Before voting, as these questions

With an Ontario election campaign about to start, what I really want to ask the main party leaders is, “Would you please keep your wretched candidates from ringing my doorbell?” Like Ebenezer Scrooge, I do not conduct my affairs in the teeth of inclement weather. And I’m insulted that you think I’d decide how to vote based on a prepackaged porch pitch without clarifications of the sort candidates do not give while cold wind blows through the doorway onto my dinner. I’m interested in “why” questions, not “what” questions. I want to know why you politicians hold the positions you hold (or claim to) and why you think your solutions would actually work, especially if they’re things — like “Target health care funding where it is needed most” — that I’ve heard a dozen times before. So perhaps I can contribute a few more pertinent questions than “Would you please leave me alone?”, which I already know you might possibly do during the campaign if I bar the door and hide under the bed for the next 39 days but most certainly will not do once elected no matter what desperate measures I adopt.

I don’t even insist that your answers persuade me. I just want proof that you’ve thought about this stuff.

On health:

Mr. McGuinty, since health care now takes almost half the provincial budget yet many Ontarians have no family doctor, how high would its share have to go before you concede that the current system is unworkable?

Mr. Tory, your platform speaks of efficiencies, electronic records and healthy lifestyle choices, but if it’s so easy to fix the system, why hasn’t it been done already by governments panicked by escalating costs?

Mr. Hampton, would you like to see anything else important, such as food or cars, produced under the same basic conditions as health care in Ontario? Would you consider a Canada Food Act ridiculous, and why?

On education:

Mr. Tory, how do we keep publicly funded faith-based schools from teaching divisive or even hateful values?

Mr. Hampton, what right does the state have to pre-empt parents when it comes to their children’s moral education?

Mr. McGuinty, why is it divisive for anyone else to have their own publicly funded schools, but not for members of your religion?

On universities:

Mr. Hampton, why should taxpayers subsidize post-secondary tuition for middle-class kids to enjoy lucrative, prestigious careers?

Mr. McGuinty, should public universities restore a structured curriculum in the humanities instead of students choosing “cafeteria-style” from professors’ often exotic offerings?

Mr. Tory, why shouldn’t Ontario’s universities be privatized?

On energy:

Mr. Tory, how much waste does a modern nuclear plant produce in a year and where is it safe to get rid of it, and what kind of conservative would legally require an “energy audit” before a person could sell their house?

Mr. Hampton, how many of those “War of the Worlds” three-bladed windmills would we need to replace the coal-fired plants?

Mr. McGuinty, for years you’ve been promising to shut the coal-fired plants and haven’t pulled it off, so why should we believe anything else you say?

On infrastructure:

Mr. Hampton, if you’re not willing to divert billions from social programs, where would you get the money to pay for urgent road and water system work?

Mr. Tory, the Harris Tories loudly boasted that they had solved Ontario’s infrastructure woes, so what went wrong and why did their good intentions fail?

Mr. McGuinty, what are Ontario’s most pressing $5 billion in infrastructure needs?

On abortion:

Mr. McGuinty, how can you profess to be Roman Catholic yet support abortion?

Mr. Hampton, doesn’t abortion on demand favour the male swinger’s agenda over genuine respect for women?

Mr. Tory, could anything including the threat of immediate deportation to Neptune induce you to speak the word “abortion” in public, even favourably?

On philosophy:

Mr. McGuinty, how does your liberalism relate to that of John Stuart Mill?

Mr. Tory, how does your conservatism relate to that of Edmund Burke?

Mr. Hampton, how does your socialism relate to that of George Bernard Shaw?

One more, if I may, for all the leaders:

A few weeks back I suggested a reading list for aspiring politicians. And yes, I’d like to know if you’d read any of it. But my question here is what you’d recommend to young people interested in public affairs and seeking to educate themselves. What three books do you think they should read first, and why?

If you can answer these questions you won’t need to peddle banalities at my doorstep during dinner. And if you can’t, it won’t help you to try.

[First published in the Ottawa Citizen]

Columns, PoliticsJohn Robson