Thursday, October 06, 2011

Ontario Votes

Ontarians head to the polls today, with the two parties deadlocked a Liberal majority looming a PC victory likely the outcome still up in the air.

I'll be voting for Dalton McGuinty. No surprise there. But I still want to take a moment to explain why, because I truly believe this is a government deserving of re-election.

When I first moved to Ontario in 2008, I had rather lukewarm feelings towards the Premier. He'd spoken well at an Alberta Liberal convention a few years earlier, but it's not like he had the crowd chanting "yes we can!". My sense was he'd been a competent Premier but had largely wasted his first term, preferring to govern towards re-election than towards some grander vision.

But during my time in Ontario, I've grown more and more impressed with McGuinty, both in terms of his political abilities and, more importantly, by what he's managed to accomplish.

Throughout his second term, McGuinty hasn't shied away from thinking big. His push on green energy has had mixed results - smog days are down and Hydro bills are up...but the important thing is that Ontario has begun shifting from the industries of yesterday towards the industries of tomorrow. McGuinty introduced the HST knowing full well it would be popular with experts and economists, but not with the public.

In less controversial moves, he has continued to make improvements to Ontario's Health Care and education systems. Ontario wait times have gone from the longest in Canada to the shortest. I was at a party a few weeks ago, and people were remarking about how easy it is to find a family doctor these days. Full day kindergarten has come to Ontario. Ontario schools are now ranked number 1 in the English speaking world. If I sound like a Liberal commercial, it's because I am. And that's another reason I'm proud to be voting Liberal.

Back this spring, McGuinty was getting the snot punched out of him by everyone. PC ads calling him "the Taxman" were airing on every channel. The temptation must have been uncontrollable to punch back. Instead, the Liberals began airing minute-long commercials with nothing but McGuinty talking about his record. He used facts. He cited third party validators. He made the case for re-election.

Of course he has taken some jabs at his opponents this campaign. That's the name of the game. But the Liberals have been the only party treating voters like grown-ups. It showed in the debate, when McGuinty spent the night boring the audience with facts, Hudak spent the night finding new ways to say "taxes bad, McGuinty bad", and Andrea Horwath spent the night producing a string of platitudes and charming stories.

The grownup tone of the Liberal campaign was also matched with a grownup platform. The Liberal platform is more modest than the Tories', who pretend they'll be able to cut taxes without cutting services. The NDP platform is even more troubling - in addition to promises that would cripple the economy, Horwath has abandoned the NDP's traditional role of looking out for the little guy, in favour of gimmicky promises. The environment? She likes the idea of it, but wants to cut taxes on gas guzzlers and home heating. Taxes, I would add, which are paid disproportionately by the richest Ontarians.

Those are some of the reasons I'll be voting Liberal today. I'm sure a lot of Ontarians - the majority in fact - disagree with me. If you do disagree, then make sure you too get out and vote today, so that your voice is heard.

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12 Comments:

  • If you're planning on voting for McGuinty, I hope you live in Ottawa South. Otherwise, you might be a bit confused when you actually see your ballot. ;)

    By Blogger Jae/Jennie, at 12:56 PM  

  • Well, I'm generally an NDP voter, but I have to admit I've found the Ontario NDP and Horwath distinctly underwhelming this election.

    Not because she's dangerous or would cripple the economy, but because she's so utterly un-dangerous. The only thing the NDP really have going for them in this campaign is the fact that they wouldn't irresponsibly cut corporate taxes, losing huge amounts of revenue for nothing (as these corporations currently sit on massive stockpiles of cash which they are failing to invest, there is little point in giving them even more cash to fail to invest).

    Aside from that one policy I don't think the Ontario NDP are showing themselves either truly NDP or truly ready for government. Of course I'm a BCer so it's not really my business, but if I were in Ontario I think I'd be happy with any outcome that kept out Hudak.

    By Blogger Purple library guy, at 1:35 PM  

  • Good to see you've bought into the Liberal kool-aid.

