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Liberals and NDP get an "E" as best grade of very bad grades in Report Card on Ontario Parties' Democratic Good Government Platforms -- Greens and PCs get an "Incomplete"

Despite high voter concern about democracy and trust, incredibly all parties fail to promise the many needed changes to have effective democracy, government ethics and accountability in Ontario

Voter turnout likely to drop to new record low of about 45% -- many more would likely turn out if Elections Ontario informed voters that they have the right to decline their ballot

Monday, June 9, 2014

OTTAWA - Today, Democracy Watch released its Report Card on the 2014 Democratic Good Government Election Platforms of the five main Ontario political parties, the only election report card on these issues.

The Liberals and NDP tied with a "best" grade of E while the Greens and Progressive Conservatives made so few promises to clean up politics in Ontario that they received an Incomplete.  A Dishonesty Downgrade of one full grade is also shown in the Report Card results -- usually only half of all promises are kept because of the lack of an honesty-in-politics law which is needed to effectively penalize promise-breakers and misleaders.

"All the Ontario parties have failed to respond to high voter concern about democracy and trust issues, but voters focused on these issues should still come to the polls and at least exercise their legal right to decline their ballot and vote none of the above to show their concern," said Duff Conacher, Founding Director of Democracy Watch and chairperson of its four nation-wide coalitions.  "The party leaders should not be surprised by the lack of support they will receive from voters on election day.  One can only hope that the parties will actually address these concerns when the legislature opens again so that everyone in Ontario politics will, finally after 147 years, be effectively required to act honestly, ethically, openly, representatively and to prevent waste."

"None of the Ontario political parties seem to realize that every party that has made strong promises to clean up politics and government in the past 20 years across Canada has won more votes and seats, and elections," said Conacher.  "No one should be surprised if voter turnout drops to a new record low of about 45% because voting for a candidate is like recommending someone for a job, and given the lack of promises to clean up politics, most voters won't feel motivated to recommend that any party form the next Ontario government."

"The Green Party platform has the words 'honesty' and 'integrity' on the cover, but they made only two promises that won't even do much to ensure honesty and integrity in provincial politics.  In contrast, the federal Green Party in the 2011 election made extensive promises and received a grade of B- which was the highest grade for the Report Card that election and in part was why the Greens elected their first MP." said Conacher.  "The Progressive Conservatives have complained a lot about lack of integrity in Ontario politics but they only made a couple of promises to cut spending and increase spending accountability a little bit.  In contrast, the federal Conservatives made 60 democratic reform and government accountability promises in the 2006 federal election, and received the best grade in the Report Card for that election, which they won."

The Report Card grades the four main parties' platform pledges based upon 16 sets of key changes in five areas that Democracy Watch and its coalitions believe are the changes that will most effectively require everyone in the Ontario government to act honestly, ethically, openly, efficiently, representatively and, if they don't act in these democratic ways, to be easily and thoroughly held accountable.  In total, the 16 sets of changes add up to 100 key changes needed to the Ontario government's democracy, ethics and accountability system.

The measures are a compilation of the proposals of the five nation-wide coalitions Democracy Watch coordinates (Government Ethics Coalition, Money in Politics Coalition, Open Government Coalition, Corporate Responsibility Coalition, Canadian Community Reinvestment Coalition).  A combined total of more than 140 citizen groups with a total membership of more than 3 million Canadians belong to the coalitions, groups that work on anti-poverty, bank accountability, community economic development, consumer, corporate responsibility, environment, labour, social justice, women and youth issues.

Many national surveys over the past several years have shown that a large majority of Canadians support the 100 democracy, ethics and government accountability reforms set out in the Report Card, as do many commentators on democratic reform.  The federal government, and every province and territory and municipality across Canada, all have a similar list of 100 loopholes and flaws in their government systems (each with a slightly differect set of loopholes flaws, depending on which have been closed or corrected in the past).

The 16 sets of changes, divided into five areas, all reflect the following five key elements for ensuring that large, powerful government institutions act responsibly and follow rules: 1. strong laws with no loopholes; 2. requirement to disclose details of operations and violations; 3. fully independent, fully empowered watchdog agencies to enforce laws; 4. penalties that are high enough to encourage compliance; and 5. empowerment of citizens to hold governments and watchdog agencies accountable.

The parties were given a grade ranging from A (Platform makes clear promise to implement proposal) to I (Platform does not mention proposal), with grades B for a vague or partial promise to implement the proposal, C and D for clear to vague promises to explore the proposal, E for mentioning proposal and F for mentioning the theme of the proposal.  Grades were averaged for each of the five sections, and the averages of section grades were used to calculate the overall grade for each party.

"Given the lack of a provincial honesty-in-politics law, and the lack of a clear pledge by any of the parties to pass such a law, voters should be wary of trusting any political promises," said Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch.  "However, if they want their concerns addressed, voters should always turn up and at least exercise their legal right to decline their ballotto send a message to the parties."

The 2014 Report Card is an updated version of the Report Cards issued by Democracy Watch during the 2011 and 2007 Ontario elections, and reflects changes that have occurred in Ontario laws since 2007.

Democracy Watch graded the parties' election platforms by reviewing the platforms.  Statements by party leaders or representatives were not taken into account as they are not fully accessible to all voters, nor are they binding in any way on the party (as admitted by many party leaders) and as a result are even less reliable than promises made in the parties' platforms.

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Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
[email protected]


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