Saturday, September 17, 2011

The forgotten voter

If you close your eyes, you can probably picture them. Perhaps they are a student. Or maybe someone who could be homeless tomorrow. They could live somewhere that isn't along the 401 corridor from Windsor and up to Ottawa.

What we know is that they don't fit so easily into a box marked "family", or "immigrant", or "905-golden horseshoe". They probably don't belong to a union. They may be single and not yet facing concerns like aging parents or considering their own retirement. They are generally healthy.

Ontario, let me introduce you to the forgotten voter.

Every campaign has them. With time of the essence, parties need to focus and prioritize. While every politician will say this election is about everyone, in truth it can't be. Votes win elections, and each party will have spent a lot of time and money considering from where the votes will come and what they need to do to get them.

As a consequence, some slices of the electorate don't really see themselves in the campaign or in the supposed priorities of the main parties. They don't fit in the narrative except at a very high, almost superficial level.

Unfortunate? Yes. Surprising? No.

Before going further, let me be clear that what I am talking about as far as this election goes is the provincial narrative. Individual candidates are and always will be attuned to local issues and circumstances, whatever they may be.

However, my point is simply that at the province-wide level each party has had to make a choice about what they want to frame this election as being about. And that choice will have been made based on studious research into one thing: what will it take to win.

In this campaign, families occupy tier 1 in terms of priorities, followed by immigrants, seniors and the more broad notion of the urban-based middle-class. While that sounds like a big group, it excludes a lot of people.

So my challenge to those reading (he said hopefully) is simple. If you are a forgotten voter, tell us what would make this campaign resonate with you. What matters to you; what will earn your vote?

I am asking because when election day comes, you have a choice.

You can answer the questions the parties are asking you. Questions like "do you trust McGuinty not to raise taxes?" or "do you trust Hudak not to cut health care?"

Or you can answer the questions that you ask yourself - about Ontario, about what you think it needs to move forward, and about which party spoke to you and your vision during the campaign.

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