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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Dalton Mcguinty Makes History in Ontario Elections

Dalton who? History?

October 10, 2007 was election day in Ontario.

Three main political parties contested the elections. The ruling Liberals under incumbent Premier Dalton Mcguinty, the Progressive Conservatives under John Tory and the New Democrats under Howard Hampton.

For the successful politicians politics is the art of consensus building, elections are about defining and seizing the moment. Mcguinty thwarted off allegations against his broken promises in the past election and defined for the voters the issue of school subsidy for the faith based school funding in Ontario. This emphasis resonated with the majority of the voters and dominated the electioneering.

Under the present system, only catholic school board is subsidized by the government. John Tory, leader of the Conservatives promised to extend this funding to all faith based school systems .

Macguinty and his team pounced on this and defined it as the campaign issue. Latent Islamophobia played a part in this too. The Liberal campaign was so effective that in the last week before the polling John Tory backed away from his promise to provide equal funding for faith based schooling. But it was too little too late by then.

In the elections held yesterday The conservatives garnered only 26 seats (31.6% of the vote) to the Liberals 71 seats (42.2 %.) And Mcguinty won a back to back Liberal majority for the first time in 70 years.

52.6 % of the eligible voters in Ontario cast their ballots.

Digression on the Desi Angle

There were many ridings, mostly in 905 area (the suburban areas are defined by the phone area code - while metro Toronto numbers begin with 416, the surrounding areas numbers begin with 905) that were contested exclusively by desis. There were a few ridings where the candidates of the major parties in the riding were either Sikhs or Sikhs and Hindus. (Mississaugua-Brampton South, Bramalea-Gore-Malton), There was one riding in the 416 Etobicoke North where the three main rivals were Muslims.

In addition to this, many desis volunteer and participate actively for all the major parties and their candidates and are part of the election teams that manages these elections from the pamphlet distribution to back room strategy

Digression from a Polling Booth

(Names and numbers changed to protect privacy)

This polling booth was set up in one of the party rooms of a luxury Condominium complex in the west end. This is where the registered voters of the two buildings would cast their votes. Building A had 356 and Building B had 315 registered voters.

The Polling Agents were advised to arrive at 8 am. Rose, Bettey, Ivona and Shah arrived there at 8 am. They set up the tables according to the layout provided by the Elections Ontario. Rose and Betty set up Table A, with Rose acting as the Poll Clerk and Betty as the Deputy Returning Officer. They set up their tables, opened the boxes, put up signs in the lobby and the walls leading to the Voting Room, organised the boxes and tons of material sent by the Ontario Elections to assist them in the voting and for the count and closing reports. They managed to set it all up by 8.50am. Ivona and Shah did the same for Table B.

The voters from the two buildings started coming in from the moment the doors opened and continued throughout the day with few breaks. The majority of the voters were senior citizens, professionals with a few teenagers and younger families mixed in. The turn out here was higher here (approx 69%) than the provincial average of 52%.

There were no shouting matches, disputes were resolved amicably, If the names were not on the list they could be added on the spot by the Deputy Returning Officer upon production of one ID from a list of over twenty provided by Elections Ontario.

When the polls closed at 9pm the doors were locked, forms taken out, filled diligently, envelopes taken out and spread on the table, ballots counted and re counted, the totals reconciled with the list of blank ballots supplied, the totals phoned in to the reporting center, then the envelopes were sealed put in the supplied bag and handed over to the Area Manager, who would take the bag to the area office.

The only excitement Ivona and Shah had was one missing vote. They counted all the ballots many times but always came up one short. In the rush, one of the voters had inadvertently walked away with a vote instead of dropping it in the box.

The other table had an intriguing moment too. An elderly man walked in and cast his vote. Then he demanded to cast his wife's proxy vote, adding he wanted her wishes respected, and he mentioned she had died the day before.

If he had not mentioned aloud that his wife had died the day before, he would have been allowed to exercise the signed proxy and vote on her behalf. But His admission caused a flurry of phone calls to the Area Manager, the riding center, the provincial headquarters. Sadly, in the end he was not allowed to cast her vote. The ruling that was handed to him was only living people could participate directly or through proxies.

For more news reports check out these links:

here, here, here, here, here and here.


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