If you’re NDP Leader Tom Mulcair or Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, you want the word “change” to be flashing like a strobe light in the minds of voters. If you’re Stephen Harper, you want the word change to mean something else — you want it to mean “untested,” “inexperienced,” or simply “unknown.”
After eight years of Tory rule in Canada, change has been a prime focus of this extra-long federal election campaign. Besides the nitty-gritty campaign planks of jobs, the economy and health care — standard fare for sloganeering politicians — voters are being told either that it’s time to put someone else in the driver’s seat or it’s best to stick with someone who knows the road.
For voters who don’t subscribe to a particular political philosophy or party, it comes down to who best represents your interests, who can be best counted on to represent Canada’s interests and values, who can best provide a roadmap to prosperity.
Politics, particularly during election campaigns, is about theatre as much as it is about policy. The very nature of the process requires politicians to present themselves in the best light, while portraying their opponents in the worst.
Right down to facial expressions and gesticulations, serious campaigners craft a deliberate public persona that most of us see through, but we accept anyway as part of the game of politics.
Certainly, this contributes to voter cynicism, because we know we’re witnessing a performance of sorts. We can’t really blame politicians. They’re given a narrow window of opportunity to push their message, to make their pitch, which requires them to get the most out of the limited time they have.
Much of the political theatre that goes on during campaigns (and outside the campaign period, for that matter) is about using specific words and careful body language to help convey the message: I’m a serious; I am trustworthy; I know what I’m talking about.
At NorthernLife.ca, we decided we would try to pull aside the curtain as it were, during this federal election campaign, and try to get to the person behind the politician. So we asked managing editor Mark Gentili and political affairs reporter Darren MacDonald to sit down with the front-runners in this race for extended conversations with the NDP, Liberal, Tory and Green Party candidates.
Sustaining the political persona during a debate or in a soundbite is easy; in an hour-long conversation not so much. So the goal, frankly, was to try to find the person behind the politician.
We know we will get some flack for not making the same offer to the Communist, Marxist-Leninist and Independent candidates in the race, who often call “bias” or “censorship” whenever they’re not included. While we applaud their participation in the political process, they simply don’t represent the values or interests of enough voters to take a significant number of votes. The results of countless elections bear this out.
To learn more about Elizabeth Rowly (Communist Party of Canada), David Starbuck (Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada) or Jean-Raymond Audet (Independent), head over to NorthernLife.ca. If they’ve issued a press release or participated in a campaign event, you’ll find it there.
We have seven hours or so of interviews here with the candidates from Sudbury and Nickel Belt (only Tory Aino Laamenen in Nickel Belt didn’t answer our request for an interview). Watching an hour-long conversation can be daunting, we know.
If you don’t have the time for that, we’ve also made our getting-to-know-you chats available as MP3 podcasts for download from NorthernLife.ca. You can listen in your car, while you do the dishes or while you’re out jogging.
We're going to be releasing these videos today, one every hour and we will be providing a link with each soreaders can download each podcast. The videos will be released in alphabetical order according to the candidates' names.
Look for those stories to start appearing this afternoon.
We feel we learned some interesting and instructive things from these extended conversations and we hope you do, too. At NorthernLife.ca our goal is simple: We want to help you make a more informed choice on Oct. 19.
See you at the polls.