Reflections on the 2018 Ontario election, the alt-right, and how to not feel so small in the face of great challenges
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By Tara Mahoney
That is the sound that emerges from my mouth, my bones, and my brain every time I turn on my radio to hear the news in the morning. Kavanaugh. Separation of refugee families at the US-Mexico border. A Trump tax bill transferring wealth from the poor to the rich. Hate crimes. Climate change. Racial inequality. Income inequality. Missing and murdered Indigenous women.
Where does it end? The world is so unfair, and now I need to take my privileged white ass to class.
To top it all off, just when we were feeling all high-and-mighty up here in Canada after the election of Donald Trump — ‘That could never happen here!’ — Ontario went and elected a right-wing populist. The state of our world can be completely and totally paralyzing. In fact, I think most of us choose not to mobilize on election day for this reason. What is my one vote going to do to change any of these far-reaching, deep, systemic problems? And, if the same powerful rich people continue to be the only ones with access to public office, what will change by voting?
In June, 40 per cent of Ontarians who voted elected a Progressive Conservative government led by Doug Ford. But don’t let the word ‘progressive’ fool you: this party is the leftovers of a past conservative party, an artifact of Ontario politics that laughs in our faces each and every time someone is forced to put ‘progressive’ and ‘Doug Ford’ in the same sentence.
Let me be crystal clear: there is nothing progressive about Ford.
Who is he, anyway? Most of us just know him as some round, sweaty man who entered Ontario politics relatively recently and started shouting about hydro prices and balancing the budget. Through all the garbage of Ontario politics, you may have heard his campaign rallying cry: “For the people.” I feel very strongly that this phrase should be changed to ‘for my people’ as a result of the Ford government’s record since being elected.
Why? Well, let’s check his catalogue of offerings. A pledge to do away with the labour reform bill, which, among many other things, was going to raise the minimum wage to $15 in January. Pausing the creation of new overdose prevention sites, an initiative that’s proven to help reduce the tragic effects of the opioid crisis. Cancelling the basic income pilot, which helped thousands of low-income Ontarian families make ends meet. And, as the last of only a handful of examples, cancelling Ontario’s world-renowned cap-and-trade system, which brought in millions in annual government revenue and effectively reduced the province’s carbon emissions. Many of these policies, like the labour reform bill cancellation, will mean less money “for the people” and more money for the CEOs of large corporations. Did I mention that Ford owns a multimillion-dollar business, Deco Labels & Tags?
Despite that long list of negativity, there is a light at the end of the tunnel: millennials will become the largest voting bloc in North America. We have the power to affect change. And, despite all the bad in the world, there is good happening, too.
In Britain, Jeremy Corbyn’s brand of democratic socialism gained more popular support in the last federal UK election than anyone thought possible. Corbyn has advocated and continues to advocate for the nationalization of public utilities and railways, as well as the expansion of welfare and public services to support the most vulnerable of the British population.
In the US, the momentum that Bernie Sanders created in the 2016 election is continued by candidates seeking Senate and Congress seats. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 29-year-old American woman of Puerto Rican descent and a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, won the primary this summer against an incumbent Democrat who has held office for 19 years and is twice her age. As we speak, she is campaigning across the country for other candidates who, like her, were told that the odds were not in their favour. Something big is happening.
In Canada, 2015 federal election data tells us that young people handed Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party a majority by turning out in larger numbers. As Ocasio-Cortez said a couple of weeks ago, “Our swing voter is not red-to-blue. Our swing voter is the voter to the non-voter, the non-voter to the voter.” It is our responsibility to ourselves and to our children to engage in our democracy.
Progressivism is the rallying cry of young people in 2018. Young people overwhelmingly disapprove of Trump in the United States. They favour a path to citizenship for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community, gender equality, gun control, action on climate change, racial justice, and income equality. Therefore, larger voter turnout and millennial values should equal more progressive governments. Math!
In October 2019, young Canadians will have the opportunity to make a difference — they will have a say in whom they want to lead the country. Show your city, your province, and your country that you are not an apathetic millennial. Let the Doug Fords and the Donald Trumps of the world light a fire under your butt. Take that same butt, and perhaps the butt of a friend, to the polls. Even if you are doing the simple work of engaging your friends in a conversation about politics, you are contributing to the engagement of other young people in this process.
Have courage — it’s not too late to build a better world.