By Dan Oldfield
The federal election this fall gives Canadians a unique opportunity to break the cycle of politics of exclusion.
Around the world in the last decade or so, we have seen the significant emergence of so-called “populist” governments. They pretend to represent and share the interests and values of regular folks and have successfully fooled voters by appealing to the people’s baser instincts, when in fact it is they who are the elitists.
Their election strategy is fundamentally focused on fear, paranoia and negativity. They play on fear of people who look different, pray to a different god, speak a different language.
The fear mongering is not limited to just race and religion but also to those who love differently or are a different gender. This strategy gives political operatives a vehicle to focus entirely on what’s wrong with the other guy without the necessity of proposing any meaningful alternatives or policies.
They’ve learned that negative advertising works. It is practically all you will see this fall and voters are suckers for it. While it is a strategy that has served some political parties well, it has done nothing to enhance the lives of citizens.
Witness what has been happening in Ontario. We see a government that has rewarded friends and political allies with rich patronage appointments. We see a government that has taken from society’s poorest and most vulnerable to give to its wealthiest, a government that has cut jobs in health, education and social services. Populism in Ontario lives in the metaphor of cheaper beer, tailgate parties and booze in corner stores.
The agenda of the Ford government is well known and works off the same tired game plan for Conservatives in general. It begins with a contempt of public services and of those who provide them.
This ideology has concrete impact. It is why we wait for the axe to drop on public education, so private education can profit. We see money and resources taken from public health care so arguments can be made that it isn’t working which will justify the need for private health care. The attacks on these essential services are designed to provide an opportunity for the private sector to enrich itself.
The good news is that we have the power to change it.
Political parties are sensitive to voter attitude. It is up to us to tell those who want our votes that the flood of negative advertising and personal attacks won’t distract from the cuts to core services and the agenda that benefits the few over the many. That will no longer work. We need to send a message that to win our support, it’s not about the failings of the other guy but rather what specifically each party will do to make the lives of all Canadian better.
Let’s all send the message that it’s time to end the politics of exclusion.
Dan Oldfield is a former CBC reporter and lead negotiator for the Canadian Media Guild and currently a partner in Syzygy Learning and Facilitation. He has a home in the Thunder Bay area.