Wednesday, September 11, 2013
At Least Tell Us What You Won't Do.
There's an orthodoxy among Canada's political parties that policy must not be disclosed until on the advent of a general election - if then.
Election campaigns, however, are really awful venues for unveiling policy. They're hurried and harried and awash in lies and accusations, emotional appeals and electoral sleight of hand. Just squeezing in an intelligent discussion of policy can be impossible.
But let's face it. If we're to be governed by consent, the very cornerstone of democracy, it has to be informed consent freely given. Everything else is some form of manufactured, ersatz consent driven by confusion or baser emotions such as hatred, fear or distrust. Anything other than informed consent can only be consent that is cajoled, coerced or provoked. Haven't we had far too much of that to want more? And yet that seems to be the default option for political parties that prefer to hold their policy cards close to their chests.
There are only three times the public can be informed about policy - before an election, during an election or afterward. Informed consent requires consultation before an election. Afterwards the fact of consent may be irrelevant save as a consideration for the next election and we have seen too painfully how fast the public can forget abuses of power for that to matter much for a government ruling by fiat.
Policy need not be an exploration of specific programmes, replete with mechanics and costing details. The Dion Liberals paid the price for ignoring that when they proposed the eminently sensible but utterly vulnerable Green Shift, carbon tax initiative. Harper pounced on it and so did Layton in one of his greasier moments.
Policy can be a simple statement of intent. "The current guy has taken us down Road 'A', we want to take Canada down Road 'B'." If you want an idea of what policy can and should look like, visit the Green Party's web site. They've laid it out and it's been out there for all to see and assess for a good long time.
But if that's still too much for the Libs and the NDP, let's start with baby steps. Focus on Harper's sorry legislative record and tell us what you wouldn't do. Tell us what we wouldn't see, what we wouldn't have to endure or fear, if you were elected. Promise the Canadian people that there are features of the Harper government that you won't perpetuate.
Would you stop the growing inequality of wealth, income and opportunity? Would you reverse the spread of corporatism that is beginning to crowd out democracy? Would you reverse the concentration of ownership of the modern corporate media cartel so that we can have real press freedom and the informed electorate that only it can nurture?
Now how hard would it be to stand up before the Canadian people and defend those ideas? If you can't do that, you're only running for Harper's job and one of him is enough. So, if you can't tell us what you will do, at least you can stand up on your hind legs and tell us what you won't do.