TVOntario has decided it won’t take voter apathy lying down. Not when Steve Paikin can do something about it.
That’s why Ontario’s own TVO has ramped up its coverage of the 2011 provincial election to be the most comprehensive the network has ever attempted. Alongside Paikin’s nightly news show The Agenda with Steve Paikin is Your Vote 2011, their multi-media suite consisting of a website, social media options, and smartphone apps. The message seems to be that no matter where you are, or what you are doing, you can be connected to what is happening in the Ontario election. There is no reason to be ill-informed.
And if technological methods of communication were not enough, Paikin is willing to come to you. Literally. Since February, The Agenda has been hosting town hall meetings in various regions of the province (Ottawa, Hamilton, Niagara, Sudbury, Mississauga) to give Ontarians an opportunity not only to speak with each other in the room (and with Paikin), but to connect with Ontarians right across the province, and the candidates that hope to represent them after October 6.The town halls are broadcast live on TVO, and made available on the website and on YouTube for watching later.
And this is of no small importance. Someone living in Niagara may have no idea about what life is like living in Sudbury – the concerns, the issues, the benefits. For example, listening to The Agenda podcast last week I was amazed to hear a political scientist working in Thunder Bay note that Tim Hudak’s “foreign workers” comment had no political traction in the North. Quite simply, no one cared. But in Southern Ontario, media outlets – myself included – were in a tizzy about Hudak’s xenophobic musings on the perils of assisting “foreign workers” – i.e., new Canadian citizens.
But what gets one segment of the population riled up may simply fail to resonate with people elsewhere. With fewer new Canadians living in Northern Ontario than in Southern Ontario and the GTA, an off-putting comment about a tax credit from the PC leader would not make a splash. Their priorities are vastly different. And in a province as enormous as Ontario, the differences and diversity are immense, as I have written about elsewhere.
Yet this is exactly the type of cross-pollination of ideas and experience that TVO is hoping to foster. Most of us in the GTA don’t have friends in all corners of the province we can call to get a sense of the political climate there. But to have the chance to see, and hear, and to feel the passion with which average Ontarians speak about the issues that motivate them is a marvelous thing. Even if you think they’re absolutely insane!
And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Turns out, TVO has some influential boosters. “Your Vote 2011 serves a real need for in-depth analysis of the Ontario political landscape,” says Bill Davis, a former Conservative Premier of Ontario and founder of TVO.
Not to be outdone, former Liberal Premier David Peterson also chimed in that “I find it impressive that TVO is taking a unique and in-depth approach in covering this election.” He added “it is fitting that our public educational broadcaster is providing such a solid opportunity for Ontarians to engage in the political process.”
Political ignorance has no place in a vibrant and functioning democracy, and Paikin and the people at TVO understand that. They also understand that in 2011, people demand equity in their politics, and deserve to be as well-informed as possible. To that end, Paikin has made sure to include Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner in his studio show, in stark contrast to the decision to keep Schreiner out of the provincial debate.
We can no longer lament the ignorance and apathy of voters in Canada if our media outlets (the primary driver of political dissemination) won’t demand and provide equitable treatment. And TVO is leading the charge.
How else are we supposed to make an educated decision on October 6?