The political parties won’t be the only ones contacting voters with their messages in the fall’s provincial election campaign.
The election campaign will also see an unprecedented level of participation by various interest groups.
These include the unions, of course, some of which have coalesced in a group called “working families” and plan to spread an anti-Conservative message.
The teachers are also marshalling their forces and targeting ridings such as Don Valley West, where Education Minister Kathleen Wynne is in the fight of her political life against Conservative Leader John Tory.
CAPTR, the property taxpayers’ coalition, will target Liberals in key ridings that have seen steep increases in assessments. And parents of autistic children will be after Premier Dalton McGuinty.
The environmentalists will also be involved and, for a change, they are working together. “We’re more organized than we’ve ever been,” says Rick Smith of Environmental Defence, one of 14 groups that have formed a coalition called Priorities for Ontario’s Future.
The 14 groups have agreed on six priorities: preserving the boreal forest, reducing waste, curbing urban sprawl, removing toxins from the environment, cleaning up the Great Lakes, and promoting green energy. They are to hold a press conference at Queen’s Park today to update their plans and release the results of some polling they have commissioned.
The environmental groups have also pooled their membership lists and, after purging duplicate names, have a combined list with an impressive 209,000 names.
They then broke down the list by riding. The results are interesting.
Of the top 10 ridings, nine are in Toronto, including Trinity-Spadina, which has the most names on the list – 7,864, or 11.2 per cent of the eligible voters in the riding.
The bottom 10 include eight ridings in northern Ontario, including Timmins-James Bay, with just 338 names, or 0.61 per cent of the eligible voters.
Overall, 80 of the 107 ridings have at least 1,000 names on the environmentalists’ list.
The question is: What do the environmental groups do with this information?
The ridings in the top 10 are mostly held by MPPs who could be considered environment-friendly, including Environment Minister Laurel Broten (Etobicoke-Lakeshore) and NDP environment critic Peter Tabuns (Toronto-Danforth), a former head of Greenpeace Canada.
As you would expect, MPPs considered unfriendly to the environment tend to represent ridings with the fewest names on the list. Timmins-James Bay, for example, is held by Gilles Bisson, a New Democrat who broke party ranks to vote against the Endangered Species Act last May.
Furthermore, even if the environment groups wanted to target MPPs, they couldn’t without jeopardizing their charitable status.
But the environmentalists say they don’t intend to target anyone.
Says Bruce Cox of Greenpeace Canada: “We haven’t sat there and said: `This person is an enemy of the environment. We’re taking him out.’ Telling somebody how to vote is not our intention.”
Rather, continues Cox, “We’re going to educate voters on the priorities we’ve established.” That education will include an examination of the platforms of the major parties to show how they line up with the environmentalists’ priorities.
What the voters do with that information is another question. But a candidate in one of the top 20 or 30 ridings on the environmentalists’ list might want to pay attention to what they are saying.