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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Monday 13 January 2014

A Million Points of False Advertizing

Picture a well-lighted boardroom somewhere in downtown Toronto.  Around the table and with a few voices chiming in through conference call are Tim Hudak and his senior planning staff.  A gruff voices lays out the facts:

"This is your last shot at this, Tim.  Do you want to be remembered as the guy who lost to both McGuinty and Wynne or do you actually want to be Premier?"

"Okay," Hudak says with empty authority.  "Go through it one more time."

"We all know that jobs are the ticket.  That and cutting government.  We are not going back to picking on immigrants or prisoners, so we gotta throw something positive into the mix.  It's gotta be big, it's gotta be bold.  

"So we go with The Million Jobs Act.  What's not to like about that?  Cut government, cut taxes, trade deals or whatever - but a million jobs.  It gives people something to believe in.  You will be the man to bring a million jobs to Ontario."

Heads nod around the table.  One junior staffer clears their throat, dares to raise their voice.

"Um... should we really be promising to deliver a million jobs?  I mean, unless we go out and sign up eight years worth of written commitments from actual employers, isn't that a magic number we have no way to guarantee?  It's about setting expectations, right?"

Said staffer is never invited to such a meeting again.

How can a man who believes government should be out of the employment business promise a million jobs?  The truth is, he can't.  The only way to guarantee those jobs would be to guarantee a million hires himself - as we know, he's not going to do that.

Nor does he have written guarantees from employers to back up his promise.  In fact, he has nothing to back up his promise except for spin and ideology.  Hudak is now to job creation what Stephen Harper became on transparency.

But look at it from where he's sitting - does it really matter?  Hudak's only does have one last kick at the can, and he might as well go big.  If he wins, well, ideally he's got four years to put promises behind him.  It worked for McGuinty with the "I won't lower your taxes but I won't raise them either" bit, right?  Eight years is a long time.  People will have moved on before two have elapsed, but he'll still be Premier.

This is where Hudak's planners have made their fatal miscalculation.  They're used to looking at people from a sales perspective; voters are consumers and it's all about shaping the product they think they can buy.  Agency is a tagline, nothing more.

Too few political people understand just how disillusioned, desperate and frightened the people have become.  Parents carry the burden of knowing the world they leave their children is one of diminished opportunity.  Youth are failing to see the value in anything that isn't about selling themselves and scoring individual wins.

The Tea Party, Occupy and Idle No More are no passing things; they're symptoms of a societal malaise that is only worsened by crass retail politics.  Everyday folk are past the point of believing in leaders with clever, alliterative turns of phrase; they want substance.  That, or retribution.  Increasingly, nothing in the middle will suffice.

It would be a different story of Hudak explained the exact math behind his Million Jobs number and provided clear metrics along the way.  Were Hudak to promise in writing and over his grandmother's grave to resign if he should fail, people might give him some leeway, but he won't do that.

After all, politicians don't have to worry about being accountable - that's the opposition's job.  Right?

It's time our politicians and their planners wise up to the fact that it's no longer a matter of puffing up their partisan brands and slinging mud on their opponents'; it's the system itself that people no longer believe in.

Kicking the bums out of office is one thing, but when it's the office itself people want to turf, we have a problem. 

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