So, the lawn signs are coming out. I went for a bike ride round town today and saw quite a few Patrick Brown signs, and a few NDP ones. So, at least some people are working on this campaign.
Unfortunately, the NDP signs include a link to this site, http://www.barriendp.ca/, which is currently ‘under construction’.
As I’ve mentioned before, I consider competence and integrity to be the most important values in politics. While it can be hard to judge the integrity of candidates during a campaign, unless they make it easy for you by making clearly untrue statements, the typical election campaign does provide a good opportunity to observe the competence of a political team.
If my company was launching a major new product, and knew that it had a six week window in which to grab market share, but the website for the product was still ‘under construction’ four days after the product launch, then heads would be rolling. In general, people aren’t that interested in politics for much of the time, but the time during a campaign is a golden opportunity to broadcast your party’s message, to present your candidates, and to stimulate the conversation. Currently the NDP in Barrie is failing to do so. I’m disappointed.
So I received a flyer through the door today from Patrick Brown, making him the first candidate to get in contact with me. Unfortunately, it was clearly printed before the election was called and makes no mention of it at all.
Instead, it is a commercial for Bill C-21. It doesn’t really say very much about it, but is full of words like ‘Corporate Thugs’, ‘Parasitic Crimes’ and ‘Tough new Laws’. Clearly Brown wants to portray himself as ‘tough’.
(At this point I have to concede that yes, Patrick Brown is tough. He’s one of the very few people in the city that can beat me in a 5k run…)
However, I’m not that taken by this ‘tough on crime’ posturing. It’s worth remembering that Corrections Canada is not ‘Punishments Canada’, and has as it’s mission not just incarceration but ‘actively encouraging and assisting offenders to become law-abiding citizens’.
The cost of incarcerating a Federal male prisoner is around $87,665 per prisoner/per year. To just promote a policy of increased punishments for those that get caught does not address the cost to the taxpayer of maintaining these prisons, nor the costs to the country of removing people from the workforce. More importantly, as reflected in Corrections Canada’s mission statement, the goal of the justice system is not simply retribution, but ultimately restoration – of individuals, of offenders, and of society.*
This is the second communique I’ve received from Brown highlighting his ‘tough on crime’ stance. Every time I receive one I feel less inclined to vote for him.
* I can’t recommend a better book about restorative justice than “Returning to the Teachings“, by Rupert Ross.
CBC has made available a ‘Vote Compass‘ that purports to help you figure out which leader and party most accurately represents your political position. While I’m not sure how much value this tool has, I was very pleased to see that in the section about the party leaders, I was asked both how trustworthy and competent I thought each leader was. I’m glad that this is being talked about, because it reflects my fundamental political philosophy – discussion about policies is useless without considering the competence and integrity of politicians.
On the matter of competence, an election campaign actually gives voters a chance to judge this first hand. Running a campaign is not identical to running a country, but many of the same skills are needed. To run a successful campaign, you have to be able to get a team of people to work together. You have to agree on a message and promote it through all available channels. You have to create and execute a strategy, you have to juggle competing priorities, you have to work with a budget, and you have to do all these things while others are actively competing with you.
So, how are the local candidates doing so far? I was disappointed yesterday to see how hard it was even to find out who our local candidates were, let alone any useful information about them. Are we doing any better today?
- The liberal candidate has a brief message commenting on the upcoming election, although this was posted four days ago.
- The NDP still doesn’t seem to have anything to say to the people of Barrie yet.
- The Green party is asking for money.
- The conservatives haven’t updated their website in several days. It’s not obvious looking at it that there’s a campaign in progress.
So, overall I’m disappointed. It’s been obvious for a week that an election was coming. I would have thought that any competent candidate would have had a personal message to the voter front and center on their website the moment parliament dissolved. Now is the chance to demonstrate your competence, folks! Update your blog, tell me about yourself, why I should vote for you, where you stand, what your experience is, and what you’ll be doing during this campaign!
So, once again a federal election approaches. I’m going to take this opportunity to observe and comment on the campaign over the following weeks.
Rather than just regurgitate the talking heads on parliament hill, I want to approach this from a more local perspective. With all the talk about Harper, Ignatieff and Layton, it’s easy to forget that we don’t actually elect a Prime Minister. All we do is elect a local Member of Parliament to represent our interests. The fact that they are affiliated with a political party is incidental, rather than essential, to our political system. It’s worth remembering that MPs can, and do, cross party lines and vote against their party on occasion. So I’m going to focus initially on my local candidates. I live in the riding of Barrie, and here’s what I’ve been able to gather so far about the local candidates.
I’ll add to this list as I gather more information.
As I’ve argued before, I’m convinced that the two most important qualities needed in any elected representative are competence and integrity. I’ll be keeping these two character traits in mind as I observe this campaign.