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Maxed out: It’s called working together for the good of the people

Max election post
Improving life for Canadians isn't rocket science. It’s just working together to tackle some tough issues rather than slagging the opposition and scoring points in the Commons.

As Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr might have said—had he not been dead for the last 130 years—plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

After 30-some days of campaigning that reminded us all of the relativity of time, having seemed infinite, we find ourselves more or less where we were when this melodrama began—Liberal minority government with most of the parties sitting in the same seats.

With one exception.

Can I get an amen for the late, great Green Party? Time hasn’t been kind to the Greens. Their issue, their raison d’etre, their rallying cry has been taken up by, well, everyone else. They are now left with nothing unique to offer. No leader, no issue that differentiates them from the rest of the pack, no chance of nudging government more aggressively in the direction they’d like to go. Nothing. 

It would be an act of mercy for Elizabeth May to once again take up the mantle of leadership—sorely lacking since her departure—and lead her two or three MPs across the aisle to join either the Liberals or the New Democrats, while announcing the dissolution of the Green Party.

When even the Conservative Party comes out in favour of a carbon tax what exactly is it they have to rally the party faithful behind? The other issues promoted by federal Green Party leader Annamie Paul were arrows borrowed from the NDP quiver or policies touted by the Liberals, albeit with a dose of steroids. The Party failed to run candidates in all ridings. The trajectory of their popular support has been downward from 2008’s 6.8 per cent to this week’s 2.3 per cent, well behind even the People’s Party of Canada! They’ve become an asterisk.

Exactly what is the purpose of soldiering on? Join a real party.

If there is to be any real value to this election it is going to be found in the sausage-making of political compromise. Call me a dreamer if you will, but I would like to live long enough to see the people we collectively elect to govern us actually do the job of governing... together... constructively. 

Assuming the Conservative Party members can keep their knives sheathed and out of the back of Erin O’Toole—by no means a given—perhaps someone can calmly explain to them the vast majority of Canadian voters aren’t interested in what they’re selling. Around 60 per cent of the votes cast across the country were cast for small ‘l’ liberal parties: Liberals, NDP, Bloc, Green. And yes, I know there are a lot of conservative, rural voters  in Quebec who would let fly with a torrent of swear words I don’t understand for my terming the Bloc liberal. 

Small ‘c’ conservative voters accounted for just over 39 per cent of all voters, split between the Cons and PPC. Even assuming the rabid right and the more centrist conservatives can ever unite under a single banner again, the best they can hope for in the foreseeable future is a minority government underpinned by... exactly whom? The Liberals? NDP? Bloc? Kind of an impossible scenario, ain’t it?

The clear choice for the Conservatives is to work with, not against, the governing party and be seen to be helping craft constructive solutions to the problems faced by the country. Wow, I can’t believe I just wrote that. Sorry, momentarily in la-la land, sitting around the campfire singing Kumbaya.

All right, how about a less pie-in-the-sky dream for the future? How about the Liberals and NDP actively working together to bring about some of their dreams they haven’t had the courage or ability to realize? How about getting serious about steps to lessen Canada’s admittedly small contribution to climate change? 

One of the interesting lessons we can draw from the vaccine mandates launched the past few months is this: Incentives don’t work as well as disincentives. All the pleading, all the cajoling, all the gift cards, lottery tickets and other bribes to entice people to get vaccinated resulted in tepid uptake. But foreclose the unvaccinated from, well, just about everything that defines social life and the results are much more dramatic. Even in Alberta, the demand for jabs jumped after Premier Kenny’s brain transplant began working and threatened mandates kicked in.

So why wouldn’t disincentives work in the climate file? For example, the feds and a number of provinces have rebate incentives to encourage people to buy electric vehicles. While they work to a degree, pickup trucks are still the No. 1-selling vehicle across the country. And with manufacturers in an arms race to have the biggest, most badass truck on the road, there are some with horsepower formerly only seen in supercars.

B.C. and other provinces have a surtax on luxury cars that run as high as 20 per cent on cars costing $150,000 and more. That would be an extra $30,000 on a car that expensive. Whatever? But they don’t have a surtax on vehicles that burn fuel faster than an open fire. Why not? If you want to encourage people to choose vehicles with a smaller carbon footprint, why not slap a prohibitive tax on fuel consumption?

Oh yeah, the feds do that. You can laugh; that was a joke. As is the federal excise tax on fuel-inefficient vehicles. It kicks in at around 15l/100km. It’s a paltry $1,000. The highest I could find was $4,000 for a couple of Lamborghinis that burn 20l/100km. Given they start at half a million dollars and go much higher, I’m guessing that’s not much of a disincentive.

Oh, and pickup trucks are excluded.

If disincentives work—and they do—and they were tied to fuel-inefficiency, we might see a whole lot fewer massive trucks pulling massive rolling cottages behind them or carrying big sleds, or quads, or filling the rearview mirrors of people driving those fuel-efficient vehicles. It fits right in with the pay-to-play mentality so popular among junior levels of government who have fewer resources to tap.

The new, unimproved minority government might work closely with the same-old NDP to finally institute a national pharmacare program too. Expensive? Yup. But study after study has shown it would save money in the long run, treating people with drugs they need to keep them out of emergency rooms and hospitals, which are much, much more expensive.

Promised $10-a-day daycare keeps people in the workforce, something the country, a perennial laggard in productivity, could benefit from far beyond the upfront cost.

None of it is rocket science. It’s just working together to tackle some tough issues rather than slagging the opposition and scoring points in the Commons. 

Kumbaya...?