Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne must sense she’s losing in the current Ontario election campaign.
She’s now picking a familiar target, the same target her federal counterpart Justin Trudeau attacks regularly – the old white voters.
“The reality is that young people vote at a much, much lower rate than older people,” she told Humber College students Friday. “And I always say when I knock on a door and I meet a young person who comes and says, ‘you know, I’m not gonna vote it doesn’t make a difference.’ You know, if you don’t vote then somebody (who) looks like me is going to vote. Some senior person, older than me, some white person.”
The reaction was swift as columnists are now having a field day.
“Kathleen Wynne visited Humber College on Friday and relayed a bizarre and disturbing message to the young and ethnically diverse student body, if you don’t vote then old white people will decide the election,” Brian Lilly, an Ontario political columnist, writes. “She even put in a plug for them to vote for her.
“Even after listening to the audio several times, even after taking into account what I am sure she felt was a breezy and light-hearted tone, the words themselves are shocking coming from a politician,” Lilly added. “More than shocking, they are incredibly divisive, ageist and said in another context by another politician they would have been denounced as racist.”
But we should all know by now, there’s nothing racist about attacking old white people. Prime Minister Trudeau does it all the time.
“The very concept of a nation founded by European settlers is offensive to me,” he once said. “Old Stock White Canadians are an unpleasant relic, and quite frankly, replaceable. And we will replace them.”
Maybe that’s what Wynne is doing. She took straight aim at the white race at Humber College.
“You know the reality is that that’s the demographic that’s going to get out and vote,” she told the college students. “So we need you, we need you to be engaged. Of course, I would love you to be supporting us. But quite frankly, I’d rather you just come out and let your voice be heard whatever your political stripe is.”
But the attack on the white race has drawn harsh criticism in the Canadian media.
“It is a shocking thing to hear from a government that insists that employers be colour-blind in their decisions, but perhaps not surprising from Wynne, as she said recently that we need to view government policy ‘through a race lens,’” Jerry Agar writes in The Toronto Sun.
“But no responsible person would attempt to increase voter turnout in one group by demonizing another,” Agar continued in his column. “It is shameful.
“If Wynne walked the talk she constantly delivers about a caring, fair, inclusive society she would work to engage all groups in the value of exercising the amazing right we have to have our say in who leads us in this country,” he continued. “Perhaps Wynne could make up for her insult by creating a “safe space” for older white people who were “triggered” by her comments.”
If this Ontario election campaign wasn’t strange already, it’s getting pretty strange now.
Dr. David Jacobs on the Ford Nation web site blasted Wynne: “Wynne’s dire warning that if young citizens don’t vote, old white people will is offensive in so many ways. It devalues the elderly. It vilifies Caucasians. Finally, it is condescending to young voters of all ethnicities. Wow. That’s a hat trick!”
But hat-tricks should be left for the hockey arena. This election campaign has now gone down a prejudicial path. And that’s not the way any politician should behave in an election campaign.
The polls are now saying Ontario PC Leader Doug Ford could win a majority in the June 7 vote. That probably has Wynne scared….scared enough to go after the people who just might vote her out – old, white people.
Jeff Wilkinson is a Senior Politics Reporter at Debate Report covering provincial and national politics, . Before joining Debate Report, Jeff worked on several provincial campaigns including Jack Layton. Jeff has worked as a freelance journalist in Toronto, having been published by over 20 outlets including CBC, the Center for Media and VICE.com.