Monday, September 19, 2011

Missing Links

So far in this election, Ontario voters have been treated to a series of policy pronouncements and talking points which break the campaign down into a series of issues. Every party does it, and with good reason.

As noted in my last post on the forgotten voter, each party has spent considerable time and resources identifying what it thinks will be the election strategy that offers the best chance of success. The result is a campaign which is focused on key voter groups and ridings.

Of course in such a short campaign, this makes sense. At some point, one needs to be targeted. And on one level, I suspect that voters have a certain amount of respect for a focused campaign. The party which employs a "spray and pray" approach is inevitably caught out. In the end the voter can always spot a flailing party that tries too desperately to be all things to all people.

The need to focus should not, however, excuse our prospective leaders from the importance of tying the various issues together and making what I see are some important linkages in our public policy.

As an example, health care is not a "stand alone" issue, nor is it simply about social policy. It is an economic issue as much as it is a social one - perhaps more so. In order for a society to prosper, it needs a healthy, fit and active population. Health care has as much to do with productivity, innovation and economic well-being as does tax policy.

Yet when we hear health care being debated it is too often dominated by questions of cost and whether we can afford the system we have. These are important questions, but they should not be the only ones.

Transportation policy is another area where we should expect better. In this case, it is not that the other dimensions are ignored; rather, we seem to have hived transportation policy into a series of separate and distinct conversations - about cost, or about urban planning, or the environment. The party which is best able to link these elements into a cohesive, plausible narrative is the one which will get my attention.

Better progress is being made on the question of the environment, where parties - particularly the Liberals and the NDP - are more eager to link addressing issues like climate change to the opportunity of building a green economy. They have done so, in part, to blunt the criticisms that addressing climate change will cost jobs. Still, at least the broader linkages between the environment and the economy are being discussed (albeit for defensive reasons).

Education is probably the one area where parties have been successfully able to draw a broader picture, for obvious reasons. The linkages between education and employment and prosperity have been drilled into all of us since we were children. When politicians say that education is the silver bullet we get it, even if we don't hold them truly accountable for the need for change.


Too often during a campaign our engagement is in 2D. Issues are presented in a very linear manner, broken down into what appear to be simple causalities when in fact they are not. It is all very flat and if you look closely you come away with a feeling that something is missing.

In reality, policy discussions in areas like health care, transportation and the environment should be in 3D. They should strive to present a broader perspective on the issue and how the different elements come together.

The interdependence between the various areas of public policy needs to be presented so that voters can consider the bigger picture and make decisions which see Ontario for what it is - the sum of its parts. For this to happen, we need to demand it. We need to be engaged and let those looking for our vote know that this is what we expect.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Have a comment?

Canadian Blogosphere