Conservatives pulled it off again; with the announcement of a single statistic, they changed the main topic of discussion in the election campaign and steered it in the direction, which they think they can benefit from.
The statistic is the (alleged?) budget surplus: Just under $ 2B. When? Last year. How? No one knows.
Is this surplus the result of another set of unspent allocations, which were returned to the government?
One might remember that in the course of the past six months alone, journalists uncovered millions of dollars, originally slated for First Nations housing and RCMP investigations to create databases being returned to the federal coffers.
The fact that this figure was released at the request (!?) of Joe Oliver, Minister of Finance, right at the midpoint of the election campaign is stinky enough and it should call for some questions.
But there may be something else that we as electorate should be asking, a broader question, which is: Why are we judging economy using the same yardsticks as the economists, government spokespeople or so called analysts do?
Why is a budget deficit or surplus important for a resident of, say, Alix or Red Deer or Calgary?
Yes, we have been led to believe for a very long time now that budget management is the most important function of a government and that the failure of a government to pass a budget means that very government is unable to govern.
But with so many detailed pieces of legislation that no lay man can comprehend without guidance, with so much fraud and wrongdoing (Senate scandals, abuse of privileges, nepotism etc.) and so many intricate governance regulations, who can say that budget is really being implemented as it is promised?
Are we really supposed to decide whom to vote for by comparing how much budget deficit or surplus this or other leader is promising?
One major problem with the kind of election campaign that we are going through now is that with all the publicity campaigns and the impact of the media, we, as individuals, are prone to becoming extensively influenced by herd mentality when it comes to making political decisions.
And political leaders, well aware of their power to swing individuals’ psychology with a few phrases that touch their softer sides, exploit that ability to the maximum in order to transform the sympathy to votes on the balloting day.
Returning to the matter of budget, I am wondering why none of the leaders have been touching on the matter of widening poverty among the seniors?
Why is budget surplus or deficit, as a figure, taking precedence over some poor kids’ inability to afford to enroll in a hockey or extra curricular program?
Unless the voters push for it, political leaders will never put a human face to their election promises, in other words, they will keep treating economic statistics as the priority over what the economy is for, the people.
As long as $15 daycare continues to be a statistic to be aimed for in the eyes of NDP leader Tom Mulcair, $10 million as an annual target for deficit for Justin Trudeau and $1.9 billion surplus a good thing in and for themselves, regardless of the methodology the government is elected, the democratic nature of the system of governance will likely to continue to weaken in the years and decades to come, as it has been doing for decades.
We might be complacent in our comfort zone, content with the thought that our system of checks and balances will save the representative form of government from being degenerated, but that complacency may cost us big time even in the lifetime of the next generation.