So we’re off to the races! Our federal election is underway, after weeks and months of pre-election skirmishes. And Canadians have less than six weeks to make up their minds on whether they’re going to vote — and for whom. In many cases, voters make that decision based on which party leader they prefer, regardless of who their local candidates might be.
Even so, let us hope this election campaign will be more about issues, initiatives and programs — and less about personal attacks.
And clearly, there’s no lack of issues. Within minutes of the election announcement, one party leader identified one issue that’s certainly top-of-mind in Lethbridge.
Canada has a national opioid crisis, and we urgently need a national response that’s effective and sustained. Local initiatives, like ours here in Lethbridge, must be part of that response. But this is a highly visible emergency in countless cities across North America, just like Lethbridge. And in Canada, many cities are far behind Lethbridge in creating facilities and programs that can help men and women survive and recover.
Worse, it’s not just an urban problem — and few towns or rural areas have any resources to combat this scourge. So a comprehensive, nation-wide initiative is imperative; other nations have shown how effective that can be.
Of course, there are many more issues at stake. Many Canadians, alarmed at the destruction being caused by climate change — including our Arctic regions — are demanding more leadership on greenhouse gases and related environmental concerns.
At the same time, many Albertans are worried about the future of their fossil fuel industry as car makers and entire nations are shifting to low-impact renewable energy sources. How can a national government assist in that potentially wrenching transition?
And with Canadians paying some of the highest prescription drug prices among the world’s “developed” nations, how will the federal government respond as more and more Canadians heading into retirement rely on medications to remain active and healthy?
Yes, we face still more challenges: selling our farm products to China; ensuring safe housing for all Canadians — not just the nebulous “middle class”; and responding effectively to the devastating report on murdered and missing indigenous girls and women.
You and many voters could add even more pressing problems to that list, issues where a national government would be able to take effective action. Indeed, those should be raised at upcoming election forums, and when candidates or campaigners come to your door.
In short, there are many issues on the table during this and every national election. And now is certainly the time to raise them, and ask for candidates’ promises to bring them to their party policymakers’ attention.
That, for many Canadians, is what our elections should be about. How the parties and their leaders respond should help inform our decision on who gets our vote.
Smear campaigns, partisan robo-calls, online disinformation or attempts at character “assassination” should have no place in the electoral process. They serve only to alienate voters, create distrust of our democracy and reduce some campaigns to the level of a back-alley brawl.
As informed voters, let’s insist that men and women running for elected office focus on the issues that are facing us and our fellow Canadians across the nation. We’re looking for solutions, not slander.