    CIHI does NOT support the Liberal claims regarding wait times: https://secure.cihi.ca/estore/productFamily.htm?locale=en&pf=PFC1599

    I don't know what you think the "industries of tomorrow" are, but there are hundreds of thousands of Ontarians out of work today who used to have a job ... in solid industries which McGuinty has pushed out of this province.

    And it's not about the "popularity" of the HST. Nobody really cares what the tax is called, but people do care about the things that McGuinty expanded it to cover, including home heating.

    He has raised taxes beyond people's ability to pay and still runs a huge deficit. His people have admitted to lying about the Progressive Conservative platform, claiming that there was - variously - a $12 Billion hole, a $6 Billion hole, and finally admitting that both were just made up stories.

    His is not a record to be proud of.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:58 PM  

  • I grew up in Ontario, left in 1991, and I'm amazed that anyone would consider voting NDP.

    Then again, 20 years is a long time.

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 2:49 PM  

  • CG, I voted for the Green Energy Act, and I agree that for an enormously boring guy, McG's an accomplisher. :) It's the best kind of boring there is.

    By Anonymous Jacques Beau Verte, at 3:15 PM  

  • " I was at a party a few weeks ago, and people were remarking about how easy it is to find a family doctor these days."

    Sounds like a fun party. :)

    By Blogger Kelly J., at 3:21 PM  

  • Ontario schools are not #1 in the English speaking world, Albertan schools are better, as are those in Quebec.

    Alberta is #1 in reading
    (http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/81-590-x/2010001/tbl/tblb1.1-eng.htm)

    Quebec is #1 in science, followed by Alberta
    (http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/81-590-x/2010001/tbl/tblb2.1-eng.htm)

    Ontario is third in science, behind Alberta and BC
    (http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/81-590-x/2010001/tbl/tblb2.2-eng.htm)

    Improvements since 2000 (the evil Mike Harris years) are barely noticeable, despite billions in additional spending:

    Difference in the proportion of people at various reading proficiency levels is displayed below:
    http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/81-590-x/2010001/c-g/c-g1.4-eng.htm

    By Anonymous hosertohoosier, at 3:42 PM  

  • Improvements since 2000 (the evil Mike Harris years) are barely noticeable, despite billions in additional spending:

    There have been improvements since 2003 and the Harris years.

    The graduation rate has increased -- from 68% to 81% from 2003 to 2009. This has lead to 52,000 extra students earning diplomas. (More students, and yet a statistically insignificant increase in reading schools

    Confidence in the public system has also increased. Apparently, during the Harris years, 55,000 students left the public system and 15% of public school parents were considering enrolling their children in private schools. This makes sense considering the number of strikes, like this one that ended up disrupting the school year.

    As for comparing the provinces, differences of a few points aren't statistically significant. In terms of reading and math, Alberta and Ontario are statisically the same (as are British Columbia). Alberta does score better than Ontario in science, but British Columbia and Ontario are statisically the same. In 2000, Alberta was pretty much ahead of Ontario in all three fields.

    By Blogger sharonapple88, at 9:05 PM  

  • It isn't very difficult to increase the graduation rate, if you lower standards. I mean look, the data shows that Ontario students are little different from those in 2000, yet the graduation rate is higher. What that tells me is that more unqualified Ontarians are graduating.

    As somebody who works in post-secondary education, let me say that this is an immense disservice to those students. It devalues a high school degree, and pushes more students that are not prepared for university, into an expensive 6-year ordeal that often does not result in a university degree.

    As for enrollment in private schools, the Harris government offered tax credits for students to enroll in private schools, while McGuinty didn't offer parents that choice. That is hardly a useful measure.

    Lastly, if we aren't going to quibble about a few points, then why is the Ontario government crowing about improvements in education that by any objective measure are marginal at best?

    Nor is it accurate that the provincial education gap is a few points. As you would have noticed, if you looked at the tables, gaps in math and science are statistically significant at the 95% level, or very close to it.

