In late June, many Canadians focus on possibly the most important weekend of the year, the NHL Draft. We watch player profiles and highlights, constantly wondering who will be first pick. As per usual, old windbag Don Cherry babbles on about his top five, this time including the likes of Aaron Ekblad and Sam Bennett. Yet this year is a bit different. With the appearance of “two mysterious websites”, a new second draft has emerged that is quickly turning eyes. The draft, equal in glory to that of the NHL, is of course for the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership. Who will come out on top?
Christine Elliott is the only one who has actually announced her candidacy, but many prospects have been labeled as potential candidates, including Tony Clement, and Lisa MacLeod. Yet there are two that appear above the others; the fans of John Baird and Lisa Raitt have already created two “draft” websites petitioning Conservatives around the province to support the candidates in their potential leadership race. Sure, Baird and Raitt have websites, but what does that matter? Why does that make them better than the other candidates?
Well, you may realize quickly after perusing the “draft” sites that Baird and Raitt both harness the power of the ‘Triple P’. Baird is a “proven, principled, and passionate conservative,” while Raitt is “principled, professional, and personable.” Without a website, potential supporters would probably have been lost in a sea of non-alliterative adjectives more scattered and foggy than Stephen Harper’s memory of his conversations with Nigel Wright. As we likely now see, these provincial PC Party prospects are pretty pristine politicians.
If you aren’t yet ready to support Raitt or Baird, you should probably consider the reason you’re supporting them in the first place: so that the Conservatives can win the next provincial election. Baird is a “winning conservative option,” and those who sign the petition for Raitt must click a button to admit, “I AM FINALLY READY TO WIN!” Baird and Raitt are trueborn winners probably willing to go any distance (well, hopefully not as far as Ben Johnson or Michael Sona) to secure the number one pick in the next official Ontario PC Leadership draft.
With either of these two as captain of the Ontario PC Party, we are sure to see some great matches played out at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Heck, we can even invite Don Cherry to offer commentary on the partisan exchanges. Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe we’ve come to a point where we’re seeing politics as a professional sports league, where politicians are draft picks, where entertainment is of high priority, and where we really only want to support the winning team. This “game-framing” could lead us to lose sight of policy and ideology distinctions between individuals and parties, and instead lead us to focus solely on the personal aspects of candidates and their battle to “win” an election. Unfortunately, this could negatively affect citizen engagement in elections and decay the health of our democracy. When we’re preparing for the next election, we need to critically evaluate the information passed to us, recognize game-framing, and make an informed vote that doesn’t leave us acting as a pawn in a greater political game.