/Creating better informed voters

Creating better informed voters

By Jim Poling Sr.
From Shaman’s Rock

The really good news about last week’s Ontario election is that its citizens remain pragmatic, rather than dogmatic.

Voters didn’t re-elect Doug Ford’s government because they absolutely love it or passionately believe in it. They voted for it because they felt that is the best they could do considering other choices.

Ontario voters always have placed pragmatism above party loyalty. When they felt Conservatives could govern better than others, they voted them in. Ditto Liberals and New Democrats. 

Ontario even elected a United Farmers Party back in 1919. They might not have really liked the party, nor its politicians, but they felt that was the best they could do at the time.

Dumping party loyalty voting for pragmatic voting is a good thing because party loyalty often breeds fanaticism. Whatever your party believes and does, you stand by it whether it is good for the citizens or not. 

Look at the United States. Democrats and Republicans are so frozen into their parties’ opposing beliefs that the country has become ungovernable. Its citizens are suffering because the parties refuse to step off the party line.

Party tribalism in that country has made it impossible to control gun violence, despite more than 250 mass shootings this year. That’s an average of roughly 1.5 mass shootings (four or more people shot dead) every day.

Meanwhile, the really bad news about last week’s Ontario election was the low voter turnout. Only 43 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot compared to 57 per cent in 2018.

When the math is done, that huge Progressive Conservative majority chosen to govern the province for the next four years was elected by just 18 per cent of all eligible Ontario voters.

That low vote, the lowest in the province’s history, is being attributed to voter apathy. Many potential voters did not see the Ford government as excellent. Nor did they see it as a disaster. They saw no need for a change, so were not motivated to vote.

The sad fact is not only was the majority of eligible voters not motivated to vote, they were not prepared. Most of us, whether we vote or not, are not well informed when choosing our governments.

We see a few manipulative political TV ads, follow uneducated voices on social media and listen to our friends, most of whom are no better informed than we are. We like style more than substance.

We don’t spend time seriously studying the issues or the candidates and their leaders. That’s why the world in general has so many mediocre politicians, and leaders who would have trouble running a peanut stand.

I blame our education systems. They fail to educate our children about the critical importance of selecting governments and leaders, or how to think deeply and critically in deciding who to elect.

As the American comedian Bill Maher said on TV the other night: People are so dumb (he used other words that I can’t use here) you wonder how a country can continue to exist.

We need education systems that provide strong courses in civics. Systems that teach our children the importance of quality leadership and what qualities to look for in good leaders. And, how to focus on substance instead of style when deciding who you want to lead you.

We need to elect people with the backbone to reject party policy when they think it is wrong. People who do what they think is right, not what the party wants. People who reject the party line even if it makes them outliers and costs them votes.

I’m not saying the few voters who did cast ballots last week elected the right or wrong government. I don’t have a preference. I’ve voted for each of the major parties at one time of another.

I am saying that whatever governments we do elect, must be better. 

The potential catastrophes facing our current and future world are unprecedented. 

We have the resources and the ingenuity to fight them. What we don’t have are well-informed and engaged electorates to vote in governments and leaders who will bring fearless excellence to the fight. 

Better education in civics can give us that.