Doorstep Postings: Why the Ontario party platform platitudes have little room for Jews (or absolutely anyone or anything else)

A promise from the 2022 Ontario NDP platform.

This is the 14th in a series of opinion columns on the 2022 Ontario provincial election, written by Josh Lieblein for The CJN.

Ontario’s New Democrats have calculated that you, the discerning Jewish voter, will be more likely to vote for them than the other parties because they’ve promised to build a Holocaust memorial on the grounds of Queen’s Park. 

Meanwhile, the Liberals are offering a more generalist approach: “new laws“ to protect synagogues and other places of worship, along with restoring funding to anti-racism programs that was removed by the Ontario PCs.

And so, barring any to-be-announced-funding in areas relevant to the community from Doug Ford, that’s the extent to which “Jewish issues” will play a role in this upcoming campaign, at least from a policy perspective. 

No doubt we will have plenty of partisan wrangling over which party is doing the most—or the least—to, let’s say, stem the tide of hate crimes against Jews or antisemitic incidents in Ontario schools and universities.

And we’ll have no shortage of stories about the views of some political person who will say, or has said, something about Jews or Israel that’ll lead to the usual round of condemnations.

But the point of an election platform is not to propose solutions to problems facing the Jewish community—any other group of people, really. The point is to create a document that looks great and sounds great, but doesn’t invite any serious scrutiny or, in many cases, any questions at all. 

Platform writers produce their election documents in environments where objections aren’t raised, no matter how well-meaning those could be. They’re written in expectation of a campaign where the voters are so impressed that they somehow forget to ask completely logical questions, and with the understanding that only people who could possibly quibble with their policy prescriptions are immune to persuasion, or have taken leave of their senses. 

This is why you’ll encounter so many candidates, staffers, and volunteers who will quickly end a conversation about policy as soon as things start to get a bit sticky. Understand that these political people, who depend on your votes to stay employed, would rather risk losing your vote by running away than offer specifics about just how they’ll get their promises implemented.    

This is also why so many of these promises are either impossibly vague, wildly unrealistic, tinker around the edges in such a small way so as to be meaningless—or some combination of the three.

And right now, the defending champion for this election cycle has to be Steven Del Duca’s Liberals promising a handgun ban in a province where handguns are already illegal. 

Wonder aloud all you like about how the OLP would make this happen, but that’s not the point. The point is that the Liberals want to once again get to “yes” on the badness of guns, and asking “how?” implies that you’re not actively opposed to a ban, since only the worst people (i.e. Doug Ford’s party) would be opposed.   

It would be unfair, however, to characterize the entirety of political platforms as intelligence-free exercises in wedge-dom. Some of the opposition parties’ positions, like calling an inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic, expanded pharmacare, and phasing out for-profit long-term-care homes, definitely sound ambitious. 

But if the polls are to be believed, the OLP and the NDP won’t be forming government anytime soon, which creates lots of room for them to make excuses about why they can’t do those ambitious-sounding things. If you propose an inquiry into the pandemic, and you lose, the argument could be made that Ontario isn’t ready for that just now. 

And thus, the gulf between what voters actually want and what the parties are proposing will stay in place. 

Josh Lieblein can be reached at [email protected] for your response to Doorstep Postings.