Well, we are through week one of the federal election campaign, an election three-quarters of our population did not want and at a time when there were many more important issues the government should have been paying attention to.
But here we are.
At this beginning point, it is understandable if the Conservatives are feeling somewhat buoyant. They have had a good week. First there was Nova Scotia, an election called by a majority government where, at first glance, the opposition Tories didn’t have a snowball’s chance in Hell of winning.
It turns out the pundits and pollsters were wrong.
Election campaigns actually do mean something and on the day that it counted, Progressive Conservatives in Nova Scotia won the day and will form a majority government there.
And then there are the polls, to be taken with a grain of salt for sure, but there are enough of them that after the first week of the federal campaign had the Tories neck-in-neck with the Liberals and within the margin of error. Because so many pollsters came to the same conclusion, this is likely accurate.
All of these are good signs for the Conservatives, but none of them are sufficient for them to get either excited or complacent. There is nothing yet to write home about.
First of all, at the beginning of most federal and provincial elections, opposition parties tend to get a bounce. People who have misled pollsters about their voting preferences tend now to reveal them. As well, people who really have a mad-on for the government in power tend to make that known early in an election.
As for Nova Scotia, take that with a grain of salt as well. Provinces often vote differently federally than they do provincially. With the exception of Newfoundland, you can see that trend across the country.
Also, Tim Houston, the Premier-designate of Nova Scotia, has been very coy about supporting his federal Conservative counterpart. In addition, he and the prime minister have been chatting, no doubt discussing the “goodies” that will come to Nova Scotia if a Liberal government is re-elected.
And then there is the mainstream media. They love to start out with telling us how fair they are going to be and how impartial their coverage and election forums will be. Indeed, at the outset there has been a measure of fairness, necessary to defend their claim of even coverage of all parties.
But just watch. That will change as the election heats up. Those in the mainstream media with partisan affiliations will show their true colours and, for the most part, those will not be in a Conservative direction.
This is especially so, as the current government has been busy subsidizing selected media, to whom recently they have distributed $60.8 million in pre-election “emergency relief” without saying to whom specifically it was directed.
The president of Unifor, the union that represents many in the news business, was appointed to a key position in determining which news outlets got subsidies. Of that appointment, one commentator, Rachel Enns, said this:
“Unifor represents over 12,000 news media employees. The minute the union starts helping a government to divvy up taxpayers’ cash for the benefit of news outlets, there is quite rightly a perception that reporters’ coverage is being bought off.”
The lady says that better than I would have, and her comment applies to the publishers of those unidentified news sources as well. The bottom line is that Conservatives cannot expect support or fair coverage from media who accept handouts from the current government. At the end of the day, they will all play for the home team.
Finally, with due respect to the Conservative back-room girls and boys, there is the unrelenting, generational, strength of the Liberal war room. They fundamentally believe they are the natural ruling party of Canada, and they will fight tooth and nail, no holds barred, issue by issue, problem by problem, poll by poll, to stay that way.
And so, in my view, the Conservatives still have an uphill battle. It is true that Erin O’Toole is getting much more exposure now that the election is underway. It is also clear that people are beginning to like him as well as many parts of the election platform his party has published.
The question is, will that be enough? On that, I am a doubting Thomas. In fact, I still hold to my prediction that the Liberals will form the next government.
In our cultural dive into a woke and populist society, charisma and catering to instant gratification appears to trump substance on actual critical issues of the day. And if charisma alone or substantially is what Canadians are looking for, Erin O’Toole cannot compete with the current prime minister. The past six years have proven that he is the Teflon Man. Everything slides off of him.
One of the key questions, in my view, that we must ask ourselves as we contemplate our vote in this election is how much control we want to give government and, conversely, how much control do we want to have over our own lives.
Some things, of course, for the collective good of society are important to be regulated and controlled by government. But not everything. And governments need to be held fully accountable for things they should and do have control over.
I, for one, do not want government to tell me what I can or cannot say within the legal limits of libel and slander, whether on social media or elsewhere. Consequently, I found particularly chilling and alarming a recent statement by a federal Minister to the effect that the government would name a digital safety commissioner and that “internet censorship must follow the governments vision”. Think about that.
In fact, there is a lot to think about between now and September 20. We have an unexpected opportunity to listen to others and to express our own views.
It is important that we do so.
Hugh Mackenzie has held elected office as a trustee on the Muskoka Board of Education, a Huntsville councillor, a District councillor, and mayor of Huntsville. He has also served as chairman of the District Muskoka and as chief of staff to former premier of Ontario, Frank Miller.
Hugh has served on a number of provincial, federal and local boards, including chair of the Ontario Health Disciplines Board, vice-chair of the Ontario Family Health Network, vice-chair of the Ontario Election Finance Commission, and board member of Roy Thomson Hall, the National Theatre School of Canada, and the Anglican Church of Canada. Locally, he has served as president of the Huntsville Rotary Club, chair of Huntsville District Memorial Hospital, chair of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, president of Huntsville Festival of the Arts, and board member of Community Living Huntsville.
In business, Hugh Mackenzie has a background in radio and newspaper publishing. He was also a founding partner and CEO of Enterprise Canada, a national public affairs and strategic communications firm established in 1986.
Currently Hugh is president of C3 Digital Media Inc., the parent company of Doppler Online, and he enjoys writing commentary for Huntsville Doppler.
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