The media wobbles form poll result to poll result; the political parties focus on the coming election at the cost of everything else. It is left to us, the citizens, to look beyond the short term. When you vote tomorrow, think about the future. If the Conservatives hold on to power, there will be implications for our democracy and our prosperity that go beyond however long the next government lasts.

On Democracy

Stephen Harper is the least democratic Prime Minister that I can remember. He’s centralized the government’s messaging in his own office. He doesn’t like to talk to the media, and when he does, he often says things with only the smallest kernel of truth inside. He doesn’t like to confront those who might disagree with him, something that, as the leader of a democracy, is his duty. He prefers optics to substance, appearance to reality. And when he says things like “If you don’t win the most seats, you don’t get to form the government,” (during the leader’s debate no less), a statement that is emphatically not true in our parliamentary system (see: his own attempt to replace Paul Martin’s Liberals with a coalition in 2004) he shows that he a) doesn’t think the voters have paid much attention to his actions in the past, and b) doesn’t mind telling an outright lie about something as fundamental as our constitution in the service of winning this election.

In other words, he cultivates the ignorance of the voter, not the voter’s knowledge, and in a system where well-informed voters are the key to achieving good government, there’s nothing more dangerous than that.

I know he’s in this to win, and I’m not so naive as to think that the other party leaders aren’t trying to win too, but the Conservatives are the worst perpetrators of this any-means-necessary approach. Whenever this politics of noise over substance arises, it must be vigorously opposed. We ignore it at our peril (see: our neighbours to the south and the current nonsense about Obama’s birth certificate as just one example of the politics of noise run amok). Sometimes the only thing we can do as voters is keep our politicians honest. If we reward antidemocratic tactics with a majority government, what kind of message does that send, not only to Harper, but to every party leader in every future election?

On Prosperity

Stephen Harper says he’s the best to shepherd our economy out of the current economic troubles. I’m not sure that claim is true, but even if it is, it’s still an incredibly short-sighted thing to be concerned about. The biggest threats to our continued prosperity are environmental damage and climate change. Harper’s record on tacking this is worse than bad: he’s been actively counterproductive. He’s managed to take climate change out of our daily conversation, and he’s turned us into a laughing stock overseas.

It’s easy to get caught up in the moment-to-moment performance of our economy, but in ten years, or twenty, is anyone going to care about how our economy was doing in 2011? When you vote, ask yourself this: Will my grandkids look back and say “I’m so glad Canada got out of the global recession of 2008-2009 a little bit faster than everyone else”? Or will they say, “Why didn’t Canada do something about climate change back when they had a chance?”*

A Harper majority will mean at least another four years of painting the house while it slowly burns down.

So Vote, and Not for a Conservative

There are three good alternatives to Harper’s Conservative party. Please vote for the one that you think will do the best for Canada. This is not an election where you can safely stay at home: a Conservative majority is definitely possible. Vote strategically if it makes sense for you (but be wary of strategic voting websites). We can do better than Harper.

Thank you. Tomorrow is going to be interesting.

*Don’t take this as an endorsement of the Green Party; while they have the best focus on climate change, they might not be the best poised to do something about it. But don’t take this as a dismissal of them either.