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More mud. Less civility

Tuesday, June 03, 2014   by: Darren Taylor

Those who have observed politics for several years will notice that election campaigns, including the current provincial election campaign, are not quite as polite as they once were.

Instead of sticking solely to discussion of issues of importance to voters, politicians now seem to launch more attacks on the actions of their opponents as part of their strategy in getting elected to office.

“This has been a nastier campaign compared to thirty years ago when campaigns were more civilized,” Robert MacDermid, a York University political science professor, told

At the local level, Progressive Conservative candidate Rod Fremlin and his campaign team scolded Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne and her party for uploading Liberal party images in the media room of the Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board’s Holy Cross School when Wynne, accompanied by incumbent Liberal MPP David Orazietti, visited the school May 28.

While it was indeed determined that posting of party logos was a violation of non-partisan school board policy, it can be argued this was a relatively minor incident when so much more is at stake for Sault Ste. Marie voters.

At the same time, the local Liberals have taunted the New Democrats, pointing out NDP leader Andrea Horwath has so far skipped visiting Sault Ste. Marie in this campaign to support Sault NDP candidate Celia Ross.

Referring to old news clips he heard, in which Bob Rae and David Peterson (both former Ontario premiers, a New Democrat and Liberal, respectively) praised Bill Davis (a long-serving Progressive Conservative premier) upon his retirement in 1985, MacDermid said “you do get a sense that back in the 1970s and 80s politics was a little less aggressive and certainly not as personal as it has become.”

MacDermid shared his thoughts as to why provincial politics has gotten nastier.

“I think the answer is partly because the parties have gotten so close together ideologically in Ontario.”

How so?

“The Mike Harris years set the tone for many policies that have continued afterwards,” MacDermid said.

“Cuts to welfare, cuts to the public sector, the amalgamation of municipalities and school boards, many of those things Harris did (when the Progressive Conservatives governed from 1995 to 2003), Dalton McGuinty simply carried on… it wasn’t until recently that there was a raise in minimum wage.”

“Cuts to hospitals which Harris instituted, McGuinty (Liberal premier from 2003 to 2013, before being succeeded by Wynne) didn’t reverse many of those things,” MacDermid said.

“They (politicians) try to talk as if they‘re different, but, in actual policy terms when you look very closely, they’re very similar and have carried out the same kind of policies that have been carried out all over the world.”

“The NDP under Bob Rae was more of a left wing, working class party, but Horwath has decided, like (former British Prime Minister) Tony Blair, that she cannot win just by appealing to labour groups,” MacDermid said.     

Therefore, “when the parties are competing and their ideas are not that far apart, what’s left to contest?”

“If they agree on a lot of policy, then what’s left to disagree on?” MacDermid said.

“It comes down to the difference in leaders, it’s ‘he’s corrupt and I’m not’ and you tend to get these personal attacks as you do in American politics, where the two parties are very close together in policy terms and not much to fit between them.”

McDermid did say, however, that the intense questioning of Liberal spending on gas plants, eHealth and Ornge (the Ontario air ambulance service) and questioning the accuracy of Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak’s Million Jobs Plan is fair game.

Still, MacDermid said, “the campaign industry, which in the United States is a multi-billion dollar industry, has had a huge influence on Canadian politics, and the Liberals and the Conservatives in particular have been seeking advice from American consultants for attack ads, or personality-based ads.”

“I find it depressing and disturbing and it turns voters off from voting,” MacDermid said.

“Political operatives have found that it’s often better to persuade people not to go to the voting booth than to go to it…they try to discourage supporters of the other party not to turn out, to be so disgusted with politics that they won’t turn out to vote, while encouraging their own dedicated supporters to vote.”

Does MacDermid hold out any hope that politics will one day see less of a reliance on often nasty, personality-based campaigning?

“I don’t think there’s likely to be a return to civility in the near future, unless we ban things like political television advertising, but any government that benefits from these ads aren’t likely to make any changes,” MacDermid said.


Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
Sam C 6/3/2014 9:58:47 PM Report

If you want me to buy your product, tell me what is so good about it. Do not tell me what's wrong with your competitor's product.

