Friday, July 31, 2015

Politics - the world's dirtiest job

It's really quite easy to be cynical about Canadian politics these days. One can actually sympathize with the large chunk of the Canadian voting public who don't bother to vote, particularly the younger people who stay away in droves.
With a federal election about to be officially announced any day now, we are about to witness causes for cynicism on a hitherto unheard-of scale. As usual, the Conservatives are by far the worst offenders, but the other parties will almost certainly get dragged into it too, even if only in a vain attempt to level the playing field.
It often amazes me that so many people are willing to get their hands dirty in partisan politics, that a career as a politician is still considered something to aspire to. Isn't there a TV series called "The World's Dirtiest Jobs" or something? I wonder if "politician" is in there? Of course, many, even most, people go into politics out of some degree of ideological commitment, but they must still be aware of the kinds of nefarious, underhand dealings and wranglings they will be expected to participate in.
The Conservatives are expected to "drop the writ" soon, beginning an unprecentedly long election campaign (not quite American long, but much longer than the normal, mercifully short, Canadian campaigns). They will do this because they know that the other two main parties do not have anything like their campaign funds, especially when the funds of local riding associations are taken into account, and will not be able to carry out as long and effective a campaign. They even passed a convenient new law recently effectively increasing the legal cap on campaign spending for longer electoral campaigns, so that the spending limits in this election may actually be as high as $50 million, twice the old $25 million cap. This is certainly not going to benefit the Liberals or NDP.
But, writ or no writ, election campaigning has already been going on for some time now, one drawback of the fixed election dates we now have. The Tories' are making almost daily announcements of localized infrastructure spending, out of a pre-authorized fund that could have been used any time over the last few years, but just happens to be being utilized just before the election. Furthermore, this is happening predominantly in Tory ridings and potential swing ridings and, at least in the case of Ontario, in direct opposition to the list of infrastructure priorities previously solicited from the Province. The Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program, on the other hand, was only introduced in May this year and is already rolling out cash, also largely in Tory ridings. These days, nothing is done without a specific, politically-directed purpose.
Canada is not plagued with Political Action Committees (PACs) to the same extent as the USA, but the pro-Conservative Working Canadians PAC, and the anti-Conservative Engage Canada PAC have both been active. Once the election is officially announced, however, different rules start to apply to such third-party groups, and we will be spared any more of the egegious advertising these peple are capable of.
The attack ads have not started in earnest yet, but they too will come. Conservative ads personally attacking Justin Trudeau seem to have been airing ever since the last election, although Trudeau is no longer considered the main threat to Harper, and they will need to turn their attention much more to NDP leader Thomas Mulcair. And the opposition parties will no doubt respond in kind. It is a sad-but-true fact that attack ads, however unpleasant or misleading, do actually work.
The Conservatives are even using large chunks of taxpayer's money to further their campaign, and have been doing so for some time now. I don't watch much television myself, but certainly during the recent Pan Am Games coverage, every third ad seemed to be in praise of the goverment's "Economic Action Plan" and those non-progressive but photogenic tax tweaks that purport to benefit "hard-working Canadian taxpayers". These are not cheap ads. Apparently, about $10 million of hard-working Canadian taxpayers' money has been specifically allocated to this partisan chest-thumping, and the Liberals estimate that the Tories have spent around $548 million on partisan ads since coming to power. This extensive use of public money to tout an already-implemented government policy is unprecedented.
I could go on, but I'd only depress myself.

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