Ugly campaign, important election

Médias et politique

After an election campaign that was often ugly and occasionally brutish, many Canadians will be tempted to stay home today rather than visit their local polling station. Understandable though that impulse may be, it is one that should be resisted. No matter how uninspiring the past five weeks have been, the stakes are too great for Canadians concerned with their country's future to meekly stand by as their next government is chosen.
Rarely has there been an election in which politicians have appeared so disconnected from the hopes and fears of the country at large. In communities across Canada, voters are concerned with how they will keep their homes and their jobs and their pensions; how they will plan for their children's futures; how environmental responsibility will be balanced with preserving and promoting our global competitiveness. Yet instead of reasoned (if spirited) debate about these and other pressing matters – foreign policy, health care, aboriginal affairs, etc. – the parties became obsessed with partisan gamesmanship. With their fixation on war room victories (and seizing on the gaffes of their opponents), it often seemed the parties were catering only to those who live and breathe all matters Ottawa. No wonder the rest of the country appeared mostly to tune out, at least until the campaign's final week.
Yet however poorly they articulated them, the parties do have different – often dramatically different – visions for how Canada's biggest challenges should be addressed. Relative interventionism versus a more laissez-faire approach to economic management; a carbon tax versus a cap-and-trade model to reduce emissions; a focus on activist government spending or targeted tax cuts versus broad-based tax relief.
There are many other, more specific differences, over everything from how infrastructure funding should be allocated to reforms of our criminal justice system. And yes, it is fair to contrast the personalities of our leaders: Who can we trust, in troubled times, to best contend with the uncertainties of the months and years ahead?
To refuse to register votes on these important questions – to respond to a lacklustre campaign by removing ourselves from the democratic process altogether – would not punish our parties and our leaders nearly so much as it would punish ourselves.

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