#onpoli newsletter: Ask us anything

You did — and we answered.
By Eric Bombicino - Published on June 24, 2019
Image of Steve Paikin and John Michael McGrath with the words "#onpoli - a tvo podcast" written next to them
To keep things interesting, our #onpoli podcast hosts were not shown the questions before recording.

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Hello, #onpoli people,

This week we’re bringing you the final episode of the season. And, for this one, we wanted to hear from you, our dear listeners. We put a call out for you to ask us anything — and, boy, did you deliver!

We received insightful and wide-ranging questions for our hosts Steve Paikin and John Michael McGrath. To keep things interesting, we didn’t show them the questions before recording.

Whether the questions were about political ego, question period, or why we don’t use the party system in municipal politics, Steve and John Michael were thoroughly put through their paces.

What ends a government?

Nick Thompson asked us, “What is the definitive issue that has led to the fall of each of Ontario's governments in recent history?”

After reflecting on past provincial governments, stretching back to the end of the Tory dynasty in 1985, Steve said, “We have to be careful in assuming we know why governments win and lose.”

“I remember Bob Rae told me this once,” he added. “‘You can do all the pontificating you want; you can do all the political analysis you want. At the end of the day, sometimes, the voters just say, We’ve had enough of the ins — let’s try the outs.’”

And when they’ve had enough of them, Steve said plainly, they may decide to put the party they’d once voted out back in power again. It’s a pendulum, and “it may not be any more complicated than that,” Steve said.

Black and white photo of two men sitting in Ontario legislature.
In 1985, David Peterson (right) became the first Liberal premier of Ontario in decades. (Thomas Szlukovenyi/Globe and Mail)

Partisan politics in cities?

Steve and John Michael, fielding a question on why there isn’t a party system in municipal politics, disagreed on whether switching to such a system would be a good thing.

“The bigger problem in Ontario, for most of our [municipal] elections, is that they are not fair, democratic competitions,” John Michael said. “Every municipal-election cycle, somebody inevitably writes a story about [how] a third of council candidates in the province don’t face any opponent whatsoever.”

This gives incumbents too much of an advantage, John Michael argued. A councillor could win their first election by the “tiniest of margins,” he said, “and four years later, they get elected with 80 per cent of the vote.”

Having political parties operating at the municipal level would mitigate this advantage.

“If there is somebody running as a Liberal, and I know who the Liberal leader is,” John Michael said, “you have a pretty decent idea of what the candidate is going to do. But in local municipal elections … aside from name recognition, voters have very little, in terms of information to go on.”

Click here for Steve’s response and for the full mailbag episode, in which we cover everything from student loans to beer sales in Ontario.

Thanks to everyone for writing in!

How we do what we do

TVO is funded as a public agency by the government of Ontario. But when we do something new, like the #onpoli podcast and this newsletter, we often rely on generous donors like you to get it off the ground.

If you like what we're doing with #onpoli, please make a donation to keep it going. We'd like to feature the donors who make our work possible on future episodes of the podcast. So, if you make a donation, please write to us and let us know what you like about #onpoli at onpolitics@tvo.org.


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