This week, Canada's four major national parties launched their campaigns for the 2015 federal election.
I was curious to find out which party did the best job, at their campaign launch, of highlighting the need for democratic renewal and explaining how they would help Canadians rebuild trust with our political system.
I assumed that, at minimum, Mulcair would probably mention his policy to abolish the Senate and Elizabeth May would probably highlight the need for proportional representation. I also thought that Trudeau would likely mention his commitment to getting rid of First-Past-the-Post or perhaps one of the other democratic reforms he's proposed. Admittedly, my expectations for Harper were low (simply because incumbents rarely talk about the need for democratic reform).
I spent 66 minutes watching all of the speeches, listening carefully for so I could conduct an in-depth comparative analysis.
Harper spoke for 22 minutes about the middle class and said nothing at all about democratic renewal.
Mulcair followed with a nine minute speech about the middle class and also said absolutely nothing about how to improve democracy in Canada.
Trudeau's speech about the middle class lasted for 21 minutes (including Q&A). He did have one vague comment about how the Liberals "will build a Canada where democratic traditions are respected at home”... but that doesn't really count. Otherwise, there was nothing.
May spoke for 14 minutes and said, at one point, “Regardless of how you think you might vote, it really matters that we increase voter turnout in this country despite the Unfair Elections Act. We need to get Canadians in larger and larger numbers voting." That sounds marvelous, but encouraging people to vote isn't really democratic reform. She also said that Canada needs a “more respectful and collaborative government", which is true... but vague.
So, overall, they all get an F. All of 'em.
But stay tuned! Over the next two months, we'll be comparing the party platforms and statements made by each of the party leaders during debates and future speeches.
For years, people have been calling for democratic reforms. Journalists, academics, activists, non-profits, think tanks, former politicians, former bureaucrats and - of course - voters. Which party will step up to the plate? We'll find out soon....