Was the federal election worth the $600 million spent?

After a $600 million dollar federal election in the middle of a pandemic, the political landscape in Ottawa has barely changed, causing many to ask, “was it worth it?” Nigel Nelwove reports.

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – After a federal election that didn’t lead to much change in the make-up of Parliament in the nation’s capital, many people are asking whether it was worth it and what else that money could have been spent on.

“Literally anything,” opined David Moscrop, a columnist for the Washington Post based in Ottawa. “Miniature flags for every Canadian. Painting the sidewalks red. I mean, literally anything.”

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The snap election, called by Justin Trudeau two years earlier than scheduled in an attempt to turn his minority Liberal government into a majority, was the most expensive in modern Canadian history. It had a price tag of over $600 million.

Moscrop feels instead of spending money on the election, those taxpayer dollars could have been spent on some election promises made on the campaign trail, such as dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic or addressing climate change.

“I know people who say, ‘Well, it’s never a waste when you’re spending money on elections.’ Strictly speaking, I suppose that’s true,” Moscrop said. “But the fact is, it was an unnecessary election and we could have kept Parliment going for another six months, year or 18 months during the pandemic. The money could have gone towards any number of other things. It’s an occasional expense, not a structural expense that we have to pay for every year. It’s a subset of a broader problem, which was the election was unnecessary.”

Efforts spent on campaigning across the country could have been re-directed, he argued.

“And that includes shutting down government, effectively, or slowing it to a crawl during a pandemic and not being able to pass legislation and not being able to cooperate across party lines to deal with the pandemic. I joke about spending it on literally anything, but the fact is, it would have been better spent on any number of things.”

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In addition to the money spent on the election, Moscrop feels another issue is it put everything else on hold.

“The issue is the opportunity costs of the election. The time it took, the energy it took, the focus it took, which could have been much better spent on, again, managing the pandemic, managing the crisis in Afghanistan, dealing with climate change. Not just necessarily paying for these things, but giving them the attention they needed. The Liberal Party thought they could win a majority and that’s why we had six weeks of this.”

Voter fatigue in B.C.

British Columbians may be a little tired of going to the polls.

Since 2013, people in this province have been asked to cast ballots every year, except for 2016.

Ahead of Monday’s election, there was a lot of speculation all eyes would be on B.C. ridings to potentially change the outcome of the vote, but as Moscrop points out, that didn’t really happen.

“I think people on the West Coast are probably tired for lots of reasons, including the heat dome, provincial elections, federal elections, and municipal election. You’ve been lucky not to have any referendums recently, but there’s a long history of those too,” he said.

“The virtue of a representative democracy is, for most of the time, people get to just live their lives. They don’t have to be full-time citizens and the more attention we have to pay to elections day after day after day, the more tired everybody gets because they want to see politicians govern. They want to see them do the work in the Legislature and in cabinet. They don’t want to constantly worry about elections but the fact is we’ve seen five out of seven parliaments in this country return with minorities. In B.C., there was the election drama of 2017 and the uncertainty that followed.”

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He adds the good news is the 2021 federal election is over. But since minority governments don’t often last past the two-year mark, he suspects we’ll be back to the polls on a national level sooner rather than later.

“Hopefully, British Columbians get to stay up late and see their votes matter, like perhaps they haven’t in the past, but maybe not.”

Indigenous leaders decry unnecessary, unwanted election 

The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) is slamming the election as unnecessary, saying the costly call was an “unwanted distraction” from crucial issues facing Indigenous people in British Columbia and beyond.

In a statement, UBCIC President Grand Chief Stewart Philip says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s tenure has been marked by a failure to uphold Indigenous rights.

“It is 2021 and Indigenous peoples have seen enough symbolism and two-faced, empty talk. The time is now for our basic rights to be fulfilled – for Indigenous peoples to have clean drinking water and to exercise their jurisdiction and care over their children,” he writes.

Further, he takes Trudeau to task for not paying attention to communities in B.C., pointing out that Trudeau has not visited the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential school where 215 unmarked graves were found in May and did not make a trip to the province after it was devastated by wildfires.

“Ultimately, the election represents a colossal waste of taxpayer’s money that could have been invested in Indigenous health and childcare, housing and homelessness, and emergency management equipment and infrastructure,” he continues.

The statement congratulates the record number of Indigenous candidates who ran for office, but says Canada has a long way to go when it comes to engaging First Nations voters.

“It is well known that Indigenous peoples have the lowest voter turnout in Canada due in part to feeling that their voices don’t matter. After only being granted the right to vote in 1960, Indigenous people do not want to support a system that has oppressed them for centuries and rightly feel that they are irrelevant to local and national politics,” writes Kukpi7 Judy Wilson.

“This couldn’t be further from the truth however, and it is Prime Minister Trudeau’s continued duty to ensure Indigenous peoples are given equal opportunities to exercise their powerful and empowering self-determination and Title and Rights.”

With files from Lisa Steacy

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