There are still two weeks before Canadians go to the polls, but thinking further ahead to the NEXT election, there are at least four changes to the way elections are run in this country that should be made.
Shorten the writ. The last time the elections act was amended the minimum length of time for a writ period was reduced from almost two months to thirty six days. In a large county like Canada it used to take months to get the leaders introduced and the platforms understood throughout the country. That was before the advent of 24/7 news and social media channels like blogs and Twitter. As of this week all of the party platforms are out and the national leader’s debates have taken place. Party campaign narratives have been established and voters have by and large had enough exposure to the leaders to make an educated choice. My fear now is that without new, substantive information voters may well lose interest. In our world of modern day communications four weeks should be plenty of time for a writ period. This is more likely to bolster rather than detract from voter turnout. We’ll get an indication of Canadian’s readiness to vote at next weekend’s advance poll.
Increase spending limits. The election spending limits are far too restrictive and need to be increased significantly. The total amount spent by the three national parties over the whole writ period is less than $ 60 million. This is about the cost one senate race in the USA. Increases in the cost of air travel, advertising, and technology has far outstripped the current formula for determining election spending limits. It is going to be increasingly difficult for candidates to get around the country while at the same time communicating their message in traditional and non-traditional media without an increase in the allowable spend.
Eliminate subsidies. It’s time that parties paid their own way. We have a generous tax credit system which provides plenty of incentive for Canadians to contribute to political parties. We don’t need to pay each party for every vote they receive. Eliminating subsidies would force political parties to improve their methods of fundraising and remove the irritant of subsidizing a separatist party that is dedicated to the breakup of Canada.
Reset debate critera. Speaking of irritants, Ipsos research found after the English debate that Canadians were increasingly tired of watching a regional leader, Mr. Duceppe, who ran no candidates outside the province of Quebec. According to Ipsos 45% of all viewers said that their impressions of the Bloc Quebecois leader worsened because of the debate. I think we are past the time when we have to be politically correct. The appropriate spot for Duceppe’s participation is in a regional debate in the province of Quebec. The network consortia needs to fix this by simply dropping the BQ’s participation in the English Canadian debate and by substituting it with one national bilingual debate and four regional debates in the Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario and the West.
One final suggestion to the consortia is to establish once and for all that only officially recognised parties in the House of Commons should be participating in the National Debate. This would ensure that we don’t have to go through the Elizabeth May drama next time around.