Wanderings – The early coronation in SDSG

This year voters are blessed with two opportunities to go to the election booth. Ontario’s general election is June 2 and the municipal election is October 24.

Voting is important and as someone who follows politics, elections are akin to the Stanley Cup and Super Bowl finals for me. Sadly, living in the provincial riding of Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry, I feel a bit like I am on the bench as the local provincial race will be more like a coronation.

Current SDSG member of provincial Parliament Jim McDonell announced his retirement late in 2021. A month later we have two candidates so far running for the nomination. But let’s be frank here, it’s a coronation.

Since 2011, this riding has voted blue provincially, regardless of the party leader, the blue circle gets the square. There are a few reasons for that. Since Jim Brownell’s retirement as the Liberal flag-barer, none of the candidates offered by that party has caught the attention of voters.

Similarly the NDP candidates have not done well here. The party’s second place showing in 2018 was more of a protest vote against Kathleen Wynne than support for the orange team.

The Green Party of Ontario has made great strides, and elected its first MPP in Guelph in 2018. But this is not Guelph and while the Greens are well meaning, the party is a long way from being a viable alternative in SDSG.

Looking at historical numbers for this riding and its previous iterations, the Liberals have held this riding for only 12 of the past 74 years. The other 62 years were blue (party not attitude).

You wouldn’t know there was going to be a provincial election in just five months except for the PC nomination race. Where are the other parties? Is there anyone organizing candidates? This is why I think that the real election, or coronation if you will, is the PC riding nomination race, and that is not a good thing for local democracy.

Party nomination battles are not real democracy because you have to pay-to-play. Membership matters in Canadian politics when it comes to choosing what candidate will fly the blue/red/orange/green flag.

How a candidate wins their nomination race comes down to how many memberships that candidate can sign up for the party.

If Candidate A signs up 100 new members, and Candidate B signs up 500 new members, who do you think wins?

The rules for this are above board and legal according to each party’s constitution, and follows federal and provincial election laws. It is still pay-to-play, or vote.

Why the SDSG PC nomination race this year is so important is because it will determine who our next MPP will be. With little-to-no opposition from other parties, and a historic trend of this riding voting blue, whoever wins the PC nomination is likely going to occupy our chair at Queen’s Park.

Unless a really spectacular candidate from the red or orange teams appears, or there is a wholesale rejection of the blue team – neither prospect looks very likely – the PCs will win on June 2.

So far there are two candidates running for the PC Party nomination in SDSG. The ear-to-the-ground says there may be up to two more joining the race. Insiders say that the race will conclude in the next couple of months. That’s great for party membership sales at least.

The risk for local provincial democracy is low participation or interest in the process. Why bother voting when the nearly predetermined outcome will be the same?

For the past 20-plus years, pundits have lamented on election night that voter turnout is low. Federal and provincial campaigns garner between 60-75 per cent turnout, municipal elections are lucky to get those numbers even with electronic voting allowed. Voting systems may not be the problem after all, but how candidates are chosen by the parties.

Locally this isn’t a problem that is going to go away anytime soon. And it’s a sad note for participation, no matter what your politician stripe is.

At least when the provincial election does come around on June 2, the local election headlines won’t be much of a challenge for journalists to write.