    Math
    95% confidence intervals
    Quebec: 536-550 (mean: 543)
    Ontario: 519-532 (mean: 526)

    Science
    95% confidence intervals
    Alberta: 536-553 (mean: 545)
    Ontario: 525-538 (mean: 538)

    It is also useful to compare to Ontario's results during the Mike Harris years.

    (source: http://www.cmec.ca/Publications/Lists/Publications/Attachments/254/PISA2009-can-report.pdf)

    Average reading score in Ontario
    2003: 530
    2009: 531
    (while the proportion of high achievers actually decreased)

    Average math score in Ontario
    2003: 530
    2009: 526

    Average science score in Ontario
    2006: 537
    2009: 531 (NB: 2003 data was not available, but the impact of McGuinty's policies would be greater for students in 2009)

    So that is your great education revolution. That is the impact of increasing education spending from 12.5 billion in 2003 (http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/budget/paccts/2003/03_ar.html) to 22.7 billion in 2011 (http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/budget/paccts/2011/11_cfs.html).

    Nearly double the spending, yet Ontario's relative performance is, if anything, worse - and the only thing you have to crow about is the fact that you've given more of these students high school degrees.

    The reality is that quality education is not about money, it is about designing an effective curriculum.

    By Anonymous hosertohoosier, at 12:24 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger sharonapple88, at 10:39 AM  

  • It isn't very difficult to increase the graduation rate, if you lower standards. I mean look, the data shows that Ontario students are little different from those in 2000, yet the graduation rate is higher. What that tells me is that more unqualified Ontarians are graduating.

    The standards are some of the best in the world if you go by the PISA. If the standards haven't changed, and more people are graduating, this doesn't mean that more unqualified people are graduating, but that more people are reaching the standards needed.

    It would be easier to achieve higher results via triage. Alberta may have slightly higher marks, but it also has the third highest dropout rate in Canada (and one of the highest postsecondary dropout rates, even with lower post secondary enrollments).
    http://ottewell.gateway.ualberta.ca/articles/news/volume-xcix-number-21/alberta-home-one-top-postsecondary-dropout-rates"

    (Spitballing here, the graduation rate was lower for Alberta in 1999 than it was in 2006. This coincides with a decrease in PISA scores. The two may not be related, but it's possible there's a link between the drop in scores from 2000 to 2009. It's triage in reverse. People who don't do well in school are no longer self-selecting themselves, thereby bringing down scores. Anyway, it's a theory. Something had to have happened in Alberta between 2000 to 2009 for scores to have dropped.
    "http://oncampus.macleans.ca/education/2008/07/28/public-school-enrolment-shrinking-statcan/")

    Anyway, if we want to follow Alberta's lead, there are a few things to note -- according to this 2006 report, Alberta was spending $5291 per student vs. $3744 per student in Ontario.

    http://umanitoba.ca/publications/cjeap/pdf_files/Li.pdf

    As for enrollment in private schools, the Harris government offered tax credits for students to enroll in private schools, while McGuinty didn't offer parents that choice. That is hardly a useful measure.

    The tax credit would be at the most, $3500. Going by the private schools that's sometimes less than a third for private school fees. Is this alone enough of an incentive to get people to think of taking their children from public to private school? More of a motivation would be whether there was a belief that the standards are better in private school than public school -- people are willing to pay more for quality when it comes to their children. If standards are the same or identical, why send your kid to private school?

    http://www.ourkids.net/ontario-private-schools.php

    Lastly, if we aren't going to quibble about a few points, then why is the Ontario government crowing about improvements in education that by any objective measure are marginal at best?

    There's the potential for drops as seen in Alberta and British Columbia.

    By Blogger sharonapple88, at 10:50 AM  

  • Nearly double the spending, yet Ontario's relative performance is, if anything, worse

    Wow.

    By Anonymous Jacques Beau Verte, at 5:56 PM  

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