We at insideWaterloo are still processing the Ontario provincial election. The decisive victory for the Progressive Conservatives sees Doug Ford continuing on as premier, this time with an even greater majority. For Andrea Horwath and the NDP, it was a bitter pill to swallow after the last election catapulted them into the official opposition. Meanwhile the Liberals were, once again, not able to regain their official party status. Even Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca failed to win his own riding of Vaughan-Woodbridge. After coming in behind Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives, both Horwath and Del Duca stepped down as leaders of their respective parties.

There is something to be said about the general lack of engagement with the election—there was an abysmal voter turnout of 44 per cent, the lowest in Ontario’s history. That means the Conservatives took the majority with just 18 per cent of voters. Undoubtedly, there are people who didn’t vote in the election because they didn’t care who won.  Folks who felt their lives would be unaffected no matter the result, disregarding how the queer community, refugees and immigrants, Black, Indigenous, and healthcare workers will continue to be negatively impacted by Ford’s government. We also acknowledge that complexly and historically marginalized communities can make a compelling case for not engaging with a political, colonial system that does not listen nor represent them. 

There’s a lot being said about what to do next. What can be done to increase voter turnout? Perhaps increasing access by extending early voting. Maybe move election day to the weekend, maybe even make it a civic holiday. Some are eyeing the Australians in how they made it mandatory to vote. There are many reasons people are tuning out of our political institutions. If we do not see alternatives in our current system, we must be willing to make alternatives and send a message. 

Perhaps, the question we should be asking is, “what didn’t happen?” There is a sense of grief among NDP and Liberal Party supporters— a bit of confusion even. While the NDP became the official opposition after the last election, there was little to suggest that the party heading into June 2 would have defeated Doug Ford’s conservatives. Horwatch waited too long and DeLuca’s Liberals were never in contention. What else didn’t happen? Conservative candidates skipped several media interviews, their local riding debates and other community engagements. It’s quite frankly an insult to the electorate, but what does it teach us? If the Conservatives are to be challenged, and the voter turnout increases in the next election, not only do we need structural change to voter access, we need a shift in political engagement. 

The irony in all of this is while the conservative candidates may represent colonial, oppressive social politics their approach to winning is anything but…even when they seemingly are disengaged (not showing up to debates) they are communicating with their base. They are engaging with those voting for them while the centrist liberals and a little less centrist democrats are engaging with Canadian mythology of a “multicultural, postcolonial paradise”. While some candidates may have pulled a few terms from the EDI industrial complex’s catalogue, it was evident that when it mattered most, silence and meanderings of “unity” were the response. 

So back to what did happen?

About 61 per cent of those eligible to vote told all of Ontario that they don’t believe in this system. They told Doug Ford’s challengers that what you’re offering isn’t what we want. Horwath and Del Duca stepping down have cleared a path for radical renewal and reconciliation. Both parties must reconcile with the marginalized communities they harmed, pandering to lure Ford’s voters away. It’s a failed model; it’s a systemic oppressive model.

What happens next? It’s already happening. How will you respond?

~The insideWaterloo Team