I have long opposed making voting mandatory, an idea that pops up every few years. I still don’t like the idea. But it’s become more attractive, at least as a thought experiment.
I have long opposed making voting mandatory, an idea that pops up every few years. I still don’t like the idea. But it’s become more attractive, at least as a thought experiment.
The arguments against compelling people to vote – as Australia and a handful of other countries do – run from the constitutional (it’s coerced speech) to the cultural (this is America, dagnabbit) to the practical and the partisan.
Historically, the practical case is that it’s the wrong solution chasing a nonexistent problem. Proponents of mandatory voting think that low voter turnout is a sign of civic decay and democratic entropy. This view, no doubt accurate or at least plausible for some people, misses the fact that for many other Americans not voting is a sign of general satisfaction. We had record-breaking turnout in 2020. Raise your hand if think that was proof that America’s civic and democratic commitments are stronger than ever.
More importantly, if voting is virtuous, its virtue – like all virtue – derives from it being voluntary. Compelled virtue is an oxymoron.
Partisanship enters the equation because both parties subscribe to an enduring myth: that increased voter turnout automatically favors the Democrats. Thus, if everyone were forced to vote – many opponents and proponents believe – some imagined reserve army of leftwing voters would swamp the polls. This belief plays a significant role among those who want to make voting easier and those who want to make it harder.
The problem: It’s not true. Yes, of course, turning out more of your own voters is how you win elections, but if everybody voted it’s unlikely that one party would always benefit more than the other. As Daron Shaw and John R. Petrocik demonstrate in their book “The Turnout Myth,” “there is no systematic or consistent partisan bias to turnout.” The recent Virginia governor’s race saw huge turnout, and the Republicans routed the Democrats.
Partisan Democrats have all sorts of high-minded and sincere reasons for making casting ballots easier for Black voters in particular and disadvantaged communities in general. But on a practical level, the fact that they think these voters will disproportionately vote Democratic drives many of their policy preferences. Partisan Republicans discount the high-minded arguments and focus on the Democratic advantage they see in such efforts. Meanwhile, Democrats assume any concern with fraud or voter integrity is a ruse for disenfranchising voters.
Republicans tend also to suffer from a weird cognitive dissonance. They fear that if everyone voted, the GOP would lose; they’ve also convinced themselves that Democrats only win by “importing” voters (i.e., immigrants) and through fraud.
Each party believes – without evidence – that they have the people on their side and that if elections were run “right,” they’d be the majority party. For Democrats this means curtailing “big money” in elections and, lately, federalizing election rules to combat voter suppression. For Republicans, it means catering to Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories and rantings.
More broadly, both parties ignore the closeness of their victories and act as if they have mandates to behave like they have super-majorities supporting them. They then devote their energies to pandering both rhetorically and in terms of policy to the slender slice of the electorate that is their base.
The incentives for pandering to the hyper-partisans are all too familiar: the pernicious effect of our primary system, self-sorting polarization, an ideologically skewed media ecosystem, and the ease of raising small donations from partisan super-fans.
And that’s what appeals to me about mandatory voting. If everybody voted – even just once – it just might dispel the myth that either party speaks for some untapped silent majority. The incentive to drive up the base turnout would evaporate. Low voter turnout – which benefits incumbents and their special interest allies – would not skew election results. Candidates, elected officials and big donors alike would ignore electoral majorities at their peril.
I still oppose this solution, but at least the case for mandatory voting is no longer a solution in pursuit of a problem. Even as a thought experiment, it helps illuminate the real problems we face.
“Your promises give us such a thrill,
but they won’t pay our bills,
We want money, that’s what we want(&Need).
The Political Parties in Ontario are trying to bribe us all with our own money. Election Madness, with the NDP promising should they be elected to form the next government, they would set a weekly price cap on the price of gasoline. The Conservatives have promised to temporarily cut the gas tax starting in July. Liberal Steven Del Duca says price caps do not work, while the NDP claims tax cuts do not prevent Energy Corporations from raising their prices.
