Take Advantage of the Long Campaign by Getting Informed

Click here to read ‘Take Advantage of the Long Campaign by Getting Informed‘ by Susan Eng – Huffington Post Blog, October 9, 2015

What if we had an election and nothing changed? What if we’re no more likely to get a good paying job than in August when this electoral marathon began? What if we still can’t pay for our prescription drugs? What if dad just got out of the hospital after his stroke and I have to take off work because there’s no home care? How do I make my mortgage payment if I lose this job? How can I afford university next year? Why is that guy I sorta recognize grinning at me like that? Why does that other guy look so happy? What does $10 billion look like? Did he say CSIS is invading Canada? What’s CSIS? What’s a niqab?

The average voter who’s just tuning in to the fact that there’s an election on is not getting detailed policy proposals. All they’re getting in the airwaves war is: “You’re not ready!” “Yes, I am!” “No, you’re not!” “He’s not ready but I am!” Okay, I’ll bite — ready for what?

To be fair, the parties have made some important promises but who’s talking about them? Every major news outlet has a poll going on. There’s more coverage of the polls than of the people trudging from door-to-door trying to raise issues that are not being addressed in the air campaign — the things that matter to our daily lives. The battle of the polls has taken the oxygen out of the local campaigns.

 And you wonder why voter turnout is a limp 60 per cent and why young people don’t much vote.

But older voters do and the parties have made a lot of promises directed at themwhich if kept, no matter which party forms government, would answer some of those questions. All of the four federal parties promise to reduce drug costs, some more than others. All have offered support for caregivers. And seniors’ poverty got some serious face time — if you were watching for it.

A longer campaign is a boon to self-professed policy nerds because there’s more time to get into complex issues like healthcare or labour markets. But for average voters to figure out which party would suit their needs best, they have to dig through the headline news stories cataloguing the social media gaffes of candidates who are no longer on the ballot thereby wasting what little attention span they had left.

In that kind of landscape, a political party could form government with just 40 per cent of the popular vote. But that could change because of, rather than in spite of, recent legislative changes that make it more difficult for some groups to vote. Some First Nations are mounting a get out the vote campaign to overcome not only the hurdles thrown their way by the Fair Elections Act but also to overcome a long-held position that voting could undermine their sovereignty. In a long election, the parties have time to make more direct promises to First Nations and some Aboriginal leaders are feeling the need to vote for the first time.

Elections Canada was effectively muzzled against being able to say anything to encourage young people to vote but the legislation didn’t say they couldn’t do anything to make it easier to vote — hence the pop-up polls on university campuses which if they work to get more students voting will unleash a potent force for change.

As we hit the final stretch in this campaign, we still have to ask: Does it matter if we change the party in power but don’t change the status quo of our lives? The answer will take a bit more work than we’re used to but at least in this long campaign, with the parties neck and neck in some races, and possibly some new voting cohorts, electors have a better chance of making some informed choices and maybe even change their future not just their government.

Susan Eng
Executive Director, CARP