I have an important announcement for all political parties -- not every comment made by every individual opposition candidate can or should be used as a stand-in for opposition policy as a whole. Because people are not dumb, they see through it, and you end up looking silly.
Case in point: a press release came through the wire over the weekend from the Ontario Liberal Party (OLP) highlighting NDP MPP for York South Weston Paul Ferreira's wish to introduce toll roads and parking taxes in certain municipalities in Ontario to deal -- presumably -- with road congestion, car-based pollution, and budget shortfalls, among other issues.
The OLP jumped on this. "Ontario families don't want to pay a new NDP tax just to park their car," said GTA Liberal candidate Laurel Broten. She adds that "Andrea Horwath has made too many expensive promises, and she has no plan to pay for them. Now we see the NDP want a parking tax and road tolls."
Well, no, actually. There is no mention of road tolls or parking taxes in the NDP platform, nor will there be. Mr. Ferreira was simply expressing his opinions on the matter by actually letting the voters of York South Weston know what he believes in. They can make an educated decision about to whether or not to vote for him if they know what he as an individual stands for, in addition to what his party believes. His was not a comment on NDP policy as a rule, and he never claimed it to be: and it is this kind of underhanded politicking from all sides that makes people turn away from the entire political process.
Ferreira was simply referencing suggestions that he made for the City of Toronto when he ran for city council back in 2007. This is easily distorted to stand-in as NDP policy.
On the CBC Radio 2 debate, Ferreira noted that,
"I think we owe it to voters, to residents, to citizens to have a mature conversations on topics like that. Should there be road tolls? Should there be a parking tax? Should we be looking at additional funding revenues?... I am proud to say that in 2006 when I ran for city council in this city I proposed levying a toll on the DVP and the Gardiner Expressway."
To which the OLP quickly indicate their consistent rejection of road tolls in the province.
The Liberals have no monopoly on distortion and misleading voters: I believe we saw this constantly in the 2011 federal election with the Conservatives attack ads on Michael Ignatieff's ulterior motives for returning to Canada; we have seen it with Tim Hudak's relentless drive over the summer to label the eco-fee a "sneaky eco tax," and I have no doubt the NDP has been guilty of this transgression as well.
The problem is how easy it is to have one bad apple spoil the whole bunch. Isolated incidences like this can be forgiven, but this type of politicking has become banal, a new norm for how parties deceive and cajole the electorate into voting for them. And it is how commonplace this is, how we don't flinch at this anymore that is especially troubling to me. Never mind the fact that I stand with Ferreira in advocating for road tolls on the DVP and Gardiner in order to bring much-needed revenue into Toronto from those in the 905 belt who pay no city taxes yet use and degrade our infrastructure.
Would I rather pay 75 cents every time I use the Gardiner than close my local library branch, in light of Rob Ford's proposed service cuts? Without a doubt.
Ferreira was simply asking for a conversation, but the Liberals saw an opportunity.
This has got to change.