The Liberal’s platform plank regarding Transit points to a buck-a-dollar ride. The NDP is calling for free transit (possibly in certain regions).
The Doctor shortage is easily solved, so The NDP claim, by hiring 300+ more doctors and thousands of nurses. Their pay will have to be very high in order to attract professional medical talent to Ontario. Medical Professionals have moved to The USA, receiving salaries and enticements many of our current medical pros could only dream of.
So we have political leaders promising billions of dollars to attract our attention and hopefully our vote. Where this money is coming from is usually not discussed. Real numbers are never presented. We have experienced massive spending these past three years, and the international and domestic lenders are demanding to be repaid, yet these promises continue. Not one Political Leader has the courage to tell us the truth, believing we “cannot handle the truth”, but that we would rather sit in the glow of imaginary promises that one only hears during an election.
A powerHouse Premier with a broad array of accomplishments, a Liberal Leader trying to gain a few seats and save His leadership status, a NDP Leader whose very political life is under review(She does not win, She’s gone), a Green Party Leader also seeking a few more seats. That is their political state presently. We are waiting for certain tax increases to come. Someone has to pay for these political visions of future circumstances. The bills and invoices are in the mail, and will certainly arrive this July.
“Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build bridges even when there are no rivers”.(N.K)
Here are some of the things certain candidates for Conservative leader think, or want Conservative voters to think, threaten Canada and Canadians.
Candidate Pierre Poilievre warns his followers that the government of Canada “has been spying on you everywhere. They’ve been following you to the pharmacy, to your family visits, even to your beer runs.”
The government hasn’t been doing anything of the kind, of course: A private company prepared a report to the Public Health Agency of Canada on population movements during the pandemic, using anonymous, aggregated cellphone data. The data allow researchers to count how many people visited a pharmacy or a beer store, not which people did; still less are individuals followed from place to place.
But Mr. Poilievre knows his followers don’t know this, and is quite content to mislead them. Just as he is when he claims he opposes allowing the Bank of Canada to issue a digital version of the dollar because the government would use the data generated thereby to “crack down” on its “political enemies.”
The point isn’t that such data couldn’t be misused in this way. The point is that Mr. Poilievre asserts, without evidence, that it is happening now, and assumes, without evidence, that worse will happen in the future – not as a possibility to be guarded against, but as an inevitability. This is the very definition of fear-mongering. Or, indeed, conspiracy theory. It encourages not prudent skepticism of government’s capacity, but baseless paranoia about government intentions.
But this is statesmanship itself next to the fears he and others have been spreading about the World Economic Forum, which sponsors an annual gathering of business and political leaders in Davos, Switzerland, that is the grand obsession of conspiracy theorists everywhere.
Mr. Poilievre hasn’t come right out and said what he thinks the WEF is up to (unlike former Conservative leadership candidate Derek Sloan, now the leader of the Ontario Party, who earlier this month accused the organization’s leaders of plotting to put microchips in “our bodies and our heads”), but he has made a point of saying that he will ban any member of his cabinet from attending its meetings – though several members of Stephen Harper’s cabinet did, including Mr. Harper himself.
Then there’s candidate Leslyn Lewis, whose particular fear is the World Health Organization, or more precisely a package of amendments to its International Health Regulations put forward earlier this year by the United States. The amendments seem chiefly aimed at preventing the sort of information vacuum that hampered efforts to contain the coronavirus in the early days of the outbreak, notably stemming from China’s refusal to level with the world about what it had on its hands – but also abetted by the WHO’s own credulousness.
Thus, a critical amendment would require the WHO, should it find there is a public-health emergency “of international concern,” and having first offered assistance to the affected country, to share information with other countries about it, even if the first country objects. (Until now it had been left to the WHO’s discretion.) In conspiracy circles this has been cooked up into an open-ended power for the WHO to force countries into lockdown, take over their health care systems, even, in Ms. Lewis’s formulation, suspend their constitutions.
