“I’ve seen issues come up before that get a lot of press attention, and sometimes a photograph or sometimes a side issue can move votes, but I always believe that the big votes are moved on the big issues. I don’t believe that most people are attracted by the rabbit tracks of day-to-day media coverage.”—Stephen Harper
Hell will freeze over before anyone in the Soapbox family votes for Stephen Harper’s Conservative party; our big question is how do we decide between the Liberal candidate, Kent Hehr and the NDP candidate, Jillian Ratti?
Here’s a thought.
Let’s compare their party’s platforms on what Harper calls the “big issues”—the economy and national security. (Presumably Harper would dismiss the discord he’s created with the niqab issue, the “barbaric cultural practices” tip line, revoking citizenship and prioritizing refugee claimants as “rabbit tracks.”)
Both Trudeau and Mulcair say they’ll fix the economy with a grab bag of government spending coupled with tax cuts and hikes aimed at improving the lives of the middle class. Rather than getting lost in the minutiae let’s focus on the basics.
The centre piece of Trudeau’s plan is a massive investment in a 10 year infrastructure plan that includes “social” infrastructure as well as bricks and mortar. The plan will require deficit budgets for three straight years followed by a $1 billion surplus in year four.
Mulcair on the other hand promises balanced budgets from the get-go. But here’s the rub. Mulcair’s budget is based on Harper’s budget assumption of $300 billion in revenues, which assumes oil at $67 in 2016. The EIA estimate is closer to $59.
No one can crystal ball the economy four years out; however former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page calls Trudeau’s plan “realistic” because it updated the numbers from Harper’s 2015 budget to account for weaker oil prices.
Trudeau’s budget is more credible than Mulcair’s budget which will fail for the same reason Harper’s budget will fail—$67 oil is a pipe dream.
Trudeau supported Bill C-51, the anti-terrorism bill, while promising amendments to enhance oversight and accountability if the Liberals formed government. Mulcair opposed Bill C-51 from the start and with good reason, Bill C-51 sacrificed basic rights and freedoms on the altar of national security.
The Liberals said their conditional support was an effort to preserve the provisions that required Canada’s intelligence services to work more closely with the police. (Apparently CSIS knew the police were tracking the wrong guys in the case of the Toronto 18 but didn’t tell them.)
Be that as it may, Trudeau’s support of the Bill looked like political posturing intended to show the Liberals were not weak on security. It drove Liberal supporters mad and inspired many, including Ms Soapbox, to look at Mulcair’s NDP with renewed interest.
Trudeau’s explanation still doesn’t sit well, but it received backhanded support from terrorism expert and law prof Craig Forcese (who doesn’t endorse any party’s stance on national security). Forcese says Bill C-51 needs “serious renovation”, but he’s not advocating it be scrapped altogether. Forcese also supports the Liberals’ effort to open a consultation process to address the gaps in national security.
So while Trudeau’s position on Bill C-51 leaves a lot to be desired, it’s not enough (in our opinion) to throw the Liberals out of game.
Trudeau and Mulcair rightly condemn Harper’s handling of the refugee crisis, the niqab, Bill C-24 (stripping citizenship) and the “barbaric cultural practices” tip line, so there’s nothing to be gained in seeking differences there; however the two leaders are starkly different when it comes to transparency and accessibility.
Consider how the two leaders responded to the Globe and Mail’s request for a personal interview.
Trudeau granted journalist Ian Brown unfettered access to his associates, his wife Sophie and himself. Brown discovered that Trudeau is intelligent, articulate, compassionate and principled, not the flibbertigibbet some people expect. Sophie disclosed that she’d suffered from bulimia in the past and that the couple had seen a marriage counsellor about “boring relationship stuff”.
Mulcair on the other hand refused all interview requests for more than two months, finally offering to do a phone interview and when that was rejected a personal interview. The Globe refused both offers due to an “imminent publication date”.
Perhaps the Globe was indulging in a fit of pique, but Mulcair’s decision to be unavailable allowed the Globe to write an article based on the observations of others who painted a picture of an intelligent ambitious politician who could be both charming and alienating, conciliatory and cagey, a man who ran roughshod over his colleagues and left the Quebec Liberals under a cloud.
This coupled with Mulcair’s refusal to participate in the consortium debates after he’d agreed to do so and his lack of clarity on issues that impact Quebec (the Energy East pipeline and what qualifies as a “yes” vote for Quebec sovereignty) suggest that cautious political strategy trumps authenticity.
In the end Trudeau appears authentic, Mulcair less so.
Sometimes it’s not the big issues that attract the big votes. The “rabbit tracks” made by someone else’s rabbit can tip the balance for a voter trying to decide between two attractive progressive parties, their leaders and their candidates.
Ms Soapbox has come full circle. She is voting for Kent Hehr, the Liberal candidate in Calgary Centre.
Mr Hehr is a seasoned provincial politician with an excellent track record in the Alberta Legislature. His values and those of his leader, Justin Trudeau, reflect my values. And here’s the icing on the cake, Mr Hehr has the best chance of defeating the Conservative candidate.
That’ll teach Mr Harper to ignore “rabbit tracks”.