money, it's about how to spend it. It's about what things our government will decide to spend the public collective wealth on, and how those expenditures will affect our lives.

After all, if it were just about saving money, there's all sorts of appalling policy proposals one could come up with -- most of them feature quite prominently in the platform of Tim Hudak's Conservatives.

One could simply lower taxes, shut down hospitals, close schools.

Typically speaking, when I vote for a party it's because I want them to spend money on something worthwhile -- say education, or health care. I don't vote for parties to save money. Democracy isn't a savings account, and dollar amounts are among the last things that should be entering our heads at the polling booth. Policies, not figures, are what we should be thinking about.

To be honest, I hate critiquing the NDP, because the alternatives seem invariably worse. Although, some parties are more in fantasyland than others (aka Tim "No taxes! No public services! Jobs for all!" Hudak).

I'll probably still vote for the NDP because they're the party so many of my friends and fellow community members are passionately campaigning for in the hopes that they will fulfill what progressive commitments they haven't yet dropped.  

But when I cast my ballot, I will think this: I'm sick and tired of casting it for the least worst party.

I want to cast my ballot for a party that excites me with their vision, stimulates me with their ideas and doesn't feel a need to brand their leader's head on everything. I will still vote, because democracy is one of the most important rights we have in our society and must be upheld even in the face of the stupidity of the people it elects.

In an election that's being driven more by magical faerie dust than hard facts and ideas, it doesn't leave one much faith in the direction Ontario will be going. No matter who gets elected.

Hans Rollman is a graduate student (PhD in Gender, Feminist & Women's Studies) at York University and an editor and writer. He is a reporter and editor with the independent media site TheIndependent.ca, and has been published in a range of other publications including Briarpatch Magazine, Macleans On-Campus, Feral Feminisms and more.

Photo: flickr/ Images Money

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