One of my favourite things about community newspapers like the Times is the open exchange of ideas through submissions and letters to the editor. Beyond these submissions that readers get to see, many spirited people also like to express their views privately to the Editor, especially when their strong views are political in nature.
One thing that has always struck me when it comes to the political views of many is their propensity to develop an unyielding attachment to the politicians they support, almost like a fan club. I can’t help but think that many people might benefit from the realization that it is okay to disagree with someone they voted for. Politicians in a democracy are first and foremost representatives. It is not their views which are supposed to guide their vote, but rather the views of their constituents. Disagreeing with them sometimes is therefore an imperative, even when we generally support their party and their politics.
One “current event” that has been lighting up the Times inboxes lately is provincial Bill 23, called the More Homes Built Faster Act. From what I can see, it is drawing almost exclusively negative attention from various agencies across the area, particularly conservation authorities and organizations whose mandate it is to promote and preserve nature. The concerns certainly seem warranted. Bill 23 strips away many rights from many entities. It removes requirements for public meetings regarding certain planning manners. It gives the provincial government the power to override municipal planning decisions when it comes to housing development, meaning that new developments can be imposed on small communities who simply don’t want them or can’t sustain them. Bill 23 also strips certain powers from conservation authorities, including those that protect against pollution and the destruction of designated conservation lands.
Do any of these changes have merit? I would argue that all legislation must have some objective upsides in any society not run by evil tyrants. In the case of Bill 23, the obvious objective upside is the fact that barriers to new housing developments – or so called “red tape” – are reduced, paving the way for more houses and thus, hopefully, a gradual elimination of the current housing crisis. Despite this, governments should always be tasked with considering the journey just as much as the destination. The end must justify the means. Eliminating protected farmland, risking pollution, and impacting the layout and feel of small communities for those who prefer to live and raise their families in them are all means that aren’t necessarily justified in the name of building more houses. There must be a better way to locate available land and entice existing developers without eliminating the checks and balances that keep our province beautiful, healthy and safe. As with many pieces of provincial legislation, I would argue that Bill 23 is Toronto-centric. It fails to consider the importance of natural lands and farmlands in areas such as ours. Sustaining a population of millions of people in a condensed city would not be possible if not for the farmlands in areas such as North Grenville.
So how does this all relate to disagreeing with politicians? Quite simple. Much like the situation with the CUPE education workers union, wherein the provincial government used the notwithstanding clause to stomp on the constitutional rights of ordinary workers, the situation with Bill 23 is one that a significant number of individuals and organizations are recognizing as wrong. The problem is the number of Ontarians, including many locals, who seem to be defending the government just because it’s the “blue” party that they’ve supported and always have. Some people need to chill out and realize they aren’t married to Doug Ford.
Why do so many of us instinctively behave this way? We act as though casting our vote in an election is akin to picking a hockey team to cheer for. This could explain why, when politicians do stupid things, we find excuses to explain it away. This is not unlike Leafs fans continuing to cheer for the “best” hockey team that hasn’t taken home the Stanley Cup in 55 years. Whoops, I went there!
Let me be the first to break away from the trend. Faced with other options I did not like, and perhaps jumping on the dark blue bandwagon of our area, I voted conservative in the last provincial election. That does not mean that when dumb decisions are made, such as thinking an education union will quietly be legislated back to work with sneaky tactics, or thinking that a simple blanket solution can resolve a complex problem such as the housing shortage, I have to agree. In fact, not agreeing with the party you voted for is a power show of independence. One of the advantages of having a conservative MPP during the term of a conservative majority provincial government is that our local representative can’t simply waste away time pointing fingers and blaming. Unpopular legislation is the work of HIS government, and he must therefore answer for it. Probably the strongest voices emailing or calling our MPP with a complaint are the ones who voted for him. After all, a conservative stronghold won’t remain as such if the supporters begin changing sides.
I will forever see myself as an independent voter. I vote for people, not parties, and I will always evaluate legislation through an objective lens. This advice comes partly from a teacher in high school who, in a humorous mocking voice, told us that so many people have the attitude of “I voted conservative because my grandaddy voted conservative”. It’s time to stop thinking that we owe our politicians some kind of fangirl or fanboy loyalty. We’re not married, even if I voted for you. And if we disagree, I won’t even have to sleep on the couch tonight.