Nasty, brutish and short

"Nasty," "the Seinfeld vote," a "campaign about nothing" - that's how our present federal election has been described by pundits. But why has there been so little discussion of public policy issues during the campaign? The following are some suggestions.

Blame Al Gore The media have always been criticized for giving scant coverage to the issues during election campaigns. Instead, airtime and column inches are filled with reports on scandals, gaffes and public opinion polls. But the increasing use of message boards, social networking sites and blogs has resulted in a cornucopia of easy-to-cover scandals. By searching those sites, journalists, bloggers and campaign workers have been able to uncover inappropriate comments made by candidates from all the parties. And those comments, coupled with the growing presence of rolling polls - which take the political temperature of Canadians on a daily basis - means there's always something to write about other than he said, she said policy debates.

It's not the environment stupid This election was supposed to have been about climate change. But, by February, the economy had tied with the environment as the issue Canadians were most concerned about. And, by May, the economy had become their number one concern, according to Ipsos-Reid Corp. Despite that increasing concern, though, none of Canada's opposition parties made fiscal stability a major campaign platform plank. As a result, when American stock markets tanked on September 15, those parties - along with the Conservatives - were ill-equipped to debate how our country should respond to the global economic crisis.

Failure to launch The Liberals - led by former environment minister Stephane Dion - may not have been equipped to debate how our country should respond to the global economic crisis. But the party was prepared to debate how our country should respond to the climate change crisis. Speaking to the GLOBE Forum for Emerging Environmental Leaders back in March, Mr. Dion stressed the need to put a price on carbon. And, by May, The Globe and Mail's Jane Taber and Brian Laghi were reporting Dion wanted the tax to be the "centrepiece of the party's election campaign platform." That centrepiece - The Green Shift - was rolled out in June. But, by the time the Conservatives dropped the writ on September 7, the shift had been already been discussed and dissected by the country's pundits and politicians, leaving little left to debate during the election. And the same could said of the Liberal's 30-50 Plan to Reduce Poverty - which was rolled out on November 9, 2007.

The motherhood movement In their public statements, the Conservatives, Greens, Liberals and New Democrats seem to agree on more than they disagree. For example, all of them have committed to ensuring Canadians have access to adequate and affordable housing. All of them want to preserve our country's environmental well-being. And all of them have promised to promote Canada's arts and cultural communities. As a result, the differences between the parties come down to what priority they place on these principles and how they intend to act on them. But this is not the stuff of great debates. And that means the sharpest differences between the parties concern personality and politics rather than policy.

Leave a comment

Copyright © 2004 - Public Eye Mediaworks. Reproductions of any portion of this Website are permitted only with the expressed permission of Public Eye Mediaworks.
Canadian Web Hosting graciously provided by dotcanuck Web Services. Layout and graphics courtesy of Art Department Design.