Promises, Promises

With their respective campaigns in full-swing, leaders from Canada’s political parties have turned from the initial volley of superficial character slams to meatier issues and policy statements. Well, mostly, anyways, if you ignore the constant drone of Conservative attack ads and the NDP version (really quite funny, actually, if you’ve seen them.) Stephen Harper released his party’s platform, filled to the brim with promises that had already been made in the ill-fated budget he was to have tabled before his government toppled under the weight of their own scandals, and only a little off the pace of the Liberal platform released by Iggy-Pop.

So, what is a prospective voter to do? And, what is this election really about? Promises are one thing, and are always abundant during an election campaign even if they are suspiciously absent after the election, when delivery on promises needs to occur. But, do voters really care what the issues are, or are they more interested in what’s in their own wallet (I just had a hallucinatory moment in which I thought I was more middle aged and had an accent), and whether they believe the superficial misdirection that marked the beginning of all this mess?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that the tone of election talk from the parties has turned more serious this last week or so. My greatest complaint about this election is that people are being deliberately distracted from the issues by a bunch of garbage filler-talk about fictional coalitions on both sides, McCarthyist drivel about who lived in what country for how long and who has the longest list of scandals. Well, alright, that last one might actually bear some merit, but the real issue this election should be, well, the issues.

I don’t for a moment think that this isn’t being done deliberately. Harper raising the spectre of the coalition and strumming it like a bad guitar day after day was a deliberate attempt to scare voters Conservative, and couldn’t be any less useful to relevant debate. How many ways does a political leader need to say something isn’t going to happen? Iggy-Pop said it a few times, and posted it in writing on the web, in both official languages, that there was absolutely no coalition being considered and that no coalition with the Bloc was going to happen. For those who said “Yeah, but can you believe him?,” I proffer a slap to the side of the head; you should never listen to any politician of any stripe and simply believe them, which is a universal recommendation, which means you have no more reason to believe Harper’s scare tactics about a coalition than you have to doubt Iggy-Pop’s denial. So, move on. But, Harper is happy you’re not moving on, because it distracted you from the fact that he wasn’t saying anything of real value while talking about fairy tales, albeit scary ones.

And, the attack ads really bother me. I don’t care who uses them, they shouldn’t be used at all. One of the distinguishing features of our political process is that it hasn’t been as publicly dirty and muddy as the American process. Unfortunately, attack ads are a very American way of conducting electoral gamesmanship, and the more I see it seeping into our Canadian elections the more I worry we have been assimilated into the Borg collective south of our border. Spewing quote ofter outdated quote without providing the necessary context to understand why it was being said or what it was in relation to is a classic propaganda tactic. Besides which, repeating things that were said 3 years and more ago doesn’t really tell us a lot about what is happening right now. It’s just another way of trying to paint a scary picture. And, could anyone really care any less whether a candidate lived and enjoyed living somewhere other than Canada? Seriously, now, saying that living in the US makes someone less of a Canadian is a throwback to the kind of nonsensical McCarthy era garbage that had neighbour turning on neighbour for fear of Communism.

But, it keeps you from thinking about other things, like the issues.

Things like whether or not the key platform of the parties were carried out in the past. You know, things like government responsibility and transparency. Things like job creation and fiscal management. Things like what the party will do if put in power, and how they will pay for it.

While arrogantly stamping his name on the government by imposing an official change of communications to all read “The Harper Government” instead of “The Government of Canada,” Stephen Harper’s government was responsible for withholding information from parliament, committing electoral fraud and dodging responsibility for malfeasance. This has resulted in the prorogation of parliament, criminal charges and a historic declaration of contempt of parliament. This, coming from a man who came to power on the winds of promises that all of the icky bad things that the parties that had come before him had done, particularly the Liberals, would all be cleaned up by the honest and true Conservatives.

There’s that saying about glass houses and stones.

Canada is sitting with a massive debt after having a surplus. I don’t know if that’s a good indication of good fiscal management. For those who have said “It’s Harper’s steady management of the economy that kept us healthier than the US,” I would like to mention that the US didn’t go into their tailspin with a healthy surplus to work with, and went into that tailspin largely due to the fact that banks acted improperly because they weren’t being regulated by government. Canada didn’t suffer as much because we regulate our financial institutions, and we had money in the coffers. You can’t credit Harper with that, as much as he’s trying to make sure that you do.

What will any of the parties do if in power? So far, there is an unknown sum of money for fighter jets that we don’t particularly need (okay, we need fighters, but those ones?), an unknown sum of money for a get tough on crime bill that is antithetical to the fact that crime is and has actually been on the decline for several years, and all sorts of tax cuts. The other parties are offering up money for all sorts of programs too, but they have put price tags on all of them, and they are telling us where the money will come from. Hint, big fat tax breaks for rich corporations and other tax breaks spread around to you and me means less money to spend on programs, so where are we finding the dinero to buy fighters and prisons?

Who knows? I don’t. And, the people who know don’t seem to want to tell, which is precisely why there was a non-confidence motion leading to this election.

And yet, as of this morning, it would seem that the Conservatives are hovering in majority territory in the polls, so they must be doing something right. Clearly, the tactic of distracting people from the substantial issues with garbage and filler about things like coalitions and jilted patriotism is working, bolstered no doubt by the fact that Iggy-Pop is about as charismatic as a stone. It’s a sign that the gamesmanship of Harper and his campaign staff is far superior to the Canadian public’s ability to stay the course on their own convictions; the play on morality and ethics that brought Harper to power is being effectively and successfully downplayed in this election in favour of scare tactics and false economic bluster. We were all prepared to send the Conservatives to power to punish the Liberals for their scandals and unethical behaviour, but the same unethical behaviour and scandal is readily ignored today in keeping the Conservatives in power. It’s a hypocrisy that is only made worse by the fact that we are being led to be hypocrits by a Pied Piper who has shown that his promises of change were in fact lies and illusion.

If we end up giving free reign to someone who promises the world to get into power and breaks his promises the moment he’s in, we’ll be getting exactly what we deserve. Hopefully we recognize our country once it’s all said and done.

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