“Ottawa is clearly broken and this election is going to be about how we’re going to fix it.”
— Jack Layton
Newfoundland and Labrador distinguished itself in the last federal election by being the province with the lowest voter turnout in a country that had its lowest voter turnout ever in a general election.
Here, 195,397 eligible voters marked ballots and 210,849 did not — a dismal showing of 48.1 per cent.
Not exactly a shining moment.
But things are looking up.
Participation at last weekend’s advance polls was up by 67 per cent over 2008. That may not be a harbinger of massive voter turnout on Monday, but one can hope.
This has been a nasty campaign, where weasel words and accusations have been tossed around like confetti. Then again, what could you expect from an election sparked by contempt?
At The Telegram, we’ve heard from the odd Conservative supporter who’s accused this newspaper of being anti-Conservative or anti-Stephen Harper.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The Telegram’s reportage on the campaign has been evenhanded and non-partisan.
Its columnists, on the other hand, express their own views. Many of them — present company included — have been critical of Harper, but there’s a reason for that. Perhaps we are reflecting the deep mistrust shared by many Canadians.
I don’t share his vision of Canada. I fear what will happen if he is given more power. And I can tell you, based on the feedback I’ve received, I’m far from alone.
Harper has been derided as being a “bubble boy” in this campaign for erecting a protective shield between himself, the media and anyone else who might ask him difficult questions and ruffle his seemingly unflappable feathers.
It’s time to burst some of those bubbles.
Harper Myth No. 1
This is an election “Canadians don’t want.”
First off, Harper does not speak for all Canadians — only 22 per cent of voters chose the federal Cons last time. And the strong interest at advance polls certainly suggests that many people want to have their say.
Harper Myth No. 2
If we don’t support a Harper majority we’ll be punished.
This is the politics of fear at its finest. We have choices in this election and we won’t stand for being bullied at the ballot box. If we don’t vote for Harper, he won’t have a majority and he won’t be in a position to bully anyone.
Harper Myth No. 3
Only a majority Conservative government can give this province a loan guarantee for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric development.
Poppycock. A majority Liberal government or a majority NDP government would do the same. Besides, not everyone is even sold on Muskrat Falls; there are plenty of other pressing issues in this election, such as renewing the health care accord.
Harper Myth No. 4
If you vote ABC (anyone but contempt), this province will be shafted without a representative at the cabinet table.
Ask yourself this: did it seem like we were shafted when Senator Fabian Manning kept coming here handing out cheques like a new father with cigars? A party that wants your support will always find ways to bribe you with your own money.
Harper Myth No. 5
Stephen Harper’s government brought the country back from the brink of financial ruin.
Then why are we in such rough financial shape that he can’t even imagine being able to balance the budget before 2015? Harper inherited a surplus and spent us into the ground.
Harper Myth No. 6
This is an election campaign that the opposition forced on Canadians.
This election is happening because Harper’s government was found in contempt of Parliament. Why? Because opposition members asked for information on the cost of fighter jets and extra prisons before deciding whether or not those initiatives were worth supporting, and were denied that information by the Harper government. Sounds awfully contemptuous to me.
Despite the local Conservative candidates’ attempts to make this election about getting local voices heard in Ottawa, this election is about who will lead the government. Vote Conservative and you are helping to elect Stephen Harper.
The Stephen Harper who curtails questions and muzzles his cabinet ministers; who has killed programs that advocate for women and victims of crime; who is so paranoid that he has kids kicked out of rallies if there’s any hint that they might support another party.
The Stephen Harper who was so desperate this week that during a whistle-stop appearance in Asbestos, Que. on Tuesday, he proclaimed his support for a known carcinogen.
“The only party that defends the chrysotile industry is our party, the Conservative party,” Harper said in a Canadian Press story — chrysotile being the industry euphemism for white asbestos, which Canada routinely exports to Third World countries.
This, even as CP reported that the government is spending “tens of millions of dollars … to remove asbestos from buildings in the parliamentary precinct and Harper’s current official home at 24 Sussex Drive,” and as one of his own cabinet ministers grapples with terminal cancer as a result of having inhaled asbestos fibres in his youth.
Is this who you want running your country? Spending your money like it comes out of his own wallet? Directing his henchmen to intimidate voters with horror stories of what could happen if he doesn’t get a majority?
Sounds to me like there are more dangerous things than asbestos fibres that need to be removed from 24 Sussex Drive.
Pam Frampton is The Telegram’s story editor. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.