An election like no other 

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Canada is an amazing country — I think we can all agree on that.

From sea to shining sea the vistas are awe inspiring, the people for the most part warm and generous, and as a nation our values are something to aspire to.

But Canada is not perfect — there is much we can improve. The ongoing development of the Alberta tar sands and the pipeline expansions that seem to go with it, much of our fisheries policy and the downward slide we seem to be experiencing on personal rights and freedoms under the current Conservative government all need a serious second look.

You only need to scan the headlines to see that ordinary Canadians are worried and vocal about these issues. But the federal government is moving ahead with its agenda despite the public's comments.

Perhaps I am out of touch, but wasn't our current majority government put there by the people? It seems a poor strategy for re-election to have such blatant disregard for the concerns of Canadians.

Last month, on May 6, the Anti-Terrorism Act, also known as Bill C-51, easily passed third reading by a margin of 183 to 96, thanks to the Conservative government's majority and the promised support of the third-party Liberals.

This is an overly broad document with little explanation included for such phrases as "reduce" the terrorism threat. What does that mean exactly, and how far are Canada's spy agency, CSIS, and other official investigators allowed to go in their pursuit of the reduction?

Many say they are not worried, as they have nothing to hide, but I would argue that is the wrong way to look at the removal of rights and freedoms.

Grandparents, uncles, fathers, mothers and others died protecting Canada's rights and freedoms. It's uncomfortable to think about how easy it has been for an elected government to push this through when such a significant part of the population has dire concerns about it.

Many are counting down the days to a federal election. Many Conservatives are considering their votes, and many voters are strategizing about an anyone-but-Harper outcome.

For this reason, and a few others, this election is unlikely to be like any other.

We have already seen the campaigning begin with television ads launched by the Conservatives. These ads, while not exactly negative, make sure the message is clear that Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is not ready to head up a nation.

It is a powerful ad because it gets to the heart of the matter — while many people may have issues with the Harper Conservatives, they are not convinced that Trudeau has what it takes to lead Canada.

It seems that no election can be held without exposing voters to negative ads. Columnist Jeffrey Simpson had this to say in the Globe and Mail recently: "Advertising's appeal is almost entirely emotional and simplistic. Television is overwhelmingly a medium of emotion, not rational thought, so there is no point trying to place any rational argument in a 30-second spot.

"Hit fast and hit hard with a nice soft-sell or a punch to the gut. That's what television advertising is all about and that is what Canadians get from the parties.

"Negative ads work because they get the viewer's attention. Built on focus group research, they accentuate a prevailing uneasiness about an individual, in this case Mr. Trudeau's inexperience."

The NDP meanwhile is experiencing a surge of popularity. Some might chalk it up to Alberta's decision to think outside the box and take a risk on an NDP provincial government with the rest of Canada watching.

But perhaps, as the election draws near, people are beginning to listen to the NDP and Thomas Mulcair without their blinkers on. There can be little doubt, after all, that these are parties that all inhabit the middle of the political spectrum.

Earlier this month Mulcair addressed the Montreal Board of Trade and Toronto's Economic Club of Canada, pledging an NDP government would revive Canada's flagging manufacturing sector.

Perhaps top of the list of why Canadians are concerned about putting an NDP government in place is the effect that might have on the Canadian economy.

But with current unemployment figures higher than most would like, weak economic growth and pessimistic forecasts, more voters are likely willing to at least listen to the NDP's election plan on the economy and business.

The environment and how that will fit into Canada's economy is also tangled up in the election as well — as well it should be. Could we see more Greens in the House?

There is no doubt that this is going to be an exciting federal election.


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