Published Sept. 21, 2015, in the Waterloo Region Record.
Forget that dreadful Globe and Mail debate last week. Yes, it was embarrassingly poorly conceived, badly organized and staged, and ineptly moderated. Worse, it served to reinforce the misconception being peddled by the Harper Conservatives that the economy is the only important issue in this election.
It isn’t. Continue reading
I thought a newspaper reader, Bill Phipps from Calgary, hit the nail squarely on the head the other day in a letter to the editor of the Globe. “Contrary to what the media would have us believe, the economy is not the only election issue,” Phipps wrote. “More important and deeper concerns are honesty, integrity, openness, respect for Parliament and MPs, for Canadian institutions such as the Supreme Court, respect for the democratic process, for honouring science and public servants. “Issues by which our compassion and justice will be judged are murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls, and the state of our criminal justice system, including prisons. Finally, the embracing reality of our time is climate change. All these matters are what is really at stake in this election.”
He’s right. All the campaign rhetoric about deficits or surpluses of a few billion dollars – relatively insignificant amounts in a $2 trillion economy – simply distracts voters from more vital causes. The state of our democracy is fundamental. Do our leaders respect Parliament, the courts and the principles enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? Are they open and honest with the people, or do they cover up, mislead and at times lie to protect their own hides? Do they really care about the murder of aboriginal women or the plight of Syrian refugees?
We need to talk about these values. Are the parties committed to making Canada a better, fairer place to live, work and raise a family? Or are they satisfied with the country as it is? Have they listened to the majority of citizens who keep telling pollsters that they want change?
“Change” is four-letter word to Stephen Harper. He is satisfied with his management over the past 10 years. He is content that, to his eyes, the Canadian economy has outperformed other industrialized countries. “Where would you rather have been but in Canada?” he asked in the debate. “Looking forward, where would you want to be but Canada?”
Both opposition leaders advocate change. Thomas Mulcair, wary of being labelled a radical while he tries to manoeuvre the NDP into the safety of the political centre, is no Tommy Douglas. He does not call for sweeping change. His Canada sounds pretty much like Harper’s – deficit-free, but with higher corporate taxes, an increased minimum wage and a stronger social safety net. He would introduce his $15-a-day child-care program and, with the provinces, a national pharmacare program to reduce the cost of prescription drugs.
At least Justin Trudeau is bringing some passion to the campaign. He interrupted his opponents repeatedly during the debate. “If you think things are great, then Harper is your guy,” he said at one point.
His message: Canada would be better under a Trudeau Liberal government, but just how it would be different from the Harper Conservatives – aside from massive federal investment in the nation’s infrastructure – remains unclear.
Trudeau’s passion may help in Ontario where voters are still trying to make up their minds. Seat projections put the Liberals well ahead in the province, but the race remains a three-way deadlock nationally.
It is going to take more than dreary quibbles over economic statistics to break the deadlock. It is going to take a vision from one of the leaders. If Trudeau or Mulcair cannot come up with something more compelling than they have so far – a vision that the 70 per cent of the electorate who say they want change can buy into – they will have only themselves to blame if they split the vote and Harper wins a fourth term.
Is it too much to ask: a vision based on Canadian values?