Where does one begin? The WHO does not have the power to dictate policies to member states. No country would ever agree to give it that power, let alone all 194 member states at once. And of all those countries, the least likely to agree to any such transfer of national sovereignty, let alone propose it, is the United States: the country that, for example, refuses to this day to participate in the International Criminal Court. The only way it could be done even in theory would be by passing the necessary enabling legislation through each country’s legislature, not by simply ratifying an amendment to a regulation.
We’ve been this way before. Remember the Global Compact for Migration? That anodyne collection of best-efforts promises of international co-operation in dealing with the world’s refugees was the subject of an earlier Conservative panic attack. Supposedly we would be permanently surrendering control of our borders to United Nations bureaucrats. It hasn’t happened, because that’s not actually how the world works.
Neither did Motion 103, a non-binding resolution of the House directing that a committee hold hearings on Islamophobia, lead to a ban on criticism of Islam, as still another Conservative fear campaign had claimed. Probably some of its proponents understood this at the time, but lots of their supporters didn’t.
And so it continues. Vaccine mandates become “vaccine vendettas.” Carbon pricing is equated with Chinese-style “social credit” scores. The Bank of Canada’s purchases of government bonds in the middle of the sharpest economic contraction since the Great Depression are depicted as if they were directly bankrolling the Liberal Party.
This cynical act is sometimes dressed up as “sticking up for the little guy” or “taking on the elites.” It is not. It is exploitation, pure and simple, shaking down the gullible for money and votes. It’s a con as old as politics. Before Mr. Poilievre can promise his audience to “give you back control over your lives,” he has to first persuade them that control has been taken away from them – and that he alone has the power to give it back. Or rather, that they should give him that power.
Populism has deep roots in the Conservative Party, at least since John Diefenbaker gathered the disparate populist movements that had sprung up in the West under the Progressive Conservative banner. As the party of the “outs,” those who for one reason or another were excluded from the Liberal power consensus, it has always tended to attract its share of cranks – not just populists but crackpots.
What’s different today? Three things. One, the targets of populist wrath are increasingly external to Canada: bodies like the WEF or the WHO, whose remoteness from any actual role in controlling our lives only makes them seem more darkly potent, to those primed to believe it.
Two, the “outs” no longer simply reject a particular political narrative, but increasingly science, and reason, and knowledge: the anti-expertise, anti-authority rages of people who have been “doing their own research.”
And three, the crackpopulists used to be consigned to the party’s margins. Now they are contending to lead it.
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TORONTO — Anyone who has heard Steven Del Duca speak during this election campaign likely knows he has two daughters in public school, two elderly parents who want to age at home, and that his Saturday mornings include grocery shopping for his family.
Weaving in personal touches to speeches is a tried and true political tactic, but the Ontario Liberal leader says his politics come from his personal life.
“Family is really the centre of everything…so it’s just a very natural, I guess, lens for me to view those issues,” he said in a recent interview.
Del Duca’s focus on home care comes not only from his 83-year-old Italian-born father and his 80-year-old Scottish-born mother, but also his grandparents, all of whom lived past 80 — one to 97 — and stayed in their own homes.
Education policy is important to Del Duca as the father to two daughters, Talia, 14, and Grace, 11, but he also mentions a teacher who kept him on track as he was drifting in his final year of high school.
By that time, he was already actively engaged in politics and didn’t have much interest in what the school curriculum had to offer in social sciences, and the teacher worried that his grades wouldn’t be able to get him into university.
So she developed two large research projects that he could do as independent studies and got the principal to sign off on it.
“I loved it because it gave me a chance to actually take what I was doing in reality, fuse it to with what I was reading and learning about and kind of taking a run with it,” Del Duca says.
“I don’t know how it would have worked out otherwise.”
Thirty years later, he’s taking a run at much bigger projects: the premiership and rebuilding the Ontario Liberals four years after their walloping that saw them lose official party status.
One of Del Duca’s oldest friends, Anthony Martin, has known him since the two were in Grade 3, and is not surprised to see him running for the province’s top job. Martin says his friend was always well informed about current events for his age, but once he was bitten by the political bug, that was it.
“He said he wanted to be premier, because, he thought that was where you could do the most good and make the most change in people’s lives,” Martin said.
