Is it possible to feel anything other than dread for this Ontario election?

OPINION: We must oust Doug Ford’s incompetent clowns. But the opposition parties offer bland alternatives

Ontario’s election is now well underway and it’s hard to feel anything other than dread at the dearth of reasonable options being presented to voters at the ballot box on June 2. This should have been an election whose narrative was to hold Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford and his merry band of incompetent clowns to account for their abject failures during the pandemic that cost thousands of lives, where they knowingly walked into a disaster by removing restrictions too early in the face of warnings; where they hesitated on common-sense measures until it was too late; where they sat on billions of federal dollars intended to shore up the healthcare system, testing and tracing; putting that money toward their bottom line instead.

“This should have been an election whose narrative was to hold Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford and his merry band of incompetent clowns to account for their abject failures during the pandemic that cost thousands of lives.

But apparently this is not that election.

Instead, we have a collection of leaders trying to out-bland one another, offering up uninspiring visions about what Canada’s most populous province could or should be. Perhaps it’s an acknowledgement that they would have fared little better than Ford in handling the pandemic, or perhaps it’s because they are too afraid that accountability might come across as bullying an overgrown man-child who is suprisingly successful at portraying his incompetence as making simple, common-sense decisions look like “hard choices” he had to agonize over.

When it comes to what the parties are looking to do for the LGBTQ2S+ communities, you would think that they should be offering more, given just how much the provinces deal with the most pressing needs of our communities, whether it’s healthcare, housing or delivering on essential programs. But party promises on those fronts are fairly vague and hand-wavey.

It should be no surprise that the Progressive Conservatives under Ford have no real platform—they are using their last budget document in lieu of one—and there is not a single mention of LGBTQ2S+ issues or communities.

The NDP platform promises “justice and equity” for our communities, and slams the Liberals and Conservatives for not meaningfully addressing structural barriers for members of the queer and trans communities. To that end, the NDP promises an LGBTQ2S+ Inclusion Action Plan “so that government services like healthcare, education and long-term care are inclusive and welcoming.” They want diverse healthcare professionals from queer and trans communities working in primary care. They are committing to making prescription drugs free for gender-affirming hormone replacement therapy (HRT), as well as essential medicines to treat and prevent HIV, including PrEP. Their pledge to make long-term care LGBTQ2S+-affirming has no details, and they have no concrete dollars attached to a plan to fund and expand shelter spaces and services for queer and trans youth and adults in need. Finally, they commit to supporting queer- and trans-owned businesses through a “diverse vendor strategy” and a grant program, again, with few details.

 

As part of a separate pledge, the NDP also promises to build 60,000 new homes for people living with mental health and addiction challenges, with priority spaces for local and individual needs that include LGBTQ2S+ people.

The Liberal platform has some similar promises, but in much more concrete terms. They too promise “culturally competent and gender-affirming health, mental health and long-term care,” and promise to fully cover medications to prevent and treat HIV, including PrEP, and promise to expand access and reduce wait times and barriers to gender-affirming surgeries. (It was not so long ago that such care was not available at all in this province.) Interestingly, they have specific promises around building 2,000 inclusive supportive homes for LGBTQ2S+ youth that “meet unique needs,” and a further pledge to ensure that queer and trans youth feel supported in schools, including an affirming, updated curriculum.

The Liberals are also attaching dollar figures—$20 million—toward an LGBTQ2S+ Action Plan, with funding for health groups, community centres, Pride organizations and other groups that serve the communities. Their costing document does include their LGBTQ2S+ Action Plan, with $5 million per year budgeted starting in the 2023-24 fiscal year through to 2025-26, which simple math tells me that leaves $5 million for those centres, organizations and Prides over the next four fiscal years.

“There seems to be a collective lack of imagination; not much differentiates the platforms of the Greens, Liberals and NDP.

In any other year, I might ignore the Greens, but given that leader Mike Schreiner was pretty much the only leader to acquit himself during the May 16 leaders’ debate, I’m giving his platform a chance. Like the other parties, the Greens also promise a strategy for inclusive and affirming care for LGBTQ2S+ communities in both healthcare and long-term care, with specific mention of improving access to provincially funded services, including gender-affirming procedures and transition medications. They promise to dedicate resources and funding to directly support LGBTQ2S+ youth groups, and to mandate accessible all-gender washrooms in all public spaces in the province.

They also promise to update the school curriculum to include discussions of anti-Black racism and LGBTQ2S+ prejudice. Their platform also mentions investing in evidence-based suicide-prevention strategies that address LGBTQ2S+ communities and other support programs and services that take an intersectional approach, including meeting the needs of queer and trans communities. However, their costing document did not have any specific dollars attached to any of these promises.

There seems to be a collective lack of  imagination; not much differentiates the platforms of the Greens, Liberals and NDP, and many of the differences that do exist are around the margins. That means that there aren’t a lot of clear choices when it comes to trying to oust the PCs, who do not deserve to remain in government. In turn, this will lead to declarations that only the Liberals or only the NDP can defeat Ford. Insistence on strategic voting will dominate social media discourse. But strategic voting is pretty much always guaranteed to fail unless you have reliable riding-level data to choose from, and even then, it’s still dubious. So, make your own choices, but do be sure to vote, and to hold the incompetent clowns to account.

Dale Smith is a freelance journalist in the Parliamentary Press Gallery and author of The Unbroken Machine: Canada's Democracy in Action.

Read More About:
Politics, Power, Opinion, Ontario, COVID-19, Canada

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