Politics versus reality

Reality in politics: which platform meets the empirical test?
Image: TVO

The Ontario provincial election is only a couple of days away, so if I want to make a statement about it, now is the time.

Few will be surprised to read that, politically speaking, I lean to the left. Actually, I probably stand a few steps left of centre. There are two main reasons why:

  • People are more important than money.
  • The right’s arguments today are not based on rationality or even reality. In fact, they fly in the face of empirical evidence.

Maybe I’m too literal minded. I’m a writer. (Hah! See what I did there?) But I like politicians to base decisions and positions on observable facts.

It’s like the old joke about the professor who said “It may work very well in practice, but does it work in theory?”

Reality-free politics

This morning, I heard an interview with a group of voters from a town east of Ottawa. There were supporters of each of the major parties. The one who supported the Progressive Conservatives listed his reasons, which just repeated the tropes pushed by the party’s elite. None of them bear up to scrutiny.

  • “Doug Ford is a regular guy.” No, he’s the millionaire son of a millionaire. He’s part of the “Toronto elite” he decries. He has never had to live paycheque to paycheque, never had to make the decision between paying for rent and buying groceries.
  • “Conservatives run government like a business.” Two objections here. First, governments should not be run like a business. They’re two very different things with different goals. A business’s goal is to make money. That’s it. Government in a democracy, on the other hand, has to balance the legitimate needs and desires of many different groups and people, to make the best possible life for all. Yes, we should be concerned about waste, about running it efficiently, but let’s drop this whole idea about government-as-a-business. That approach will only lead to further concentration of wealth in fewer hands—which is the goal of a business.
  • “Higher minimum wages lead to job losses.” This argument sounds logical. This is something that works in theory, but not in practice. The evidence doesn’t support it. Do the research. You’ll see there is an initial period where some minimum wage earners get laid off or replaced by machines. But overall, consumer spending tends to increase, leading to more jobs and higher profits for employers.

That’s the message of the conservatives, and none of it is true. I’m not saying the Cons are lying. From all I hear, they believe that.

I don’t, so I cannot support them.

Reality is out of fashion

I know we live in the post-truth era of politics, but I will continue to make my decisions based on reality.

There are a lot of Conservative messages that don’t bear the weight of analysis. Beyond them, though, some of the other reasons I cannot support them are:

  • They refuse to talk to the media. Time and time again, I listen to broadcasts that bring together local candidates to debate issues, and the Progressive Conservative candidate declines. If you refuse to explain your platform to me, how can you expect to convince me?
  • The lack of costing. The Conservatives have made a lot of spending promises: lower electricity rates, tax cuts, buck a beer. But how will they pay for them?
  • Their insistence that Conservatives know how to balance the budget. They never have. Harper didn’t. Harris pretended to, but only by passing costs down to municipal governments, which raised property taxes and let infrastructure crumble.
  • Their general condescension. Conservatives always portray themselves as being the only ones who can balance a chequebook. They snicker at policy proposals that they refuse to think through. And Doug Ford radiates all the integrity of a drug dealer.

I’m not asking you to agree with me. I’m just stating publicly how I’m making my decision.

Rant over.