Yes, I know, another blog about our recent federal election. The election is over but I just wanted to share my thoughts on the experience. I am sorry if my blogs have been a little election obsessed lately, but it turns out that when you run as a candidate in one, it does kind of take over your life. It certainly takes over your psyche… i.e. you think about it non-stop – from when you’re digging carrots to when you wake up at 3 am and want to think about shiny happy things like cutting firewood in order to get back to sleep but all you can think about is how to respond to questions at the next ACM – that’s cool political poli-speak code for “All Candidates Meetings.”
I know Michelle uses a bunch of software/games to keep her brain active, I know there are things like Luminosity which are designed for this … to keep your synapses firing to ward off old-age-related brain clogging. I’m finding that running in an election is very much like this, only scarier.
All political parties change their policies on an on-going basis; to meet changing world and economic circumstances, as well as voters’ fickle mood swings. So no candidate will be completely knowlegable on every aspect of their party’s platforms. The Green Party is no exception, although it changes much less. Because we have yet to form a government we have been able to stay pretty true to our vision for the future. The challenge for me, even though I tried to read/memorize the entire 185-page document called “Green Vision 2015,” is that I wasn’t able to be completely knowledgeable about our party’s policies.
The party did provide ‘talking points’ of the key policies that we put forward in the election, but there was a still a gap in my knowledge. I have heard of cabinet ministers in sitting governments taking their policy books into debates so they get it right, so I feel better about doing so at ACMs. And quite frankly if I attended an ACM where candidates didn’t have to refer to a policy book with the range of questions they receive, I’d be highly skeptical about their responses.
So the question is, how do you take a 185-page policy book, and 15-page ‘talking point’ overview, and distill it down to 2 minutes to encapsulate the essence of your party for voters coming to an ACM? It’s extremely terrifying and absolutely intellectually invigorating. No pain no gain right?
We got lots of questions along the lines of, “Oil prices are low but gas prices are high, what is the federal government going to do to bring down gas prices?” The other candidates talked about how complex the oil industry is and used words like “oligopolies” and stuff like that. Well I’m finally comfortable enough in my new ‘Green Party’ hat, we’ll call it my new green skin, that I would simply say that “the Green Party is going to create a vibrant new economy where you can stop having to buy gas from corporations who you don’t seem to be too happy with. Wouldn’t that be great, and here’s how we’ll do it…”
As soon as I started down this road I could see the questioners’ eyes start to roll back in their heads and they often started shaking their head in the “No, I don’t want to hear this” vein, but I’ve learned to persevere and flesh out the concept. The fact remains, the International Energy Agency says we hit peak conventional oil in 2005, all that’s left is hard to get or tar-like bitumen or shale oil, so the price of energy is going to go back up. If you want to keep driving your big honkin’ pickup truck an hour to work every day, well there’s nothing any government can do to help you. You’re simply going to have to respond to an inevitable economic reality. You can vote for a party that’s honest about this and offers a way forward, or you can grumble.
We also got the “how are we going to pay for healthcare?” question a lot. Canada has this unbelievably awesome universal healthcare system. Michelle’s treatment for breast cancer 5 years ago was absolutely stellar. And it didn’t cost us a penny.
A decade ago the Liberal government’s Paul Martin negotiated the health accord with the provinces (which actually administer healthcare directly) and the federal government increased the money they provide to the provinces for healthcare by 6% for the last decade. If you do the math, it’s quite terrifying how much of an increase that is, especially considering that much of the time the economy has been contracting or had very little growth. The recent Conservative government had said that when the current health accord runs out, in 2017 I believe, they would limit yearly increases to the rate of economic growth. The first two quarters of this year the Canadian economy contracted, so one could interpret that as meaning that they would actually claw back some money, but I think they said they’d keep increasing it at least 3%. They also dropped our G.S.T. (Goods and Services Tax, or sales tax) two-percentage points and dramatically reduced our corporate sales tax while they were in power. So the government had way less money to play with every year. It will be interesting to see how our new Liberal government handles this problem.
This comes at a time when Canadian society has just crossed this age Rubicon. There are now more people in Canada over 65, than under 15. In other words, you used to have a large majority of younger people working and paying into the system, with fewer at the top using the services, so it was sustainable. Now, not only is the productive tax-paying group at the bottom end of the age range getting smaller, the bulge at the top is placing enormous pressure on the system. This year people over 65 used 40% of our total healthcare budget. In the next two decades as a tsunami of the population reaches 65, we’ll use 60% of the healthcare budget. Do the math. It doesn’t add up and it’s not sustainable. Any politician who tells you it does is being unrealistic.
The Green Party has excellent policies designed to keep people healthy and keep them out of the system. I typically answered the healthcare question by suggesting that if governments are going to have to keep spending record amounts on fighting historic wildfires, or $60 billion for Superstorm/Hurricane Sandy in New York, or $6 billion for historic floods in Calgary, etc etc. they won’t have any money left for healthcare. We simply have to focus on climate change first. It’s not what anyone wants to hear, but I said it over and over again during the election campaign. As you can tell, I was able to turn just about any question at an ACM into an opening for me to talk about Climate Change.
For me personally, every time I bend down to weed carrots or pick spinach, which I like to do on my knees while wearing kneepads, I say to myself “Take it easy Cam, stretch it out, work your way down slowly, because by the time you need that knee replaced, the cupboard might be bare.” Actually, I think I’ll go and do some more stretching right now!