I've been struggling the past few days with the Canadian election. What to say? I'm still amazed at the vitriol that the electorate has for the Liberals, despite the comparative good times we find ourselves in.
There seems to be little doubt that most Canadians are doing pretty well, especially compared to other countries, or compared to where they were 11 years ago, when the Liberals took power. But that's not good enough, apparently. I hear people say that things should be better.
It's not that they really think any other party would do a better job. It's more that the Liberals haven't done a good enough job. And they're arrogant. And they deserve to be given a slap on the behind and put in their place. And it looks like that's exactly what is going to happen.
The English debate between the leaders last night, and the French-language debate the day before, were not really debates. They were opportunities for the leaders to try to speak directly to voters, without the filter of sound bites, or the know-it-all reporter voice over. But they rarely work. Instead, the leaders have to shout to be heard, and they're forced to adhere to a tightly-controlled format that does not allow for any meaningful exchange of ideas. Instead, the leaders give well-crafted replies, even if they weren't asked. They have a message to get out, dammit, and that's what they're going to do.
Am I cynical? I suppose so. I'm tired of the transparent phoniness of what we're watching. Right now, in my riding, there are several candidates working hard to get elected. At least I think they are. I haven't actually seen any of them. Nor am I aware of exactly what they're doing. There are probably all-candidates debates happening but I haven't been told about them. I don't even know all the names that will be on the ballot, although a couple are obvious because I've seen their lawn signs. But my reality (and I suspect this is true for most voters) is watching the coverage of the leaders on TV, or reading about what happened on the national campaign the day before in the morning newspapers.
So what's to be done? If there's one thing that this campaign has exposed, for me at least, it's that our electoral system needs a significant shot in the arm. Roy McGregor has been traveling the country throughout the campaign, and he calls it the election without an issue. The only constant is that people seem pissed off with the Liberals. Not enthusiastic for anyone else, but definitely mad at the Liberals. I think that's significant. It points to a general mood among people that it's time to change the system. Not just the people in power, but the whole way we elect people.
I've been working on some ideas for what I think that could look like and I'll be posting them here in the coming days. It's sort of my own way to sort through my feelings about our democratic process in the last few days of this current campaign. I'd like to think it's the last one we'll be waging in this fashion, but I kind of doubt it.
One final thought. In case you think that your vote isn't worth anything, think again. Did you know that under the new party financing legislation passed this year, political parties will receive $1.75 for every vote they get in this election? That's right. And that money is available to every party that wins more than 2 per cent of the national vote. That's why this election is so important to the Green party. For the first time, they could have access to a significant amount of money to organize themselves for the next election. It also means that all parties will have more reason than ever to get their own supporters to the polls, regardless of whether they will make a difference to the outcome of the election. Every vote is worth money. It's kind of a nice twist on the old idea that you could be paid for your vote...Instead, you can negotiate with the various parties to sell them your support. Perhaps you can work out some nice options in exchange for your support on the big day...