I went to an all-candidates meeting tonight, and I have to say that it was somewhat different from the last provincial one I'd attended (was it really four years ago?!), yet in so many ways the same. Dalton "Greaseweasel" McGuinty was notably absent from this one, as was that angry man from the family coalition party. Fortunately, only McGuinty had a stand-in to represent him, and the audience was spared a round of gay-bashing ear-rape. These were pleasant diversions, because the Liberal message was not simply piggybacked on Dalton's immense, inexplicable popularity. A spotlight was cast on electoral reform, and it was the conservative candidate alone who railed against it (even the moderator expressed a great passion for the new system!). The Liberals, for their part, were impartial. It was, on many levels, a good night.
The setting was more intimate than the High School Gym of four years ago, and at that range, the scripted-ness of candidate responses became painfully obvious. The NDP candidate was new, having replaced the parachuted-in Monia Mazigh, and it showed. She outlined admirable goals, and I do think she has real concerns, and is quite passionate about politics. I hope that her confidence will grow over time, however, because her quiet, unsteady voice was just not convincing enough. This is NOT a blanket complaint about women in politics; I've heard confident women speak, and they're damn good at it. In another four years or so, I hope to report back with a glowing review of this woman; I want to tell you that she conveyed her drive and her vision, underlining it with strength and resolve! It's sad, but I can't say that now.
The Liberal and Conservative speakers didn't do much to distinguish themselves from each other, although they seemed to try an awful lot. Essentially, the Liberal promised to continue undoing former PC policies, and the PC promised to scrap current Liberal policies. There was talk of leadership and promises from both sides, as well as question evasion, ad-hominem attacks, and even a heated minute where both stood and shouted at each other until the moderator (who is not being paid enough, let me tell you, even if the job's supposed to be done for free!) finally got them to sit down and wait until all candidates had been given a chance to answer the question asked. The two parties ignored the NDP and the Greens, and delivered back-and-fourth rhetoric with no imagination, no innovation. They bickered all the night through, with more lip service paid to how bad for Ontario the other guy was than to how good for Ontario their own party would be. To be honest, the largest difference between the two was in the colour of their ties. Both were wearing suits with thin-stripe blue-and-white shirts, while delivering nothing but cliché arguments. The only way in which the conservative distinguished himself was in his poorly-grounded opposition to MMP, and derision for "druggies" and "rowdy teens". These two parties - not only the representatives, but the general attitudes that we see reflected every election campaign - were an insult to the debate, and to democracy itself!
Finally, JUST AS IN THE LAST PROVINCIAL ALL-CANDIDATES MEETING I ATTENDED, the Green Party candidate delivered what were easily the best answers, made the second-least number of attacks on other parties' policies and leaders (the NDP made none), refrained from interrupting, presented fresh ideas, and all of this without straying outside his allotted time. Just like before, the Green Party platform stood head and shoulders above all others; solutions were offered, not stopgaps. One issue stands out in my mind, and that's taxation. Where the NDP would avoid increasing personal taxes by hiking taxes for "those who can afford to pay" (ie. corporations), the Greens would "tax what you burn, not what you earn". This is to say that consumption of energy, water, coal, oil...even sand and gravel would be taxed moreso than they are today. By creating a system in which a company can maximize profits by maximizing efficiency (maximum profit per unit of resource consumed), the Greens would accomplish far more for the environment than would the NDP in their assault upon their high-earning "oppressors" (I overstate, but that's what it came across as).
I hate the idea that big business influences my life heavily, but I have a sense of justice, too: punishment should apply IF WRONG IS DONE. Earning money is not wrong, but doing it in a manner which is detrimental to human dignity or the environment IS. For the human element, we have workplace legislation (safety codes, etc), and Unions (love 'em or hate 'em). While exact parallels of these institutions might not be best, the environment must be given a voice of its own. Should a company make certain people very rich in a humane and ecologically sound manner, the problems of money and influence will not dissapear, but THE COMPANY ITSELF IS BEING RESPONSIBLE, and within a capitalist economy such as ours, that will be one hell of a step forward. Theoretically, it should be just as effective to make business work for society as it would be to enter into a state of war between the two. One option gets changes made, the other just fosters needless enmity. This world belongs to the most downtrodden worker as much as it does to the most wealthy capitalist, and if we invite the downfall of our species, all the wealth possessed by the latter will only keep him or her alive for so much longer...not that it would matter in the end. Co-operation, then, not conflict is the rational solution to environmental problems.
Disclaimer: I happen to know our local Green Candidate, I happen to be one of the signatories on his nomination (for running in general, not internal party nomination) papers. My father is his CFO. I'm a Green supporter, and OF COURSE I'm biased. That doesn't change the fact that out of three potential MPPs and one Stand-In, Two acted...well, to call it "juvenile" would be an insult to even poorly-adjusted children, One visibly lacked confidence, and just ONE stood out as a human being who answered REAL QUESTIONS with REAL ANSWERS.
That one was John Ford, Green Party Candidate for Ottawa South