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Election taste test sans slogans

Nova Scotians may need blindfolds to grasp provincial politics

by Hilary Beaumont

Election taste test sans slogans

Picture this: you’re blindfolded. A deep voice commands you to choose your favourite of three glasses of wine. Your anonymous tester places the first in your hand and you take a tentative sip. Immediately the taste of rural grapes tingles your tongue, but the drink has a distinct deficit of sugar. You pinch your nose and swallow.

A second glass enters your hand. It smells fresh, so you slurp it down. Uh oh. Maybe you shouldn’t have trusted its sweet aroma. You throw the glass down and gesture frantically for the third.

The musty scent of a more educated vine enters your nostrils. You down the wine while thinking it would pair wonderfully with Atlantic lobster from your local fishery.

“I’ll have another glass of that,” you say, reaching to untie the blindfold.

“You chose the Nova Scotia Liberals,” the voice booms.

“Uh oh,” you think again. “I’ve never voted Liberal in my life.”

Since it was called on May 4, the 2009 Nova Scotia election has forced voters to question their tastes. The Conservatives began the trend with an odd promise to spend liberally, while the Liberals and New Democrats followed with conservative spending strategies. Meanwhile the NDP have strayed from their socialist and environmental-leaning roots to a more right-winged approach.

Shifting party lines might be one reason Nova Scotians could see an NDP government when the sun rises tomorrow; the latest polls show Darrell Dexter poised to win a majority.

Does it matter if you’ve never voted Liberal? This is the election to challenge traditional loyalties; the three major parties have already challenged their own. So whether you’ve made up your mind or not, it couldn’t hurt to don a blindfold before marking your ballot today.

Below is an analysis (sans slogans) of the three main parties’ commitments to four major issues this election: health care, education, the environment and the economy. Some party priorities may surprise you.

Party A:

This party might leave an oily taste in your mouth. The day after the election was called, the Nova Scotia Environmental Network sent a pop quiz to the four parties testing for strong environmental commitments. This party scored the lowest of four with 52 per cent.

Of the 25 questions on a variety of environmental issues all over the province, Party A fully committed to five. Among their rejections were the ideas of a legislated ban on Uranium mining and the extension of the George’s Bank moratorium on oil and gas development – two major issues in the eyes of environmental advocates.

The Alliance of Nova Scotia Student Associations doled out a similar report card for the parties, grading each of them on their commitments to ANSSA’s recommendations prior to the release of party platforms. Party A earned a C-.

Though they made six major commitments – including the introduction of a tuition freeze and reduction plan, plus $114 million for maintenance and upgrades to universities – ANSSA pointed out the party failed to outline a plan past year one if elected. Parties B and C both outlined four-year-plans for education.

Like Party C, these guys agree that Nova Scotia’s economy needs top billing on the list of priorities. With the funds saved by not increasing the wages of MLAs and political staff, they will balance the budget, cut small business tax by 2.5 percentage points, double Arts funding in 2010 and spend $14.4 million to upgrade the Bluenose II.

Numbers two through five on this party’s priority list look like this: developing rural areas, combating crime, improving health care and education, and finally, improving roads and infrastructure.

Health care and education, number four on a list of five priorities, at least made the list. Unfortunately Party A listed this priority under the heading “Defending Nova Scotia”, which is (perhaps) a little euphemistic.

Though their plan likely won’t quell bad health habits, Party A wants to charge a five-cent tax for every cigarette sold. With this tidy income, they will invest $260 million over ten years to supply 1,320 long-term care beds by 2015, plus invest $1.2 million for additional seats in nursing and medical schools.

Party B:

This party scored only five per cent higher on the environmental quiz than Party A, with a 57 per cent total commitment to the province’s environment. Like all the other parties, these guys committed fully to the 2007 Environmental Goals and Sustainable (buzz word) Prosperity Act that optimistically claims Nova Scotia will be “one of the cleanest and most sustainable environments in the world by the year 2020.” NSEN says this party scored the highest on issues of local and sustainable food, but like Party A, would not support a ban on Uranium mining or oil and gas development off Georges Bank.

At least this party gets a shiny apple for their education efforts. ANSSA graded Party B highest of the four with a B-, meaning they plan to implement most of the organization’s recommendations. Of the four parties, ANSSA recognized Party B’s four-year education strategy as the most comprehensive. As outlined in the report card, this party promises to reduce university tuition to the national average by 2011.

Buzz-words were prevalent and undefined throughout this party’s plan, with the word “sustainable” appearing 11 times. Party A mentioned the word six times and Party C mentioned it once.

Party B plans to achieve the vague goal of a sustainable economy by removing the province’s gas regulation system, reducing the small business tax by four percentage points, removing the provincial tax on funerals and declaring a mid-February holiday. This party also promises to grow primary rural industries, such as farming and fisheries.

Students might just love this party, because they’re promising free tuition to 20 medical students every year for five years as part of their health care and education plan. In addition to these fresh faces, they’ll hire British physicians from across the pond. Party B also promises, without much detail, to reduce wait times.

