This is a rare deviation from the usual gardens and wildlife topics, but I hope I can interest you during this post-election period in a couple of non-partisan observations on how the process of electing governments might be improved next time around.
After 50+ years of voting in two countries I do have some experience of this game and, what’s more, my ideas have been tested on a couple of chums who didn’t try to change the subject. I don’t think that these problems are uniquely Canadian but may apply equally in many countries – not least the UK.
So – the issues that several people have been concerned by:
- There seems to be universal agreement that this campaign has been quite nasty with lies and half-truths batted back and forth between parties – at least between the Liberals and the Conservatives. That has to stop.
- The TV debate(s) were a waste of time for all the usual reasons. Light was not cast on anything by the process.
- Actually getting information that would help one choose whom to vote for was not easy. In these internet-enabled days it should be very simple but even for a political wonk like me there were some very muddy waters to wade through. In particular I have been struck by the total absence of door-knockers soliciting my vote or even of flyers setting out what the candidates stand for. Only one local party has reached me via social media and that was the party I would never vote for however much of a bribe I was offered.
What to do? Think on the following …
I propose that:
An independent organisation – let’s call it the “Promises Office” or PO – be set up to receive, at least a month before the campaign officially starts, the party platforms together with their audited costing. I know the costs are verified by the Public Auditor at the moment but this would go further. The manifestos would be submitted in a standardized format so that everyone could view the party offerings side by side and make valid comparisons. The format would (a) Issue – for example health, climate change, etc. (b) this is what we will do about it (c) this is what we hope to have achieved by the end of this four-year mandate and what we are prepared to be measured against (d) this is what it will cost (e) this is where the money will come from. Parties will not be allowed to edit these details once campaigning begins. The information will be available on the internet as a minimum.
Parties could produce at their own expense glossy versions of these platforms that they would use in campaigning and could put any spin on it that they wished (as they already do) but electors would have the “master copy” to refer to.
Statements made in public by candidates or parties must be verifiable. If they say “The other party will do X and that will be terrible” then they must be able to prove that this is what X will do, unlike some of the things that have been thrown around in the weeks lading up to election day. Failure to comply would have consequences that hurt. This would compel candidates to give out a positive message while not preventing then from being negative about their opponents so long as their negative statements are truthful. The PO will make the decision as to veracity.
… and here’s a skunk in the vegetable patch at sunset a couple of days ago … one that got away?