There are lots of clues in the air that a federal election will soon be called. First, Stephen Harper himself flies to the Arctic to make an appearance in the far northern community, only to speak to the media about the possibility of sending Canadians to the polls. Further, a television commercial featuring a number of "ordinary Canadians" who speak highly of Stephen Harper and their intent to vote for him in the next election has already been put on the air, despite the fact no writs have actually been dropped.
There were threats of plunging Harper's minority government into an election for the past couple of years, but nothing ever materialized. Harper's Government actually tendered and passed an election bill that would set future election dates, namely the next one, which was supposed to be set for October 2009, and not this year. The only exception to this specific date is if the Government fell to a non-confidence vote. So, why is he going to the polls now?
I am hearing from people who feel that calling the election now would certainly be a breach of Harper's first promise, which was to not call an election himself until October 2009, which in itself was enough to steer some people away from his party and government. Further, Harper indicated that he felt that Parliament was dysfunctional and difficult to govern, given the minority situation, so an election call was valid ... nevertheless, Harper himself admitted we might just put another minority back into Parliament again, given the polls showing Harper's governing party and the opposition Liberals to be neck and neck in popularity.
At the same time, this is a minority Parliament and it appears that all parties have attempted to make minority government work. Thirteen bills have been passed into law, as well as three budgets have been implemented since the election of this government. Henceforth, it is certainly not as dysfunctional as some might suggest. Further, the appetite of Canadian voters appears to lean towards minority governments, which can force parties to work together on proposals, as opposed to ramming their own through despite massive public opposition.
Do I want another federal election? I personally could not care less, although I tend to participate in the public debate around issues in the election, write letters to the paper and attend meetings, if possible, as well as cast my vote as I did since I was old enough in every federal, provincial and municipal election. I might even work on voting day at the polling stations, something my husband and I have done for years.
However, to me, real issues are hardly ever discussed in elections. When the then Right Honourable Kim Campbell was campaigning to return to her job as Prime Minister, she set the standard that an election was not the time to discuss issues. However, to some extent, it is. In the last election, for example, the Conservatives focused heavily on 'accountability' and 'transparency' in government. Unfortunately, this has not translated into action, particularly when the same organizations continue to get the same funding and are mandated to carry on the business of serving people, when these organizations don't seem to have accountability of their own. But then again, who am I?
I observe that elections get sillier and sillier as time goes on. Politicians want you to vote for them not on the basis of their own policies, but on the policies they want you to dislike of other politicians. To me, this doesn't make a lot of sense, as I prefer to vote for a candidate with the best policies from my perspective. I want to know what they want to offer me, and I don't care why they dislike the other guy. This is too much like going into a car dealership, where the man trying to sell you a Toyota spends all his time with you berating GM products and not telling you why you should buy a Toyota.
So, if an election is going to be held, and by the looks of things, it probably will - it is likely the Tories will put out ads depicting Stephane Dion as a bad leader, particularly given Dion's broken English (which again tells me nothing about Dion's policies or his leadership). The Liberals will probably put out ads about how they feel the Tories are a bunch of right-wing zealots that are going to sell us down the river to the United States, if they haven't already. The NDP will try to attack the Liberals, while unknowingly at the same time, boost the Tory votes. The Green Party will simply be taking a swipe at NDP votes, so these two parties can compete for third party status. The Bloc Quebecois will continue to run on the same agenda they always had, that Quebec should be given nation status and get out of Canada, all the while continuing to collect paycheques with the Canadian flag on them.
Cynical as my observations are, people reading this will know this is truthful. Virtually none of the parties will provide a clear message to voters as to why we should vote for them; just why we should not vote for the other guys. To me, all the political parties have positives in their platforms, as well as negatives. I would rather have each political party roll out their platforms, stick only to key promises and provide arguments to back each of them up. Then, let us as voters decide what party and platform we as Canadians like the best.
The Tories haven't really done anything to piss me off, but then they haven't done a whole lot to endear me either. I am sure that like any politician, they are subject to the whim of lobbyists and interest groups and have to respond to situations as they come up during their electoral term and frankly, most political leaders do try their best with these things. In the US, as Hurricane Gustav threatens to outdo Hurricane Katrina from three years ago, almost to the date, presidential candidates from both parties are doing their Sunday best to speak to the nation as leaders, while attempting to sidestep as many political differences they have at this time to allow the nation to deal with this new potential disaster.
I don't know if it is because it is an election year, or because the fallout from Hurricane Katrina gave the current administration such a big whopping when it did, but I notice the emergency response to Hurricane Gustav is much more organized and is ensuring that any citizen that wants to get the heck out of the way of Gustav can and will be safely housed until this storm literally blows over. There are also key steps being put into place to protect the property of citizens from those who decide to stick around to become looters, something not unheard of when disaster strikes.
But in many ways, our own country is going to Hell in a handbasket and Nero continues to fiddle while Rome burns; therefore, I want to know what our political leaders want to do about it. What do they want to do about the environment? What do they want to do about increasing poverty, instability of the labour market and massive layoffs in the manufacturing sector? What will they promise in terms of accountability and transparency, so that taxpayers can be assured that their monies are spent appropriately and in the best interests of all Canadians?
Canadians are getting more cynical about politicians, and not without reason ... particularly when promises are made and not kept, or politicians seems to get involved in scandal after scandal and later, vote themselves double digit increases and gold-plated pension plans the rest of us can only dream of. Politicians really need to understand this cynicism and do something about the root causes of it if they want to increase participation in elections, as well as increase popular support for the right reasons ... as I once asked, what would happen to our government if nobody voted?
Well, if the None of the Above Party gets into power, chaos would ensue. At the same time, government needs decisive direction based on consensus building, that is based on core values held by most Canadians. Unfortunately, we don't get this. We get vague promises never kept, while our country's suffering continues ... this is certainly not a treatise to tell people not to vote, as I do feel strongly that people should vote. However, our responsibility as Canadians does not end there. We must also hold our politicians to account, even after they return or newly get elected to office.
Among those reading this blog, what do you feel most strongly about at the federal level that must be addressed? Your thoughts?