In a half-week’s time, Canadians will know the makeup of the new government in Ottawa and, after such a long campaign period, we have certainly had ample opportunity to contemplate, hopefully understand, the differences among the political options we’re being offered.
From the All-Manitoulin Candidates’ event held on October 1, the absence (by his choice) of Conservative candidate André Robichaud from the forum gave those in attendance, including the reporters covering the event, ample witness to the fact that, on general principles, there is not a great deal of daylight separating political philosophies of the Liberal Party, the New Democratic Party and the Green Party.
The Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing candidates in attendance (representing these three progressive parties) each did an excellent job of representing their party’s position on a wide spectrum of topics important both regionally and nationally.
On the majority of these issues, while the positions presented were not exactly the same, they were close enough. The most significant differences expressed were in the means and time frame to reach goals that were, in the main, relatively common to all.
If Mr. Robichaud had deemed this Manitoulin event important to his campaign and had attended it, then the Manitoulin voters and the reporters would have also been presented with the incumbent Conservative government’s positions which, as we know from national coverage of the election campaign, are different in many respects to those of the Liberals, the NDP and the Green Party. As it was, those attending the candidates’ meeting only learned of Conservative positions by way of negative reference from the candidates who did attend.
It was to Manitoulin’s credit that all of the many questions posed from the floor in that section of the event were serious and thoughtful ones. The same applies to the questions submitted for the new debate portion of the night. Mediator Jim VanCamp chose four representative questions in advance from the many suggestions submitted. He confirmed that all of the submissions were valid and thoughtful.
It is instructive to note that none of the questions posed to the candidates at the Manitoulin candidates night dealt with the niqab headdress that the Conservatives have insisted should be a topic, a divisive one, during this campaign. Rather, the dozen questions posed dealt with the economy, the education deficit in First Nation communities, climate change, affordable housing, pollution, the ideal of Canada’s place as a manufacturing mecca for leading-age industries, the impact on retirees when old age security benefits are only offered at age 67 and many other timely topics.
People seemed to recognize that topics such as the appropriate dress for females taking the oath of allegiance to Canada and the Crown as they become naturalized Canadian citizens.
For Manitoulin, that topic was, appropriately, deemed frivolous in the face of the myriad of relevant questions that demanded answers from the politicians (at least most of them) hoping to represent Manitoulin Island and the rest of this big riding in Ottawa as our elected MP.
This was one of the most heartening events imaginable in light of some of the topics that are receiving national scrutiny.
The people who attended the All-Manitoulin Candidates’ Night were very representative of the common-sense population of this Island. They are—you are—the ‘salt of the earth,’ and as such, your thoughtful and considered votes next Monday are extremely important.
If you haven’t already cast your ballot at an advance poll or at the Island-wide Elections Canada poll in Little Current, please make a promise to yourself to set time aside to visit your own local polling place and vote.
No matter which candidate is successful in this riding and no matter which party forms the government following the October 19 election, the larger the national voter turnout, the greater the attention that government will pay to the wished and needs of the citizens of this country.
In the last federal General Election, in 2011, voter turnout was 61 percent.
We can only boost this to 70 or 75 percent if individual people commit to being an active part of the very special experience of electing a new government or of affirming their satisfaction with the old one and giving them another opportunity to lead.
Manitoulin Island is unique in so many ways (its cultural diversity, its maritime heritage, its roots in agriculture, most recently by affirming an interest in hosting several refugee families from a war torn nation on the other side of the planet to name only a few positive attributes) it is only fair to share the well grounded vision of Manitoulin citizens with the rest of Canada, and, just now the very best way to do this is to get out, make your mark and vote!