BarrieToday welcomes letters to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter is from Barrie resident Alastair MacLeod about ways to improve our elections.
It seems old traditions die hard.
That appears to hold true for the tradition that is the provincial election campaign (ancillary to that are leadership campaigns and federal campaigns… but don’t get me going).
In this era of instantaneous digital communication and social media, where and how does that ‘traditional’ campaign fit in? It still appears to be stuck in the analogue phase.
Look deep into the past: prior to Facebook, Twitter, the Internet — further even than television, or radio. Having politicians chasing each other from county to county, town to town was about the only way voters of the time would see and hear the incumbents and hopefuls. In those days, the campaign was just as much a social event as it was about political awareness, huckstering and, often, blatant snake-oil selling.
Today, we the electorate are savvier. We know immediately when something happens — no matter how relevant, no matter how trivial. Our electronic device beeps to tell us that a political figure has just passed gas in a somewhat overt manner. We have polls that advise us — ad nauseum — how well or poorly each party and candidate is doing. We are more aware of the snake-oil vulgarity of commercials and the campaign slurs; as well as the mud-slinging.
And somewhere in there are the real issues that matter to the common people.
The leaders need to stay in their respective ridings. Sure, they are trying to motivate the masses, rouse the troops, but it’s not vital to see the leaders with their plastered-on smiles pitching their platforms from coffee shops, manufacturing floors or sports venues across the province.
If the leaders in their megalomaniacal splendour still want to debate the issues on various media, or spend money on meaningless commercials, then let them feed that ego. But don’t overdo it and don’t do it at our expense.
And please, don’t stage the debates like they are some sort of jousting competition or sparring match. They are highly choreographed by the party spin doctors in such a way that the leaders have little room to manoeuvre for fear that one might say or do something that will negatively impact the polls. (Heaven forbid we should see some fault in our leaders.)
Effective debates and advertising at the provincial party level can successfully reinforce what the candidates are pitching at the riding level. However, dispense with the ugly and overused lawn signs. At least ban them completely from common and public areas such as intersections, highway ditches, parks and the like. We all know who the candidates are.
Do we base our vote on which candidate has more signs? I hope not.
Allow the incumbents and hopefuls to chase each other across the ridings, pitch the party platforms and get the message out. Let the leaders tastefully work the media from their home ridings or party HQs and save oodles of money.
So, is an election campaign squandering millions of dollars necessary? No.
But, is an election campaign that would cost a lot less necessary? Yes.
Do we need party leaders to be in our faces constantly to pitch their wares? No.
Could we have our riding incumbents and hopefuls perform the same task? Yes.
Are campaign signs that cover just about every lawn and intersection necessary? No.
The electorate is nowhere near as gullible as in the past. It behooves the party campaign machines and Elections Ontario to rethink the process.
We all know that saying and doing often mix like oil and vinegar. The over-the-top hype we endure is overshadowing the legitimate purpose of the provincial political campaign.
In today’s digital world, the campaign should last a maximum of two weeks. This month-long constant barrage telling us who’s going to do the best job of carrying the province into the future is just repetitive drivel.
And please, I implore you, stop with the incessant and harassing robocalls.