Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Letter To A Prospective Conservative Voter

The noise and pace of a federal election campaign in the 2011 social media era are not something I feel compelled to take part in or contribute to over the next thirty two days. I think a nation who tries to get a grasp on the issues and the government's record over a short period of time is doomed to make misinformed decisions at the polls; it is impossible for many overworked, underpaid and distracted individuals to absorb the context and developments of the two and half year old 40th parliament from whatever BS is emanating from whichever leader's claptrap today. Sadly, however, this is the world we live in. Rather than research the facts and history before deciding for themselves, the voters in North American electoral campaigns are manipulated and fooled by slogans, advertising, photo-ops, and sound bites. Their evaluation of candidates is based more on roarschach test reactions to facial features and talking point delivery than any merits or character. This unfortunate tendency is exacerbated by the viral, sound-bite, tweet and status driven current landscape, which wouldn't matter if the mainstream media didn't reform every bit of verbal diarrhea into a series of catchy headlines. Now playing at a theatre near you - The 2011 political campaign: a war of attrition won by a barrage of provocative, yet insignificant and meaningless statements. I know, I know, I'll say it again. This is the world we live in.

I myself have been grinding on the politics file for too long and prefer to comment the rest of the time, not during the elections when rhetoric, promises and optimism flow like water despite their unfailing track record of going unfulfilled every time. So I am going to say my piece now, and will think and write about other things, including some interesting subjects I have been meaning to address for awhile but have been neglecting, until this is over. And for the other reason of a 10 day overdue and counting new child, I will be taking a little break from Lacking Credentials. Since this post is in the form of the letter, I am also posting it on my new site, Citizen Letters.

Citizen Letters is going to be a site made up of just those: letters I address to people or groups of people, and try to print and distribute via my own means as best I can. In this case I will be printing this letter on paper I've been collecting and circulating it. So here is the letter, happy month of diamonds, and go leafs go.

Dear Prospective Conservative Voter,

I am not writing this letter to you on behalf of any party, lobby, cause, or special interest group. I am writing to you as a Canadian citizen, one Canadian citizen to another. Whatever your reasons are for voting conservative, or thinking of voting conservative this election, I do not and cannot know; all I am asking of you is to consider the following facts, which you may or may not be aware of, before going to vote on election day.

The Conservative government fell on March 25th, 2011, due to its refusal to provide detailed cost estimates and documents for two of its key initiatives: a no-bid contract to purchase F-35 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin, the American arms manufacturer, and a plan to build several new prisons. The specific need for these new prisons has not been explained by the government, since crime rates have actually been declining, so we can deduce that it is presumably to accommodate the thousands of new inmates that will be created over night by its “tough on crime” agenda.

I want you to keep those two initiatives, which were not part of Canadian government policy up until this last parliament, in mind while I bring the fiscal situation of a country which ha s already gone through an experience implementing similar policies to your attention. The American President Ronald Reagan, who served two terms from 1981-1989, instituted a widespread “War on Drugs” policy that made mandatory minimum sentences for petty drug crimes, including possession of marijuana, standard fare for most states’ justice systems. These vary in length and severity from state to state, but they have given the country on the whole the largest prison population in the world. This is a significant contributor to the insolvency (bankruptcy) faced by many States, including California, New York, and Illinois, as well as to America’s $14.6 trillion National Debt and $1.6 trillion in deficit it adds to that every year. And when we examine the large ongoing and expanding legal costs of administering such a system, we have the complete picture of why this is not a prudent or sensible road for Canadian society to go down. The net benefit will not be to Canadian society, whose crime rates are declining, but to private construction, food service and security companies that service the prison industry (Yes, there is a private, unaccountable prison ”industry”, even though prisons are 100% taxpayer funded.)

The Fighter Jet deal is another policy which is contentious for Canadians and non-Conservative Members of Parliament, because we again have the American experience to show us why it is ill-advised. Reagan tripled the defence budget during 9 years of power, and the trend continued up through the last decade to the present. The American defence budget has quadrupled in the past eight years, and the American government’s finances are now spectacularly weighed down with a $671 billion defence budget. This is increased every year, mostly because of hundreds of millions of dollars spent by defence contractors and private companies to lobby the government to purchase their latest and greatest wares. When you consider America’s astronomical, structural, and totally unsustainable 1.6 trillion deficit, it is not hard to figure out what the principal source of added debt and debt maintenance has been : An endlessly skyrocketing defence budget that bypasses the nation’s means by a long shot.

As Canada has one of the highest debt-GDP ratios in the world (total debt is provincial and federal debt, not just federal debt, which is the numbers the conservatives use when they talk about our “low” debt-GDP ratio ) , it can ill afford to take on these two programs, which have been shown over the past three decades to have disastrous fiscal consequences and little net benefit. The Conservatives, however, seem intent on imposing a series of measures that have no rational purpose or benefit when held up to scrutiny, and are content to ignore and scorn push back from Canadian opposition M.P.s and citizens. While there is no example of success in a program funnelling billions of dollars a year into an expanded prison system or justification for it, the government insists it is needed to keep people safe. And the argument is not against purchasing upgraded hardware for the Canadian military; yet this is how the Conservatives frame the debate. We are not told why this cannot be costed out in a competitive bid process floated out to the hundreds of arms manufacturers in the world. Instead, for reasons which have still not been explained to the Canadian public, it must be done through a no-bid contract to an American manufacturer that at least three people associated with the Conservative party have current or former lobbying or business connections to.

The Conservative Party refuses to respond to any of these accusations; indeed, it refuses to respond to any enquiries under circumstances not tightly dictated by Stephen Harper. Pretty funny for a government that came to power five years ago promising a new era of “transparency and accountability.” As for the perception in some quarters that they are sound fiscal managers, we only have to look at their main priorities are ramming through two costly and ineffective initiatives, fighter jets and prisons, which will bankrupt Canadians for generations to come (To say nothing of the record budget deficits they've been putting the country in since '09). They also insist on continuing to cut taxes for corporation to 12% and below (this is on profits, after debt, depreciation, salaries and costs are all written off), while the average Canadian is expected to continue paying 24-52% in taxes on salaries between 30 and 70 thousand per year, then pay all of their expenses.

If you consider yourself a fiscally conservative, rational, fair minded individual, voting for this government simply makes no sense. On May 2nd, please do not legitimize the underhanded and heinous acts of the Conservative Party which seeks to ruin the Canadian state. Please weigh the facts, hold your nose and vote for the best M.P you think has a chance of beating them where you live. This Conservative rule, with its relentless attack on rationality, democracy and reason in Canada, must end.

Thank you for reading this unsolicited letter

Yours very truly,

Christopher Lackey (“Thorny Rose”),

Citizen and Taxpayer

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