There’s a writer named John Boyko who’s published an essay in the Montreal Gazette (if for some reason you hit a paywall, it’s also available on his blog). One note: the fact that the graphic he uses for his blog entry comes from the Kelowna Lake Country Liberal Riding Association doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in his objectivity.
So shall we have a look at his proposed rules?
- Don’t call us voters or taxpayers. We are citizens. Okay, fine. A reminder that citizenship is a proud and noble thing; nothing wrong with that.
- Don’t tell us we’re choosing a prime minister. Well, technically, none of the parties actually are. Unless you’re actually in the leaders’ ridings, you’re not likely to see signs saying “Vote Harper” or “Vote May”. It’s why candidate signs have party logos. However, if all your information about the election is coming from party advertising, you might be forgiven for thinking that everything focuses on the leaders — but that’s more the fault of traditional legacy media behavior, and the way the politicians pander to it.
- Don’t deride coalitions. Well, here’s a problem. Mr. Boyko seems to want to re-fight the coalition crisis battle of 2008, and the real problem there is a matter of timing; ideally, the coalition should have happened the day after the election, not several months afterward. Popular sentiment, at the time, was against the coalition, all the more so when people had seen how the Opposition behaved during prorogation. I think it’s assured, should the NDP be in second place but the Tories fail to get a majority of seats, Mulcair will push for a stable coalition — and the third place party would be foolish not to give it to him, then, rather than wait a few months for an “unacceptable” Tory minority budget.
- Don’t offer false choices. I don’t think “false choices” is the problem so much as it’s “uninformed choices.” Suggesting that “oil should be left in the ground” completely ignores the reality of the local economy of the oil-producing region; likewise, building a pipeline through a province without taking into account that province’s concerns over leaks and spills as a born recipe for failure.
- Don’t employ terms without definitions. But, you see, that’s not the politicians’ fault for not providing them. It’s the media’s fault, both online and legacy, for ignoring the explanation in favour of the shorter, more memorable (but less accurate) headline or hashtag.
- Don’t try to scare us. Well — sad to say it, but that’s not really the media’s fault, but ours. The only cure for reacting to scaremongering headlines and hashtags is the elimination of ignorance among the electorate; it’s our job as responsible citizens to be aware of what our government is doing and what the political parties want to do about it.
- Don’t bribe us with our money. Actually, this shouldn’t really apply to just election time, but to all government and political behavior. This doesn’t apply just to the Tories’ UCCB cheques, but Justin’s promises to benefit the “middle class,” Premier Wynne’s new “pension plan,” et cetera.
- Don’t devalue social media. Oh, I hardly think “devaluing” is the real problem for politicians here. As we can now see. The better advice would be to learn to master social media — not just to be able to defend what’s been posted in the past, to just to not pretend that it didn’t happen, but to develop the mental discipline to prevent posting silly things in the first place.
- Don’t underestimate us. Personally, I’d rephrase this one to: don’t take us for granted.
- Don’t forget character. At first, this might seem contradictory with point 2, but really it’s a warning to all candidates, not just leaders.
So are these points useful? Well, it depends on who pays attention to them — and I’m not entirely convinced that any of the three parties will.