KiwiOnASticK 6/3/2014 10:11:19 PM Report

You nailed it Sam!
Mr. Poster 6/3/2014 10:19:25 PM Report

The NDP are kings at that Sam.They can promise the moon knowing they will never be called upon to deliver.
IgnorantNortherner 6/3/2014 10:30:09 PM Report

Did you read the article, Sam? The reason they've resorted to the attacks is because THEY'RE ALL OFFERING THE SAME PRODUCT while attempting to convince you they are different.

Pepsi vs. Coke vs. Diet Coke and they're telling you that they offer three unique beverages when in reality they're all pretty similar and horrible for your health.
Right of Centre 6/3/2014 10:41:20 PM Report

Perhaps if you think they're selling the same product, you should read or listen to their platforms, and pay attention to party ideology.
Mr. Poster 6/3/2014 10:45:14 PM Report

Horwath was too busy interrupting...Wynne seems very nervous and defensive and rarely truly answered a question. Hudak was...well...just hudak.
SuperiorGuy 6/3/2014 10:53:27 PM Report

Perhaps the most interesting nugget of info came from the debate host who said be sure vote even if you 'decline your ballot'. Most don't know that is an option. More here:
anapeg 6/3/2014 11:07:28 PM Report

Each in turn trying to look taller by standing on the others shoulders. Vermin of the lowest order. If I am better I tell you how I am better not tell you how the other is not good.
MonsterLincolin 6/4/2014 12:12:05 AM Report

Reminds me of wrestlemania, were the oponents bash and bad mouth each other. When in reality its all staged and planned. The winner is known before the match even starts. They make it look real so the ratings for the appointed winner go up without any one being the wiser. That way they can control the out come and have who they want in the winners circle.......lmao
Journey 6/4/2014 12:27:43 AM Report

Can we get a story on declining our ballot? I read the democracy watch piece, but am unclear as to what happens because of that.
I would not be comfortable voting for anyone who is running locally for a major party, so I was just not going to vote.
If 28,00 turn out to vote and the declined ballots were the majority, would we send no one or would we send the runner up? If we send the runner up isn't that the same as not voting? The elections are so close that every winner knows the majority of their constituents did not send them to office.
I asked for help from our MPP last year regarding obtaining a certificate of completed apprenticeship with the Ministry of Whatever ( I don't know what the ministry handles trades is anymore because it changes more often than I buy cars, and has changed again since I received the letter). The instructions given me in the letter were not viable and there was no one to write to, so I sought help from our constituency office. That was one year ago. I have left messages on a bi-monthly basis and my calls have not been returned and the issue is still unresolved, and about to expire. Perhaps if one of the other candidates could resolve this they would get my vote. Only issue there is that our MPP has the letter and won't return my calls.
I guess, I'm just a disgruntled constituent.
dadal 6/4/2014 6:44:13 AM Report

I agree I am NOT impressed with our choices. The best option is the Green party which will never be voted in.

I tend to dissagree on the three offering the same products. They are all addressing the same issues but different solutions. Well, except for the NDP which is offering wha tthe Liberals proposed in their budget. And Hudack wants to create 1 million jobs by eliminating 10 thousand jobs using a mythical job fairy.
so-kendra 6/4/2014 6:49:08 AM Report

Rod Fremlin I'm sure is a nice man but he isn't a smart man when it comes to talking about political issue's. David O and Cilia Ross made him look very,very,very stupid when they were having their debate on LOCAL 2 news. Anyways people know matter who we vote for there all a bunch of lying money hungry "ASSHOLES" that are out to steal our hard earned money. And yes the Liberals have a lot to do with the cost of living going up so high that ppl can barely make ends meet. So when it comes to voting do the right thing.
osirisptah 6/4/2014 11:29:18 AM Report

@dadal - " The best option is the Green party which will never be voted in. "

If they are the best option, vote for them. They will never get in if we all keep hoping that voting the status quo will change something. How could they make things worse?

As far as Rod's debate.. He didn't do well, sure. However, I really don't think he was even speaking as a conservative. He was speaking as a local community member who recognizes that things need to change if they are to get better. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Even if Rod has all the best intentions for our area, ultimately the party line will be towed as usual.

Maybe voting something other than red, blue or orange is worth the shot in the dark this time around.
Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
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