First there was the Justin Trudeau’s blackface scandal. Then there was Andrew Scheer’s dual citizenship/resume exaggeration controversy. Finally, there was an exchange caught on video decrying Jagmeet Singh wearing a turban.
Lost in the click bait were the substantive issues that affect ordinary and everyday Canadians. The rest of us just became after-thoughts to the political drama played out between politicians, journalists, and pundits.
Before heading to the polls on Monday, here is a list of real issues Canada’s political leaders should have discussed during the campaign.
- Newfoundland’s public debt
Very few Canadians are even aware that the public debt load of our nation’s newest province has gone beyond what’s sustainable for its shrinking population. Forget that the province of Ontario gets plenty of media attention. Spiraling beyond the $14.6 billion mark, Newfoundland, with a population of just over 500,000, just doesn’t have the tax base to manage its expenses and few, if any, are taking any notice of its impending financial collapse.
A Canadian population on the precipice of bankruptcy should be big news during a federal election. Which, if any, of the federal leaders has the best plan to remedy Newfoundland’s debt woes?
- Ratification of the USMCA Trade Agreement
Canadians are deeply split on the last-minute deal Trudeau worked out with Donald Trump that saw us give enormous concessions to the Americans. Only one in five Canadians believe that this new deal is an improvement over NAFTA.
With ratification of the USMCA stalled in Washington, this election should have been a referendum of Canadian’s feelings going forward with this trade deal. While we know what the impact of USMCA will be on farmers, the pharma industry, intellectual property and a host of others, we should also be asking our leaders which of them supports USMCA and which would seek a better deal for our exporters.
There are many troubling signs indicating the possibility of an economic slowdown in the months ahead. We need to get this deal right if we hope to weather any tough times coming our way.
- Canada and the world
Since Trudeau declared that “Canada’s Back” after winning the 2015 election, Canada’s foreign relations has suffered numerous setbacks during his time in office. Time and again, we watched as Canada was pushed around and bullied by world leaders: Trump, Xi, Modi, and even Duarte, who took advantage of the weakness permeating Ottawa.
If elected, will Singh, Scheer, May or Bernier stay the foreign policy course set by Trudeau? If they have different strategies, it would be nice to hear from them during this campaign.
- Canada’s Energy Sector
There are really important issues facing our energy sector, both in terms of aging infrastructure, regulation, taxation and exports. Canada’s energy sector is approximately 10 percent of our national GDP. By comparison production of the oil sands is 2 percent of our GDP. So, while building pipelines is a national issue, it’s just one part of the entire energy sector picture.
As it stands, we rank third in the world for oil reserves and fourth in the world for hydroelectric capacity. But despite our nation’s tremendous wealth, household energy expense, including the cost of heating, electricity and filling up the gas tank, are real-life issues for many Canadians. It would be nice to hear from politicians about strategies for Canada’s future energy needs.
- Internal Affairs
We are a nation divided. Alberta is feuding with B.C. The Bloc Quebecois is railing against Alberta. Our First Nations, which were hopeful in 2015 that Justin Trudeau would take serious action towards reconciliation, are feeling forgotten and disillusioned.
There is no doubt that the Trudeau government exploited internal divisions for political gains over the past four years; but is this strife and conflict sustainable for our nationhood going forward? If the polls hold true on election day, our Parliament will be divided based primarily along regional lines. It will make it very difficult for the next government to represent all of Canada.
Despite all the rhetoric, none of our political leaders have shown much concern for regional alienation and what that could mean for national unity.
- Free trade in Canada
Just three months ago, in Saskatoon, Canada’s premiers met to tackle impediments to internal trade between the provinces. In many cases, it’s easier for producers and manufacturers to export their goods to foreign markets than it is to trade inter-provincially. While this is an important issue for our premiers, it hasn’t made a single blip at the federal level during this election campaign.
As you head to the polls on Monday, show more responsibility for the difficult issues we are facing than our politicians have shown.
At a time when our politicians have let us down so terribly, the only choice for voters in this election is to vote for Canada.
Maddie Di Muccio is a former town councillor in Newmarket, Ont., and former columnist with the Toronto Sun.