Policies vs. trash talk

This is the sixth day of an already scorching federal election campaign. With a month left to go we wonder how an already disaffected Canadian electorate will fare in the coming days of blistering attacks by the parties as they try to diminish each other in their bid for power.

Leading the attack is Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has made no secret of his contempt for the Opposition. In fact, it was contempt that brought his government down in a vote of non-confidence by the Opposition parties.

Harper’s campaign of vindictiveness and fear is now in full form. Between campaign promises, he doesn’t miss any opportunity to state that if he gets another minority the Liberals and others will form a coalition to seize the government and that is not what Canadians want.

Well, for one thing, we will know what Canadians want on May 2 so we don’t need him to tell us what we want or don’t want. Moreover, he himself as Opposition leader a decade or so ago tried to form a coalition with the same parties in an attempt to bring down the then Paul Martin minority government. Why was it okay then and not now? He disingenuously avoids the fact that a coalition government, while not the preferred option for us, is perfectly legal. While he is accusing the other leaders of being power hungry, he, by his own massaging of the facts, has shown himself to be just as power hungry, if not more so.

We need him to curb his penchant for vindictiveness because, as he sets the tone for this campaign, his stance diminishes the stature of the office he has been privileged to occupy for seven years. This baseness of tone also implies a certain lack of respect for the electorate.

What we want to hear is what he is going to do for working people and for the economy. More specific to our own community we want to hear from all the politicians seeking our vote which of their plans and promises will pave the way for improvement of our lot. As Ryerson professor Grace-Edward Galabuzi’s recent study, Colour Coded Labour Market, reveals Black people and other people of colour, so-called visible minorities, remain at the bottom of the ladder when it comes to receiving a fair working wage, and are at the top among the unemployed. And, while employment equity policies have made some difference in the hiring ratio for visible minorities, Black workers are not reaping the benefits in the numbers evident in other similarly designated (non-Black) visible minority groups.

So despite all the rancor that pass for campaigning, African Canadian voters must focus somewhat less on political personalities and partisanship and more on the policies that make sense for the betterment of our everyday lives and the lives of our families. The question for us to ask (and answer) is who do we trust to bring forward policies from which we will benefit the most.

Pierre Trudeau and the Liberals reaped voter benefits from many visible minority immigrants who believed that it was under his watch that the gates were opened to them. But it was the John Diefenbaker Conservatives who brought a race-free immigration policy forward in 1962 even before the Liberals and Lester Pearson in 1967 (although Pearson further advanced the policy). Yet Trudeau got the credit. The point is that we need to have a clear understanding through making the time to educate ourselves about what and for whom we are voting.

If the last Conservative budget could be so finely tuned to target particular communities – the poorest of the poor among seniors, volunteer firefighters, parents who want to give their children piano lessons, snowmobilers – then it is entirely possible to create features that benefit our and other minority communities as well. We should expect no less.

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