Party C:

In Environment 101, Party C scored higher than A or B with 73 per cent. They graduated with the honourary title: “Party Most Likely to Make Environmental Promises”. But NSEN pointed out that the party had slipped in their environmental commitments since 2006. The problem, they explain, is this year these guys prioritized the economy over the environment. Still, Party C was the only group of the three to support a ban on Uranium mining and a moratorium on oil and gas development off Georges Bank.

When it comes to education, the leader of Party C had to give ANSSA a written and signed commitment to education because it was not mentioned in his platform. Even so, the student group concluded this party was unlikely to implement their recommendations and awarded the group a solid C. Like the two other parties, Party C agreed to reduce tuition to the national average by 2011. They also agreed to give up to $15,000 to university grads who stay in Nova Scotia after school. Though ANSSA said they admire this party’s efforts, they were not impressed by the “lack of detail and comprehensive vision” in Party C’s platform.

Clearly this party’s detail is dedicated to their first priority: the economy. It’s the same top priority chosen by Party A. But Party C promises to create 2,200 jobs while maintaining roads with a doubled road-resurfacing budget so new hires can drive to work. And in response to the flood of Nova Scotians leaving the province via those roads, Party C is determined to double immigration. It’s a very different approach compared to the other parties, who plan to give certain Nova Scotians incentives to stay put.

Meanwhile, Doctor House would praise Party C for performing health care miracles if they stick to their promises. This party plans to open enough new hospital beds to ease overcrowding in the province’s Emergency Rooms and hire enough doctors to ensure those ERs stay open. These guys also vow to reduce surgery wait times, improve access to primary care and ease the financial burden on seniors. Now all they need to do is find a cure for vagueness.

You may remove your blindfold now. Metaphorically, of course.

If you thought Party C was the front-runner, you are an NDP supporter. If you chose Party B, you like the Liberals. And if you chose Party A, your priorities match those of the Conservatives.

Though there are several ways to vote in this election – strategically, loyally or even randomly – your vote counts equally to those who vote based on substance. Stripped of slogans, it’s pretty clear where each of the three main parties stand on these four major issues. So today, cast your vote based on these new party lines, not based on blind faith.

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1461 words


Voting? Why?

I'm just wondering why the reader is presumed to be a voter, that they're interested in voting, and that they're interested in party politics or election politics.

Voting for one regime to replace another is bullshit. None of the parties will stop the war in Afghanistan. None of them will stop the genocide of indigenous people, none of them will boycott the Israeli apartheid regime. None of them will address the war on terror, and ethnic racial profiling of muslim arab canadian citizens as terrorists. None of them will address the dirty coal power that Nova Scotia gets from Colombia, where displaced African Colombians have lost their land due to El Cerrejon mine (check out a recent article in the Dominion).

None of them will address the problem of disaster capitalism. None of them will address climate chaos.

I just don't see why this is an issue.

yes, but

Hi Dave.

Your response sounds like something I'd have written myself when I'm in one of my bad moods.

I agree with your sentiments to a degree (and I will say, I am glad to see someone that has this fight in them). I also would like to see more radical change in NS and Canada than even what our most established left wing party - the NDP - have to offer. However, I think we have to be able to celebrate small successes and call a step forward a step forward. Yes people's choices are pretty limited in our elections here as in many places, but people should at least go to the polls and spoil their ballot if they don't agree. I think we have to seize upon the options that are available to us, even if they are limited. Perhaps the election of the NDP will lead to more progressive changes down the road. You never know what something will turn into.

The NDP are not laying down the law as much as I would like to see either, but they have formally spoken out against the war in Afghanistan, for instance.

PS: Have you read this one? http://halifax.mediacoop.ca/blog/steve/1317

PPS: Thanks for the article Hilary.


Ms. Beaumont, you are

Ms. Beaumont, you are fantastic. :)

Voting? Why not?


It is an issue because we live in a country that uses a framework of democracy to determine governance (albeit quite loosely). While I agree with you that most of these issues will most likely fail to be addressed or even acknowledged by any of the parties, that doesn't mean voting doesn't change anything. The fact that you choose not to vote doesn't change the fact that the government exists. Why relinquish what little influence you have left within the system by refusing to vote?

Then, after having enacted that influence, we must get off of our asses, rally together and do something about these issues ourselves. Change can only come from the inside and outside.

Contrary to what many may think, choosing not to vote is not an empowering thing. It is inaction. Period. Voting is one of the very few non-obtrusive, non-destructive functions our government has, and it only takes literally 2 minutes to complete (if that). Engaging in direct action whilst choosing not to vote is hypocritical. It is engaging in action on one level of society while simultaneously choosing to be inactive in another. By choosing not to vote, you relinquish what little power you have left within the government to those who already hold most of it.

Back in 2004, the Crimethinc. anarchist collective began a campaign in the US called "Don't Just Vote, Get Active". The keyword here being just. "Don't just vote", not simply "Don't Vote". This is the essence of how we should treat these issues. If you have a problem with the way our community, country or world is being governed: VOTE. Then get off your ass and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

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