Del Duca’s interest in politics was first sparked at age 14, when his older sister gave him “The Rainmaker,” the autobiography of legendary Liberal organizer Keith Davey, for Christmas.
He has since asked his sister why she settled on that present, a peculiar selection for a young teen, and “she can’t remember what possessed her to get that specific book.”
Regardless, Del Duca was hooked. He was then reeled in a few months later when a cousin invited him to a nomination meeting. It turned out to be a hotly contested race, with an incumbent being challenged for a federal Liberal nomination.
“I felt the electricity in the room,” he says.
Later that year was the 1988 election and Del Duca volunteered for the Liberals, knocking on the doors of voters who found a 15-year-old wanting to talk to them about free trade on the other side.
At age 48, Del Duca still likes talking, and he has developed a particular style. On the campaign trail he looks straight into the camera, delivering his words with a measured cadence that generally comes from reading prepared remarks.
Except there is no teleprompter in sight.
Del Duca says it’s partly due to him being quite hands on with platform development, but the seed was planted at his own nomination meeting in 2012.
He was being acclaimed to replace Greg Sorbara, who was retiring. Del Duca had actually written speeches for Sorbara, though he eschewed speaking notes.
“(It) used to drive me crazy,” Del Duca says. “He’d say, ‘Steven, this is such a beautifully written speech. I’m not using it.’”
Ahead of the nomination meeting, Sorbara told Del Duca not to use a written speech, but rather a single page of bullet points to “frame the mind.”
He was unsure about speaking off the cuff in front of so many people, and brought both his speech and his page of bullet points to the banquet hall. But after sitting in the parking lot and mulling it over, he left his speech in the car.
“It went fine,” Del Duca says. “That was really good advice Greg gave me…Even if you get back in the car afterwards, or you’re back at the office and think, ‘Oh shoot, I was gonna say those two things, but I didn’t,’ it’s OK. You connect with the audience far, far better.”
He would go on to spend nearly four years as transportation minister and a few months as economic development minister.
Liberal MP Yasir Naqvi, who served in cabinet with Del Duca, says he is someone who was always prepared, and can disagree with others cordially. The two have known each other since they were in the Liberals’ youth wing together, and Naqvi says personally Del Duca is a devoted family man.
Del Duca’s younger brother was killed in a car crash in 2018, and Naqvi says he was impressed by how Del Duca faced the tragedy.
“There were times of course he was fragile, but then he was also there for his parents, who lost their son,” Naqvi says.
“He was there for his sister-in-law, who lost her husband. He was there for his niece and nephews, who lost their father and of course, provide support for his family as well. Really, I was incredibly impressed by his strength, his calmness and his resiliency.”
Del Duca was chosen as party leader just days before the first COVID-19 lockdown.
March 7, 2020 was, in hindsight, not the best time for a mass gathering, and the timing was especially poor for Del Duca, who needed to spend the next two years both rebuilding the party from its disastrous 2018 election showing and introducing himself to voters.
But the new Liberal leader was one of the last things on voters’ minds as they dealt with devastating effects of the pandemic, and it has left Del Duca still fairly unknown, said Chris Cochrane, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Toronto Scarborough.
“It’s made life difficult for (him),” he said.
During last week’s debate, Del Duca came across as someone who had a good grasp of policy, but when it comes to a unique and easily identifiable charisma, Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford has him beat, Cochrane said.
“Doug Ford has a presence, a way of speaking, mannerisms, everything about him, that sends a message automatically, no matter what he says to the people he wants to vote for (him) that he’s one of them,” he said.
“As soon as you see (Ford) and you hear him speak, it’s unique to him…Jean Chrétien, for example, also had that, in the past. Del Duca doesn’t have that.”
But those who know him say he has a good sense of humour, trading dad jokes and offering up self-deprecating remarks.
He has also tried to cultivate a relatable image, often appearing in public wearing a suit with sneakers and ditching his signature black-rimmed glasses after getting laser eye surgery just before the campaign.
“I figured it was easier than trying to grow my hair,” he quips.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2022.
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