Pray for me. Pray for Ontario, this beautiful and largest Canadian province that I have called home-away-from-home for 33 years. We go to the polls this Thursday, June 7, to elect a new provincial parliament.
In my riding (that’s what we call constituencies here), the choice ought to be straightforward. Caroline Mulroney, the daughter of Martin Brian Mulroney, a former prime minister of Canada, stands head over shoulders above her competitors.
Caroline, who is the candidate for the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, is bright, energetic and very clear headed. A lawyer, she is a graduate of Harvard and the New York University School of Law.
She has wide experience in finance and management and is currently serving as Vice President of BloombergSen Investment Partners, a Toronto-based investment firm.
Above all, Caroline espouses fiscally conservative and socially liberal policies that perfectly align with my political views.
So, why am I struggling with the decision on whom to vote for? See, things here are not as easy as they were in Rukungiri last week. There, in spite of massive bribery by the ruler and even more massive deployment of troops and other armed operatives for purposes of intimidation, the choice between the major party candidates was straightforward.
It was change versus no change. It was Gikwateko versus Togikwatako. It was Betty Muzaanira versus Yoweri Museveni. Yes, that’s correct. Winnie Masiko, the NRM candidate was merely a stand-in for the man who poured everything into the race that he knew was a referendum on him. After all, NRM MPs do not represent their constituents. They represent Museveni in their constituencies.
Things are very different here in Canada, where an MP actually represents her constituents. My dilemma is that the leader of the winning party automatically becomes premier of Ontario.
Now, Douglas Ford, the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, is not a man I would ordinarily consider voting for. I have no idea what he really stands for.
He has been making great promises to cut my taxes, balance the budget, pour billions of dollars into infrastructure growth and so on. You know the usual stuff that flows off a politician’s tongue faster than a Kampala pastor can heal the sick and promise great wealth to those who sow a seed in his ministry.
What I know is that Ford is one politician that makes me rather uncomfortable. Think of Hajji Nasser Ntege Sebaggala as candidate for president of Uganda. Or Donald J. Trump south of here. Guys that are able to whip up a crowd, get the emotions flowing, toss out meaningless one-liners, and pretty much stumble their way through a campaign. Buoyed by crowds of people who are very angry with the establishment, they begin to believe that they can govern effectively. The mind can play tricks.
This Ford is a beneficiary of his late brother Rob, whose tenure as Mayor of Toronto was more chaotic than Trump’s efforts in Washington DC. You recall Rob Ford, our bumbling, swearing, alcohol-soaked mayor whose drug binges, captured on video, reduced him and this great city to a laughing stock around the world.
During the late Mayor’s tragi-comical tenure at City Hall, the Brothers Ford were an inseparable tag-team, complete with a short-lived radio talk show that they used as a bully pulpit. Doug benefitted from his inebriated brother’s notoriety, gaining publicity that came in handy when the leadership of the PC Party of Ontario suddenly fell vacant four months ago.
His brother’s Ford Nation, a northern cousin of Trump’s Base, was a ready machine of supporters and volunteers that swung into action and got him easily elected party leader.
Among the people that Doug Ford defeated in the leadership race was Caroline Mulroney. Clearly the Americans do not have a monopoly on embracing populist noise and rejecting competence and intellectual excellence.
All of which has left me in a quandary. I truly admire Ms. Mulroney. But her party leader? It is the old story of a cat’s dilemma. The little feline had a sizzling hot piece of juicy and succulent meat in its mouth. “Mire, mire omuriro, ncwere ncwere obunuzi.” (Do I swallow this fire or do I spit out the sweetness?)
Trouble in Ontario this year is that none of the other major party leaders offers me reason to vote for them.
Kathleen Wynne, the Liberal Party leader who has been premier for five years, has made some thoroughly bad decisions that have hurt Ontarians’ wallets and set the stage for economic pain for debt-saddled future generations. Happily, Ms. Wynne has read the mood of the province and surrendered even before the votes are counted.
On Saturday, she stunned her party colleagues and the province by conceding defeat. “I don’t know who people will choose, but I know that it won’t be me,” she said, holding back tears.
That leaves a lady by the names of Andrea Horwath, the leader of the New Democratic Party, a socialist party that last had a go at misgoverning Ontario 27 years ago. Theirs was a disastrous regime that left the province so angry that they were booted out after five years.
Their 2018 platform promises massive spending and increased taxes on an already overtaxed segment of the population. So they plan to continue from where they left off. Sorry, I am not ready for that dance.
Which brings me back to Caroline Mulroney and Doug Ford. What is one to do? Unfortunately, one cannot borrow wisdom from the cat, for the elders never told us how the feline resolved its dilemma.
One option is to decline the ballot, a legal right in Ontario that enables one to vote for “none of the above.” The declined ballot is counted among the valid votes.
Alternatively, one can hold one’s nose and vote for a great candidate like Caroline Mulroney, which means a vote for Doug Ford. The buyer’s remorse that will follow once things begin to go south under Premier Ford is an unbearable thought.
So, two days before election day, I remain in limbo. However, one thing is certain. I will definitely cast my vote, a duty of citizenship that I consider mandatory.