Views: New Government Lacks Consent of the Governed Despite Majority —
Forty-two per cent of eligible voters did not cast a ballot in the June 7 Ontario election. Of the 58 per cent that did, 40.49 per cent voted for the PCs and Doug Ford. This is said to be a decisive majority which gives him a mandate to implement the measures he campaigned on. However, the vote that allows the PCs to form the government with 76 out of 124 seats came from only 23.48 per cent of eligible voters. To say this is a majority government tells us something about the state of the electoral system said to be a representative democracy.
The NDP becomes the official opposition with 40 seats and 33.57 per cent of the votes cast, representing 19.47 per cent of eligible voters. The Liberals received seven seats and 19.59 per cent of the votes cast, which represents 11.35 percent of eligible voters. Together the NDP and Liberals received 53.16 per cent of the votes cast, representing 30.82 per cent of the eligible voters, which is more than what the PCs received. Once again, the first past the post method of counting votes is an issue. It also gives certain regions with dense populations more representation than regions with sparse populations. In regions such as the North, for example, it was the NDP that got the most seats, not the PCs.
The election results nonetheless certainly tell us something of what the people of Ontario thought of the Liberal government’s pay-the-rich program, corruption and self-serving arguments to justify what cannot be justified: Good riddance! But the results tell us nothing about what Doug Ford will do now or how he will interpret the rejection of the Wynne government and reconcile that with his own pay-the-rich schemes.
As for the role the NDP will play in the new government, leader Andrea Horwath said after the election that she will work with the government. The election of the NDP as Official Opposition was a victory for the “Change for the Better Platform,” and the NDP is now the voice of those Ontarians in the Legislature, she said.
“Today, millions of people voted for change for the better. We have won more seats than we have held in a generation! And I am deeply humbled that Ontarians have asked us to serve as the new Official Opposition!” Horwath said in her post-election speech.
“I’ve spoken with Premier-designate Ford and I did congratulate him on his achievement. And I’ve told the Premier-designate that New Democrats will work each and every day for the change that families need to make life better for all of us! We will be positive and constructive in our approach, but the vast majority of Ontarians did not vote for cuts to health care, cuts to our schools, and cuts to the services that our families are counting on. People did not vote for that. And we will be the voice at Queen’s Park for all of those Ontarians,” she said.
At a Queen’s Park news conference the day after the election on June 8, she said:
“As leader of the official Opposition, I will keep fighting for change for the better and that work starts today. The people of Ontario have asked us to hold Doug Ford accountable for every decision he makes.”
All in all, the election provided another majority government, which is what, in the name of stability, the ruling class wanted. Once the degree of rejection of the Liberals and their inability to claw their way out became evident, and the marketing company hired by the PCs succeeded in presenting Doug Ford as less volatile than Donald Trump, speculation from one of the competing sections of the financial oligarchy was that a PC government would cause less disruption in terms of budget allocations to pay the rich than the NDP and thus provide them with the stability they require to do as they please. But how stable a Ford government will prove has yet to be determined, given the allegations of fraud in certain PC nomination races and contradictions in the PCs’ own ranks. With the bitter fight over the party’s leadership right before the election still fresh, the scandals raised throughout the campaign about fake memberships acquired in various nomination races may continue and make it difficult for the PCs to focus on “the business of government.”
The fact that the PC government and its leader are tainted before it even takes office is a sign of the state of affairs today. The rivalry for power is such that whether or not the accusations of corruption and attacks carry on against Ford and his MPPs, a Doug Ford government will end up ruling more and more through police powers which is what the neo-liberal global agenda today demands, exposing the fraud of his “for the people” rhetoric.
When this election was called, the TML Weekly pointed out that in order for Wynne to compete effectively in this election, the Liberals had to bring the NDP down which they totally failed to do. The marketing company hired by the Liberals, despite doing their utmost to bring Andrea Horwath and the NDP down, failed to make the Liberals look anything but defensive and desperate, thereby providing a losing campaign strategy. The Liberals were ditched particularly following Wynne’s concession with a week to go in the campaign. The rejection of Liberal corruption was so great that her plea for Ontarians to elect a minority government and keep the Liberals in power together with the NDP did not resonate.
The NDP’s marketing company on the other hand, managed to keep Horwath and NDP candidates above the fray. They did not fall prey to the Liberal attack strategy and by sticking to the NDP slogan “Change for the Better,” Horwath was portrayed instead as capable of handling tough situations.
After the initial campaign period when the dust settled and the push was on to make it a two-party race between the PCs and NDP, everything was done to divide the polity to line up behind one or the other so that a majority government could be formed and provide stability.
In this regard, one of the features which marked this election is the ruling class’s obsession with only covering the parties which in their opinion stood a chance of forming a stable party government. Even Green Party leader Mike Schreiner was left out of the televised leaders’ debate. Notwithstanding this he was elected in the riding of Guelph with over 29,000 votes which is more than any of the other three “major” party leaders got in the ridings where they were elected.
The fact that the Liberals have now been reduced to seven seats, going from a majority government that claimed to represent everyone to falling a seat short of the requirement for official party status in the Legislature, further deepens the crisis of legitimacy in which the system of party government is mired. It shows that the measures they adopted while in government are simply not supported by the people who now have to live with them nonetheless.
As for what was called Ford Nation during the campaign, and Ontario Nation after the campaign, the polity is so divided that this is not the case, no matter what Doug Ford or the monopoly media say or think. All of it diverts the attention of the people from the problems the society faces and how they can be provided with solutions. So too, the NDP’s claim that their program and those who voted Liberal constitute the majority in terms of the popular vote and therefore represent “the progressive vision for Ontario,” also diverts the attention of the people from the problems the society faces and how they can be provided with solutions. The role the NDP holds out for the people is to spend the next four years complaining about Ford while they remain passive waiting for the NDP to play the role of loyal opposition. It can be expected to raise its voice in the Legislature against the Ford government in a manner that does not mobilize the people to hold the government to account, let alone support a political movement for political renewal which empowers the people.
The fact that the election is said to have been held with “the strongest voter turnout since 1999,” when 42 per cent of the population did not vote, is dismissed as not relevant. So is the fact that many who did vote did so out of fear of Ford or opposition to Wynne. It all shows that this election once again failed to produce a champion that can be said to have the consent of the governed.
Neo-liberal governments do not have consent of the governed, no matter their claims of getting a mandate. This poses a serious problem for the ruling class. The more their champions speak about Ontario not being divided and being “one nation,” Ford or otherwise, the more Ontarians show their unwillingness to submit to what is imposed on them by rulers who do not represent them. It is their movement for people’s empowerment which will hold this government to account. Nothing else.
Ontario Political Forum