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Why I don’t always vote the same way anymore

Many of us are about to go to the polls for a provincial election.

Will it be the Liberals, the Conservatives, the NDP, or the Greens?

With fluctuating polls, a new PC leader, and argumentative debates, there’s a lot of cynicism and uncertainty about what’s going to happen.

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So the purpose of this post is to suggest a few things for us to think about as we head toward the ballot box.

But first, full disclosure.

Many years ago I worked for two different Liberal MPPs (members of provincial parliament). In my view, they were both thoughtful about social policy and had a strong grasp of what was good for the economy.

And even though I only worked in a constituency office and in Queen’s Park itself for about three years, it was enough of a glimpse to help me understand a few things. Plus, politics is just something that continues to interest me.

So as the election approaches, here are a few hanging chads to chew on—and which tell you why I don’t always vote the same way anymore.

1. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid

One of the things I’ve discovered is that some people are committed to a certain political party no matter what the policies are. To me, this is drinking the proverbial Kool-Aid. It’s making an ideological commitment to something no matter what the idea is.

Just because the Liberals think something is a good idea, that doesn’t mean it is.
Just because the Conservatives think something is a good idea, that doesn’t mean it is.
Just because the NDP or Greens think something is a good idea, that doesn’t mean it is.

When I was more directly engaged in the political scene I could definitely see this happen—for people in all parties. Have you ever had an argument with a friend, and at a certain point it stopped being about the truth and became about winning? That can happen in politics too.

But whenever we stop using our own brains, and whenever victory is more important than virtue, we sail a short route to chaos.

I know someone who will only buy a certain kind of car no matter what. It’s called brand loyalty. And it can blind us to the simple logic of making the right decision instead of the same decision.

The same logic extends to the media we consume. As far as I can tell, major media outlets also have their own biases. (For example, it seems that nine times out of ten the Toronto Star will support the Liberals and the Toronto Sun will support the Conservatives.)

I wouldn’t go so far as to say we have a “Fake News” epidemic, but I do think it’s wise to consult a balance of perspectives.

2. Political parties shift

This means that the policies and people connected to the different political parties may “move” to the left or to the centre or to the right on the political spectrum.

Generally speaking, the NDP is on the left, the Liberals are on the centre-left, and the Conservatives are on the centre-right. But those positions aren’t perfectly fixed.

When I was at Queen’s Park, I remember reading in one of the big daily newspapers that the McGuinty Liberals felt like the Bill Davis Conservatives of the late 70’s and early 80’s. In other words, even though the big red L was still in place, there had been a “shift” on the spectrum.

Personally, I think the Liberals and Conservatives have both shifted left. And in fact, the current Liberals seem more like the NDP than a centrist party. But again, maybe that’s just me!

All this is my way of saying that the landscape is a moving target. Is it a response to the general mood of the public, or are our political parties leading a charge? It’s hard to say. Perhaps a bit of both.

Either way, it’s good to keep in mind that a political party may not occupy the same “place” on the political spectrum that they did even 10 years ago. Children share common D.N.A. with their parents, but as time goes on they develop their own personalities. That can be the same with political parties too.

3. Look at people and policies

As you can guess by the title of this blog, I don’t always vote the same way anymore. So, what do I do?

I look at people and policies.

First, the leader of a party is very important. From where I’m sitting, it seems that more and more power has become centralized in the Premier’s Office, meaning that whoever is the head of the winning party has a lot of influence. The priorities of the leader matter.

Second, the locally elected MPPs can make a real difference too—even if they are told to tow the party line on many issues.

I remember one particular MPP who always had time to talk to me (a lowly political staffer) and explain his point of view. He would never win a leadership race or occupy a fancy cabinet post. But regardless of whether he was in the governing party or in the opposition benches, he always worked hard to better things for the people in his own riding. There’s a lot of integrity in that.

So after I look at the people, I do my best to look at the platforms themselves. All of us have certain issues we care about more than others. And platforms can be a good source of information (provided they exist; provided they are written clearly; and provided they have some accurate accounting).

Let me offer a final word as a Christian to other Christians

Your faith should absolutely affect your vote. That’s a non-negotiable. So much of Jesus’ work was about making God’s dream for this world a physical reality. It was about God’s kingdom come, his will be done on earth as it is in heaven. As Bible scholar N.T. Wright said, we Christians believe not only in life after death, but in life before life after death.

In light of that fact, a very important question for me—and hopefully for you—is this:

What party or candidate best advances God’s dream for the world?

Maybe the rising tide of cynicism makes you scoff at the question. Maybe you’re basing your vote on which party you think will do the least amount of damage. But I think we should all make an effort to take it seriously. What party or candidate best advances God’s dream for the world?

So, who am I voting for?

I’m not going to tell you!

But I am concerned about debt that will burden my children’s generation. I’m concerned about misguided social policy. I’m concerned about our groaning environment. I’m concerned about health care.

As I think it all through I’ll do my best to (a) not drink the Kool-Aid, (b) remember that political parties “shift,” and (c) look closely at the people and policies.

And I’m definitely interested in which leaders and MPPs will be honest, humble and wise in how they lead.

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6 Comments »

  1. Matthew: As usual, you have shown excellent leadership in offering your views as you have. I firmly believe that there is crossover between the spiritual and temporal aspects of our lives. We shouldn’t shy away from « politics and religion » as I was counselled I in public school speech-writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Matthew, I have to tell you that thanks to the message last week, you saved me $300. Money I don’t have on something that I really don’t need. It was a print and yes it would be great where I pictured it but I made myself walk away. Your message kept resounding in my head. So…thank you. Barbara

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So true Matthew
    During my loooong lifetime I have voted for all different parties. We have a responsibility to stay informed.
    Thank you for giving a voice to the dilemma many of us struggle with at the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

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