The urge to throw out a sitting government at election time can not only be strong, it can be dangerous. Across Canada this year, that danger looms large.
Canada faces some potentially transformative elections this year – with a federal election to be held next fall, and Alberta’s first NDP government facing an up-hill battle for re-election this spring. There will also be elections in Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island, and possibly New Brunswick.
In both Alberta and Ottawa, progressive political leaders are facing opposition by Conservative politicians who would pull this country backward by decades if they get into power.
We cannot let that happen. Before anyone succumbs to the urge to throw any governing party out of power, they owe it to themselves – and their country – to know as much about who they are voting for.
Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and Alberta United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney were both part of the disastrous Harper government in Ottawa, and both aspire to power today on platforms that would hurt ordinary working people.
Just this week, Kenney said he would repeal workplace safety, employment standards and injury coverage for farm workers in Alberta.
Last week, on International Women’s Day, he came under fire when he seemed to allege that women politicians are not as skilled as men.
In fact, if you Google “Kenney under fire” you get news stories about an uproar over his housing expenses, denials that Kenney wrongly attempted to criticize an NDP candidate by calling him a gay 19-year-old and a UCP candidate who questioned the legitimacy of climate change, to name a few.
Meanwhile, a Kenney-led Alberta government would cut taxes by $700 million for the richest one per cent in the province, with education and health cuts for everyone else
This is the man Albertans would be electing if they vote against NDP Premier Rachel Notley.
Notley has been a strong advocate for her province and brought in much-needed reforms to Alberta’s labour laws, including a $15 minimum wage and affordable childcare, among other reforms.
Despite this, a desire for change could see her pushed out of office, as if she were to blame for the low oil prices that have hurt the province’s economy.
Like Kenney, Scheer seems to hope that he can become Prime Minister just by criticizing the current holder of the office, and seemingly hoping that voters don’t notice all the troubling signs about the kind of leader he would be.
Voters need to remember, however, that this is a man who stood proudly with so-called yellow vest protesters when they arrived at Parliament Hill, despite well-publicized racist comments about immigrants and refugees from members of the group.
Last week, Scheer claimed he didn’t hear a remark about the discredited “pizzagate” conspiracy theory during a townhall meeting in Ontario, and came under fire for not swiftly denouncing the comments. One political cartoon this week even dubbed his party the Conspiracy Party of Canada as a result.
Ontario is currently seeing the danger of allowing a so-called desire for change to guide how people vote. In less than a year in power, Ontario Premier Doug Ford has repealed much-needed labour law reforms, brought back an outdated sex education program and is pushing through health reforms that critics believe lays the groundwork for privatization.
He has also cut much-needed funding to help children on the autism spectrum, cancelled plans for satellite campuses of three universities for families in underserved areas, pulled funding for the province’s first Francophone university and eliminated the free tuition for underprivileged post-secondary students while making financial assistance harder to get.
For many, the previous defeat of conservatives such as Stephen Harper federally, Jim Prentice in Alberta and Tim Hudak in Ontario seemed to hail the beginning of a new progressive era in this country. The rise of Ford and the threats posed by Kenney and Scheer show, however, that the fight for a Canada that puts the needs of working people first is far from over.
This year, wherever you live and whatever your desire for change, look closely at what you are voting for - and do more than just vote against something or someone.