With more time, will more voters care?

More debates for Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair, some confined to actual policy

Stephen Harper's plan to revive a tax credit for home renovations encourages more consumer debt and pushes up housing costs

VICTORIA – Several readers took me to task for last week’s commentary on the beginning of our long, hot federal election campaign.

They pointed out, among other things, that there are substantial cost increases to Elections Canada as well as higher spending limits for the parties. And thanks to generous tax deductions for political donations, taxpayers subsidize all party spending whether they want to or not.

That’s the system as it is today, so rather than rail against it, it seems more useful to ask what we’re getting for our forced investment in this exercise.

First, more leader debates. The traditional main event organized by TV networks for Oct. 8 appears to be a bust, with only Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and Green Party leader Elizabeth May expected to attend. Conservative leader Stephen Harper declined, prompting NDP leader Thomas Mulcair to say he will only take part in debates that include Harper.

Harper, Trudeau and Mulcair have agreed to a Sept. 17 debate hosted by The Globe and Mail and Google Canada. This one is to be focused on the economy, which should force participants to get beyond their talking points and pointing fingers.

On Sept. 28 there will be a debate focused on foreign policy hosted by Munk Debates, a charitable foundation. Harper, Trudeau and Mulcair have accepted. May and Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe were not invited to either of these.

The national media have decided that the biggest issue currently is the trial of suspended senator Mike Duffy, but this has turned out to be a rehash of facts and assertions heard many times over by those who care.

The expense account abuse has pushed the issue of senate reform to the forefront. Harper declared his intention to starve the Senate by refusing any more appointments, after most provinces ignored his call to elect their nominees.

Trudeau, having expelled all Liberal senators from the party caucus, has warned that Harper’s plan and Mulcair’s long-standing position to abolish the Senate are both unworkable, if not unconstitutional. Trudeau has promised changes to the senate appointment process, but no specifics so far.

Party policies are being doled out one bit at a time, and the national and local candidate debates may help clarify them. Here are a couple that could use closer scrutiny.

Harper has promised to revive a stimulus program from the 2009 economic crisis, offering a 15 per cent tax credit for home improvements between $1,000 and $5,000. This sounds great if you’re a homeowner, but does nothing for renters, drives up the cost of housing in already overpriced urban markets and encourages more consumer debt.

Trudeau has promised an additional $2.6 billion over four years for First Nations education on reserves, and accelerated spending on school infrastructure.

Mulcair has promised to hold a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. Mulcair and Trudeau both pledge to reverse the Conservative moves to eliminate what’s left of door-to-door mail delivery, and to extend the age of eligibility for the Old Age Security pension from 65 to 67.

All of these promises are presented in the most appealing way possible by the parties that promote them, and all involve spending and taxation trade-offs that the parties would prefer not to discuss.

Another possible dividend from a formal campaign stretching more than two months is that more voters will pay attention to the real issues and actually take the time to cast a ballot. If that happens, and the long decline in voter turnout is reversed, it’s a good investment.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rent-It Centre takes over curbside collection contract in Tofino and Ucluelet

Rent It Centre’s bid was $25,865 lower than the only other bidder, SonBird Refuse and Recycling.

Tofino and Ucluelet’s Top 10 sports and arts stories of 2019

Revisiting the Coast’s best sports and arts newsmakers of the past year.

Tofino’s first cannabis dispensary opens

“I don’t know where it’s going, but happy how it’s gone so far.”

Tofino welcomes much needed veterinarian to town

West Coast has not had a full-time vet since Dr. Jane Hunt surrendered her licence in 2004.

Looking back on the West Coast’s top 10 news stories

Tofino and Ucluelet’s top headlines of 2019.

VIDEO: Cold snap brings ideal conditions for Okanagan icewine

Take an inside look at how icewine is made

Blue Monday is a myth but seasonal affective disorder and the winter blues are real

Canadian Mental Health Association says weather can affect mood

PHOTOS: Eastern Newfoundland reeling, search underway for missing man after blizzard

More than 70 centimetres of new snow fell overnight, creating whiteout conditions

Prince Harry, Meghan to give up ‘royal highness’ titles

‘Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,’ says Queen Elizabeth II

Ice chunk from truck crushes vehicle windshield on Vancouver Island

None injured, but Nanaimo RCMP say there can be fines for accumulations of ice and snow

B.C. society calls out conservation officer after dropping off bear cub covered in ice

Ice can be seen in video matted into emaciated bear cub’s fur

Calls for dialogue as Coastal GasLink pipeline polarizes some in northern B.C.

Coastal GasLink is building the 670-kilometre pipeline from British Columbia’s northeast to Kitimat on the coast

Wind and snow spark power outages across Vancouver Island

Winter storm warning in effect for east and west regions while wind warning to hit south and north

BC Ferries hybrid ships arrive in Victoria on Saturday

The battery-operated vessels will take over smaller routes

Most Read