The big question: “Why are we wasting 400 million dollars on an election campaign nobody needs?” A valid query, except that’s it’s about 100 million dollars off the mark. Two years ago, in an election campaign called by Stephen Harper against his own election law (every four years), the PM continually maintained that the price was $300 million. Now that he’s in an election campaign with his government found in contempt of Parliament, he and his ministers keep saying the price has gone up by a $100 million in two years. They’re fibbing by a fair margin. According the Globe and Mail yesterday, Elections Canada estimates that this election will be $300 million.
But that still doesn’t answer the question: Why do it? Many reasons are floating through the airwaves out there, but it all boils down to one particular cause. People are right to grumble about the high cost of this campaign, but rather than asking why we should be putting out $300 million, we might be better to ask: “Why $35 billion in fighter jets without any competitive bid process?” Or again, “Why $10-13 billion for super prisons when the crime rate has been declining for almost two decades?” These are legitimate questions that the public also has a right to ask.
The problem is that you won’t get an answer. Why? Because the Conservative government has refused to provide the full cost of both of these expenditures. Pressed again and again in Parliament over the budget, Stephen Harper refused to answer. When the Speaker of the House of Commons instructed them to cough up all the paperwork, the government refused, leaving the Speaker with no choice but to find them in contempt.
All of the opposition parties know that some $55 billion went out the door for the stimulus package, and they also comprehend that this has left Canada with the biggest public deficit in its entire history. They, too, have a right to ask: “Why then would you give an equivalent amount out for fighters and prisons when we run precariously high deficits and debts? Give us the a full accounting of the books so that we would know whether to support your proposals as a government.” The answer was clear and unequivocal – “NO!” And so they defied Parliament, the opposition parties, and the people of Canada the right to know how their tax dollars are being spent. The objective and independent Speaker instinctively understood how this was a clear abuse of Parliament and, after providing them time to respond properly, ruled the government in contempt.
So, when I’m at the doors and people ask me why we need such an expensive election, I ask them: “Would you prefer $300 million or $100 billion?” Or, “Would you prefer $300 million or the $1 billion for the G8/G20 summit that the Harper government paid for without ever clearing those costs through Parliament?”
If the PM wants to make this election about the economy it won’t work because it has been his very economic management – the massive deficit and debt, money spent on “super objects” when Canadian families, students and seniors are struggling, the refusal to provide transparency for costs even to the Speaker – that has caused the contempt. It’s your money, it’s true. But if the government can just spend as it will without presenting the full costs, then, trust me, you’ll be out billions not millions. Efficient economic leadership requires honesty and transparency. You expect it at your bank, from the firm you work for, or from your investments. If you can’t get it from your government, then all that is left is to bring them down. This election isn’t about spending $300 million for nothing. It’s about having an election that will, in the end, save you billions and bring accountability back to the process. Well worth the price to save your earnings.