All Parties Deserve Equitable Coverage in Elections

By Linda Chenoweth

I retired 3 years early from teaching with the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board due to my disillusionment with education in Ontario, many reasons of which I have written about in the Hamilton Spectator. I have covered issues such as the invalid and unreliable EQAO testing; violence in schools; low math scores on EQAO and moving students on in the primary grades in math and language when they haven’t mastered the curriculum; and putting students on Individual Education Plans.

After retiring I was volunteering at the school I retired from when I learned about the ARC Accommodation and Review proceeding that was proposing to close 4 schools in East Hamilton to build one large elementary school by combining 5 schools. I did some research, knowing the harm such a decision would have on community schools, families and their communities. I learned about the politics behind the rigged ARC process and the trustee coalition controlling HWDSB at the time.

I spoke about this rigged process at the ARC meeting and the HWDSB Liaison Committee Meeting with The City.  I also decided to run for Trustee for Ward 4 in the Municipal Election. Unfortunately, I was running against an incumbent who had been the trustee for 40 years and since elections are really popularity contests, the results turned out as expected.

As I learned more about our politics I became aware of the lack of democracy we really have and the corruption in our governance. In the last provincial election I put a sign on my lawn saying, "No one to vote for! I decline my ballot." to educate people because most people, like me until I did some research, did not know you can decline your ballot. Not only does the government not want people to know this, they also discourage people from doing it by making them decline their vote at the registration table and not in the privacy of the poll booth as they are entitled too.

I went on to research the registered political parties in Ontario and found The None of The Above Direct Democracy Party or NOTA Party. I am now running for MPP for Hamilton East/Stoney Creek in the upcoming provincial election on June 7th.  What initially started out as a desire to have the option to voice my displeasure with the choices on the ballot with the words “None of The Above” has turned into a full out effort to educate people about our current party system, their “games” and how we need legislative and electoral reforms for a return to the democracy that everyone should be enjoying and not just the “privileged elite.”

The None Of The Above Party is among 18 other small registered parties in Ontario besides the top 3. These parties are legally entitled to equitable coverage by the media but get almost none. The many organizations whose job it is to ensure that our laws and the rights of all parties are upheld does nothing to remedy this injustice. Reporting on the government by the media during campaign periods should be done with the greatest of observation to equitable coverage of all parties running. Selective reporting and omissions of what I call “the whole story” becomes free campaigning for those parties that are covered. It is therefore not only illegal, it is unfair and undermines democracy. NOTA leader Greg Vezina calls it “fake” news. Even here in Canada small party candidates are actually threatened with arrest if they demand their place on the podium at all candidate debates.

Canadian politics functions more like the countries of Russia or China who suppress other parties’ voices. Small parties are kept small by the absence of media coverage, the undermining of their significance when they are covered and by actual undemocratic laws enacted by the parties in power to keep themselves in power. Even countries like Iran include all political candidates in their electoral debates.

The people of Ontario and Canada are entitled to democracy and they aren't getting it. The media plays an important role in a democracy in educating its citizens. People deserve and are legally entitled to know what their choices are. No wonder voting turnouts are low. People are fed up with our current politicians, the party system and our corrupt governments and they feel that there is nothing for them to vote for.

I encourage people to research all the political parties. It only takes one ‘”click” to get to Elections Ontario and another to find all the registered parties. I did and discovered a party with goals and values I respect and who wants to give you control of your governance. If elected NOTA candidates do not have to "toe" any party line. There are no central party policies. No promises to break.   

No longer do you have to vote for “the devil that you know”. You don’t have to vote strategically or decline your ballot. You have other choices!