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Selling Democracy – Election Again

April 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Special Features


VoteHere we are again, the fourth election in seven years. Once more, it’s time to batten down the hatches and brace ourselves for the storm of constant campaigning that drowns us in a flood of political rhetoric and opposition bashing. Each candidate is firing on all cylinders, making his or her case to Canadians as to why they’re the ideal individual for the job. They slap us across the face with public appearances, on-air interviews and those notorious campaign ads.

Oh, the campaign ads! We’ve already seen a slew of these political sales pitches that take howitzer-size shots at the competition. You may have sat through the Conservative’s commercial proclaiming Michael Ignatieff  “didn’t come back for you,” or perhaps the Liberal’s deceit-abuse-contempt ad targeting the scandals of Stephen Harper’s administration, or even Jack Layton’s diagnosis on Harper’s “not so great” health-care plan. On some level, they all make sense, albeit with an obvious biased slant.

Each candidate touches on the various elements that concern voters. Lower taxes, better health care, stronger education, more jobs, solid pensions – same old promises. Of course we want all these things. Why wouldn’t we? We get bombarded by a mountain of assurances that more often than not cannot be fulfilled. For me, this is just another testament to the problems of our representative democracy: it’s all about sales.

Let’s pause for a moment and do a little test. For just a second, step outside of your political paradigm, throw on a veil of ignorance and ask yourself a very simple question: how much do you know about running a country? Not what you want from a government or what you think the government should do, but what it actually takes to make a country function. If you’re anything like me, it’s very little.

And herein lies the dilemma: those who know nothing about politics are the ones that make the call on who should take the national wheel. Everyday individuals who care more about how they want their steak or who’s getting the boot off The Bachelor than budget percentages are deciding.

I don’t want to seem too hard on democracy. It’s a phenomenal idea – put the power in the hands of the people, freedoms and rights for all, the ability to live your life in however way you see fit – it’s a beautiful thing. Our problem is that we see voting as a “right.” It’s something we’re flat-out entitled to without having to work for it. We passionately champion democracy, yet do nothing while the Green Party is uninvited to debates.

But look in any newspaper right now and you’ll find people all around the world fighting and dying just to taste the privileges we so easily take for granted. They scratch, claw and bleed, just for the opportunity to have their voices heard; yet, us fortunate Canadians boldly proclaim, “It’s my right to vote and you can’t take that away from me.” Maybe we need to lose that privilege to really appreciate it.

Just look at our history of elections to see how little we appreciate that freedom. Public disinterest in politics has been on the rise for over 20 years. According to Elections Canada, in 1984, 75.3 per cent of eligible voters voted. In 2006, there was 64.7 per cent, and only 58.8 per cent in 2008 – the lowest voter turnout in Canadian history. But who can blame them? When politicians squabble more than angry teenagers, can’t agree on any issues and try to sell to us like sleazy used car salesmen, it’s tough to get motivated.

Call me a dreamer, but I would love to see a Canada where our political responsibility doesn’t just end at voting. Where Canadians actively seek out information to make the most informed vote they can. Where politicians are held accountable for the things they promise and don’t just spew rhetoric for the sake of manipulating voters. Where Canadians actually want to make their country better and not just have someone else do it for them.

For this election, don’t just form your political ideals off of campaign ads. Do some research. Think of two or three important issues and find out how each party plans to engage them. Don’t just look at politicians, either. See what their parties really stand for, get educated on what they are proposing, and weigh the pros and cons. More importantly, don’t just vote because a co-worker proclaims, ‘if you don’t vote you can’t complain.’ Vote because it’s what you want to do. Vote because you’re concerned for the well-being of our country. Vote responsibly and meaningfully on May 2nd, and maybe just prove me wrong.

Q & A with the Leaders*

Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Q: If elected back into office as a minority government, what would the Conservative party do differently this time around?
A: Canadians are tired of political instability and they are tired of elections taking place every two years. If Canadians choose to re-elect us with a minority, we would be honoured to continue to
serve. But Canadians should be under no illusions: the Ignatieff-led coalition with the NDP and the
Bloc Québécois won’t respect that result.

Unless we elect a stable, national, Stephen Harper majority for Canada, Michael Ignatieff, the
Bloc Québécois and the NDP will re-form and re-impose their reckless coalition from 2008. This is the only choice we face. A stable, national Stephen Harper government with a low-tax plan for jobs and growth or a reckless coalition with a high-tax agenda. A coalition that puts the NDP’s hands on the economy and a coalition that gives the Bloc Québécois, a party that wants to break up Canada,
a veto over national decisions.

Michael Ignatieff

Q: The Liberals’ fiscal plan has been referred to as “reckless” by Conservatives. What is the Liberals’ response to this criticism?
A: What is truly reckless is to cut corporate taxes, when we already have the 2nd lowest rate in the G7, 25 per cent lower than the corporate tax rate in the United States. It is the hard-pressed Canadian middle-class family that needs a break, not corporate Canada.

Jack Layton
Q: Polls indicate that the NDP are behind both Liberals and Conservatives. What does the NDP hope to accomplish by calling this election?
A: “We offered to work with Mr. Harper to get things done now for people who need it, but he decided instead to provoke an election. Now that an election is on, Canadians are asking themselves … Who can you trust to fix Ottawa and give families a break? It’s time to elect a government that puts middle class families first. You can trust New Democrats to get the job done.”

Elizabeth May
Q: After being shutout of the televised leader’s debate, is your view of Canadian democracy altered?
A: “We’re a long ways from understanding the motivations from this decision, and frankly I do find regardless of how this affects the Green Party, but as a citizen of this country and someone who is very troubled by the downward trends in the health of our democracy, this experience is chilling.”

*While writing this story, City Life Magazine reached out to all parties for comments. Leaders that are not included did not provide answers by the time of press.

Party Views

• Increased support for seniors and caregivers
•  Keep taxes low for families and corporations and increase jobs
•  Expand Employment Insurance and Wage Earner Protection Program
•  Get tough on human smuggling and enhance Canadian Armed Forces

•  Family Pack: Childhood learning and care fund, secure pensions upon retirement, compensation to care for ill family, tax relief for green home renovations.
•  More prudent tax plan to reduce deficit; no more cuts to corporate taxes

•  Invest in businesses that create jobs: $4,500 tax credit per new hire
•  Better and more affordable health services and credit card interest rate caps
•  Put families at the forefront – stronger pensions, more accessible education, improved Employment Insurance

Bloc Quebecois
•  Give Quebec $2.2 billion for HST
•  Quebec to have full control over its telecommunications
•  Gradually move away from petroleum-based resources and towards green economy

Green Party
•  A national childcare plan, design communities around families (not cars)
•  Higher taxes on environmentally harmful companies; create “green collar” jobs
•  Establish government that prudently handles taxpayers’ money; a more transparent government


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