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BOB’S BLOG: My problems with this provincial campaign

By Bob Wood
June 03, 2014 - 0 comments


You could say I came down with the last rain, I suppose, but I used to be optimistic about politics.

I learned a bit about what Ronald Reagan called “the second oldest profession” when I spent four years taking political science in university.

I ran in five elections myself and actually won two (well, one was by acclamation).

While serving as a City Councillor, I was frequently on the losing side on votes on planning issues, budget matters and even adjournment motions but I still came through nearly seven years in municipal politics believing in the democratic process.

I’ve been writing about it for 15 years. Throughout this time I’ve held the belief that, generally speaking, its practitioners are in the game to make our society a better place.

And every time an election is called, any kind of election, like that old dog who wants to hunt, I’ve got this hankering to head out and track down votes or hammer a sign into someone’s lawn.

But not this time. As this provincial election campaign approaches the finish way mark, my interest in it roughly matches up with my need to start jumping out of airplanes or desire to take up duck hunting. Here are five reasons why.


• Pollsters and their Polls

They are mostly wrong these days. They were badly wrong last year in British Columbia. Why? Well, the polling firm Angus Reid put it down to voters not revealing their true intentions to pollsters. Imagine fibbing to pollsters?

We still listen to them mind you, probably because the media takes them quite seriously. It is not so much that their voting forecasts that disappoint but that their so-called analysis regularly goes beyond the research they’ve done.

Joan Bryden of the Toronto Star interviewed former Mulroney pollster Allan Gregg a few years ago.

In the story, Gregg acknowledged, “The polling profession has sort of fallen in love with the sound of its own voice and says things, quite frankly, that the discipline cannot support.”

Gregg has also described what he calls “the dirty little secret of the polling business.” That secret is that the “ability to yield results accurately from samples that reflect the total population has probably never been worse in the 30 to 35 years that the discipline has been active in Canada."


• Negative Advertising

The same Allan Gregg was one of the early advocates of the effectiveness of negative advertising. (Remember the Jean Chretien ads that made fun of the former PM’s appearance. That was Gregg’s work although he has now apparently disavowed the use of negative advertising.) Meanwhile the ads just keep getting worse. The irony is that these attack ads just bring the whole business of politics into greater and greater disrepute.


• Social Media Misuse

And have you seen the social media from the parties? Well truth to tell I haven’t. I gave up on politicians’ tweets and Facebook postings years ago. That was when NDP leader Andrea Horwath, back home late from a busy day of doing her job, posted that she had just put the Tragically Hip on her CD player before heading off to bed. Let me just say musical tastes of party leaders have a special file at my house. You’ll find it under “O” for “on a need to know basis, I don’t.”


• Leadership Debates

Then there are the so-called Leaders’ Debates. This time there are two. One in Northern Ontario went off on May 26 but only drew two leaders as Conservative Tim Hudak had “other commitments.” (I’ll let you fill in your own punch line here.) Tonight, June 3, there will be another barney. Make sure you enable the parental control on your TV and iPad. These things seldom inform and are always followed by the dreary spectacle of backroom types telling how their gal/guy won the debate.


• Issues that matter

Through all of this, I have a serious concern that politicians aren’t talking about issues that matter anymore. I’ll tell you what I think they should be talking about next time out.


Bob Wood is a housing and poverty advocate and former two-term Burlington City Councillor who has built a bed-and-breakfast with his wife on Lake Erie. 


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