Editorial: Negative campaigning and being well-informed

Sara Golling
By Sara Golling
April 12th, 2017

Every day, my inbox is littered with vitriol from two of BC’s political parties, about each other.  They’re each titled “press release” but I haven’t been publishing them. Perhaps that’s wrong-headed of me, but I don’t want to encourage the negativity.

Why am I opposed to the nastiness?  Because I want voters to vote, and to cast their votes based on rational agreement or disagreement, not based on stirred-up emotions.

What do I want instead of negative campaigning?  I want them to tell us what they stand for, and what they will do, without the attacks and name-calling.  It would be possible for them to disagree courteously, with reasoning that voters could consider without having to sort through the emotive baggage. 

Perhaps some of the attacks serve a useful purpose in raising questions about a party’s conduct or record.  But those questions are usually raised often enough — and without the extra seasoning of nastiness — by non-partisan public-interest organizations, and the parties are free to address the issues raised.  Or not, of course.  

Can we access the information that we need to make well-informed decisions before we vote?

A high-school student in Coquitlam, concerned about low voter turnouts, has put together a website and app with information on candidates and their parties’ platforms.  Access the website here; so far it has information mainly on the smaller parties.

One can also check the websites of the parties running candidates in our area: those are the Liberal Party of BC, which has published a platform document of 129 pages, many of them devoted to pictures of Christy Clark; along with lists of the party’s accomplishments and intentions, space is also devoted to condemning both the NDP and the Green Party for such things as opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The candidate in this riding is Jim Postnikoff; the Liberals have a full complement of 87 candidates province-wide.

The New Democratic Party of BC has not, as I write this, yet released its platform document, but promises that it will be out later this week.  When released, it should show up on the NDP’s website.  The NDP candidate in this riding is Katrine Conroy.  So far, the NDP appears to have 84 candidates.

The BC Green Party platform is being published as a series of “planks” on the Greens’ website.  The party has 74 candidates province-wide so far.  The Green candidate for this riding is Samantha Troy.

Both Katrine Conroy and Samantha Troy have agreed to answer a series of questions for the Rossland Telegraph.  Jim Postnikoff has not responded to the invitation at this time.

What questions?  I thanked all candidates for their willingness to stand for office, and to undertake the hard work of that office if they win; and asked them to answer a set of eight questions, and then to provide a statement of their own, of up to 1500 words. If the candidates submit their answers, I will publish them in upcoming editions.

Here are the questions sent, and the rules imposed:

“Questions for Provincial Candidates:

“Your answers must not contain any direct or indirect reference to other parties or other candidates.

“First set:  (Please return by April 18)

“1.            What is your party’s position on climate change, and does your party propose to take any actions to mitigate climate change?  What actions?

“2.            What is your party’s position on the large and growing gap between our wealthiest citizens and our poorest?  Does your party propose any measures to narrow that gap?

“3.            What is your party’s position on donations to political parties from (a) corporations,  (b) unions, and (c) individuals?

“4.            What factors does your party think should be measured to assess the well-being of a society?

“Second Set:  (Please return by April 25.)

“5.            Who does your party think should pay to clean up mining disasters such as the Tulsequah Chief acid drainage and the Mt. Polley tailings dam collapse:  taxpayers, or the mining company involved?  What, if any, changes would be required?

“6.            What is your party’s plan for the Site C dam — to continue building it, or pause to subject it to review by the BC Utilities Commission, or to scrap it?  Why?

“7.            What does your party plan to do about open-net fin-fish farms — increase their numbers and subsidize them, or eliminate them to protect wild salmon populations?  What evidence is your party’s plan based upon?

“8.            There has been criticism of the proposed LNG plant to be built on Lelu Island, by Flora Bank, a prime habitat used by juvenile salmon of the Skeena River run.  What is your party’s position on that?  What considerations is it based upon?

“Your Statement:  (Please return by May 2.)  This statement may be up to 1,500 words long; in it, you may discuss any other issues you think are important, and tell readers more about yourself as an individual.  The “no talking about other candidates or parties” rule applies — you must accomplish your statement without mentioning or referring to other parties or candidates.  If you forget, the offending portion will be edited out.”

I, for one, am looking forward to seeing responses from our local candidates. And to voting on May 9. 

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