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MARTHA MUZYCHKA: Political food for thought

A ballot box
Will you vote for a person or policies on Feb. 13? —SaltWire Network file photo

There is a really famous and popular Bible verse from Ecclesiastes which says “to everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.” It’s not a long verse but it describes the multiple contrasts in life.

As I write this, the 46th president of the United States was being inaugurated; I suspect many of my American family, friends, and colleagues are feeling all the feels with respect to the passing of the last fours years watching the rending of the American state and are now looking forward to spending time building up, celebrating a new vision and, yes, healing from trauma.

While it is not possible to predict how things are going to evolve, there have been some indicators the Biden-Harris team will move quickly on key issues. They have a mandate for four years and I hope they will use that time to its fullest, despite the fact midterm elections are looming in two years.

I worked with a colleague once who suggested every mission statement, party platform and strategic plan should be distilled to reflect one idea: all children must eat.

I’ve always been puzzled by the U.S. practice of over-promising great change and then undelivering so that one can sidestep a midterm election threat and then coast to a repeat victory four years later.

Even in Canada, where we have provincial and federal elections happening at different times, there is a sense that the party forming the government governs to ensure re-election as opposed to actually governing to achieve lasting change and benefit for citizens.

Here in Newfoundland and Labrador, we are heading to the polls on Feb 13. For the last two weeks, I have been polled on who I will vote for. Curiously none of the polls inquire about my understanding of what each party stands for, what they aim for and what they will do once elected.

I worked with a colleague once who suggested every mission statement, party platform and strategic plan should be distilled to reflect one idea: all children must eat.

As strategies go, it’s not a bad idea, and you could take it further — to borrow an approach from the author of the “If you give a mouse a cookie” books. Could party platforms provide a roadmap from the promise to the hoped-for outcome?

I suspect if they did, there might be fewer unintended consequences arising from incomplete planning or to be more bold, inappropriate planning.

I have heard people say implementing policy change takes time. However, over the past 10 years, I’ve seen lots of poor policies get enacted pretty quickly. The Harper-led governments undid significant work in data management, from muzzling science and eviscerating the census to undermining public safety (goodbye, long gun registry) and federal unity (hello, interprovincial squabbling and revamping equalization).

One of the quieter changes in our province has been the issue of food insecurity. Almost a decade ago, Newfoundland and Labrador had one of the lowest levels of food insecurity. Today we have one of the highest.

Why this happened is murky, but the province no longer tracks this data. There was a poverty reduction strategy. There was an understanding embedded in policy on the links between poverty and its lack of access to food (to name one thing) and the lack of opportunities for self-sufficiency, continued health and overall well-being.

All children must eat: If we looked at public policy through that lens, we might see different changes in the future.

Martha Muzychka is a writer and consultant living in St. John’s.


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1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

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