One of Newfoundland comedian Greg Toomey’s best-known characters from This Hour has 22 Minutes is Jerry Boyle, leader of the Newfoundland Separation Federation. His line, “If you can mark an X, then you’re my kind of people,” resonates in the provincial election presently underway.
In our opinion, marking an ‘X’ is all the three main parties want you to do in this election. Those parties are playing it safe; afraid that any misstep will cost them a majority at Queen’s Park. This may be good political strategy but makes for a campaign devoid of real debate.
Take for example last week’s all-candidates “debate” held in Winchester. There were many empty chairs in the room. The three mainstream candidates stayed on message for most of the meeting. It wasn’t a debate. The format allowed questions that could only be put to two candidates with no rebuttal between candidates. Many questions came from party supporters. With the exception of the Liberal candidate straying off script in saying that closing Kemptville College was wrong and she’d try to reopen it, the real stars of the debate were the Libertarian and Green party candidates.
Green party candidate Elaine Kennedy spoke frankly of her party’s platform, but also why she ran: to give voters a choice. One that doesn’t involve holding your nose before marking your ‘X’.
Libertarian Sabile Trimm was on point for her party: small government with less intrusion in our everyday lives: let the private market be more involved. One highlight was Trimm’s closing comments, where she said that the agriculture industry should not receive government subsidies for growing corn and soybeans for fuel. At a debate cosponsored by an agriculture federation, with farmers in the audience, that was interesting to watch. Kennedy and Trimm were the sparks of light in the debate. The three mainstream candidates were not.
A boring campaign, lacking in debate and discussion, leads to low voter turnout. If people are not engaged, they will not turn out to vote. Only 52.1 per cent of voters took part in the 2014 election and that was an improvement of nearly four per cent over 2011.
What the mainstream parties want is for voters to be made up of people who will just mark an ‘X’ for their brand. Be different. Be an informed voter. Go to the debates. There are at least three more in the remaining three weeks of this campaign. Talk to the candidates: watch the leader’s debates. Be informed. Don’t just be an ‘X’.