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PAM FRAMPTON: Already tired of the political shtick

(From left to right) NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer are seen in this combination shot.
(From left to right) NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer. — Chris Young/Justin Tang/Sean Kilpatrick photos

Is anyone else fed up with the tone this federal election is taking, particularly as set by the Liberals and Conservatives?

There’s a whole lot of talking going on, and not enough listening and giving honest answers to questions, beyond spouting party platitudes.

Now, of course there are some good local candidates out there going door to door, but federal elections always seem particularly leader-driven, with candidates as acolytes sent out to spout the party line.

Listening to media interviews, you quickly discern how tightly scripted their responses are and how steadfast they are in refusing to budge from the message track playing in a loop inside their heads.

I heard an exchange on national radio the other day that didn’t go exactly like this, but close enough that you get the gist.

Interviewer: You say your party’s policy will put more money in ordinary Canadian families’ pockets? How exactly will it work?

Candidate X: We know Canadian families work hard for their money. We want to help them keep more of it in their pockets.

Interviewer: Yes, but how, exactly will—

Candidate X: Canadian families deserve to keep more of their hard-earned money. My party will deliver on that promise.

Interviewer: Yes, Mr. X, but how—

Candidate X: Voting for us is a vote for hardworking families.

It feels like the writ was dropped and a whole squadron of robots was unleashed across the country, programmed to respond simplistically to questions and to echo key themes they think will resonate with the voters they’re targeting.

Interviewer: Candidate Y, the environment is a big plank in your party’s platform. Where do you stand on the carbon tax?

Candidate Y: People are concerned about the environment, as we saw with the large turnout across the country during the Climate Strike on Sept. 27. We will give Canadians a greener future.

Interviewer: But how? What exactly will your party do?

Candidate Y: We are committed to providing the kind of warmer, gentler Canada young people are asking for.

Interviewer: Yes, but warming is part of the problem, isn’t it? How—

Candidate Y: We love the environment. A vote for us is a vote for planet Earth. Vote green (but not Green)!

It feels like the writ was dropped and a whole squadron of robots was unleashed across the country, programmed to respond simplistically to questions and to echo key themes they think will resonate with the voters they’re targeting.

And not only are they often refusing to deviate from the official message, but even those messages can get lost in the flurry of barbs aimed at their opponents — even former opponents.
Here’s a snippet from a news release Justin Trudeau’s campaign issued on Oct. 1st:

“…when the Conservatives were last in office, they made life harder for seniors and older Canadians looking forward to retirement. When Stephen Harper’s Conservatives raised the age of retirement, it took thousands of dollars away from seniors — forcing them to work longer, and preventing them from spending time with their families. Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives are the same.”

Here’s one from Scheer’s team the day after:

“Despite marching in climate strikes, lecturing everybody else on lowering emissions, and imposing a carbon tax on hard-working Canadians, Justin Trudeau and the Liberals are secretly using two aircraft to campaign in this election.”

Not wanting to miss out on the slag-fest, the NDP issued a couple of news releases this week headlined “Justin Trudeau’s Liberals Turned Their Backs on Quebec” and “NDP Will Fight For Families Left Behind By Liberals.”

I’ve been voting for 32 years, so I’ve seen a fair few elections. I realize that rivalry and insult trading have always been a part of campaigning.

But do election campaigns have to be like this? Does anyone really think smart voters will be swayed by these old-school “slam the other guy to make yourself look better” tactics?

Can we hear more about what parties will do to meaningfully better the lives of Canadians, and less about how terrible their opponents are?

Here’s some advice, candidates: explain your party’s platform and how it will be funded. Be specific. Don’t ignore legitimate questions. Stop belittling your opponents.
Because if you don’t stop, you may well influence people’s votes — just not in the direction you had in mind.

Pam Frampton is The Telegram’s managing editor. Email pamela.frampton@thetelegram.com. Twitter: pam_frampton


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