There’s a lot at stake — even if it gets ugly

Toronto Star - - FRONT PAGE - Su­san Dela­court

It’s ar­rived. That fu­ture Cana­dian elec­tion is now about to un­fold in present tense.

For the next 40 days un­til vot­ing day on Oct. 21, think of the chil­dren — not the child­ish sorts fill­ing so­cial me­dia with par­ti­san taunts, or even the real chil­dren we will want to shield from the nasty, per­sonal pol­i­tics bound to dom­i­nate Cam­paign 2019.

Chil­dren can’t vote in this elec­tion, but they will loom large in the elec­toral con­ver­sa­tion of all par­ties over the next six weeks.

Kids are evoked by politi­cians when they want to talk about the long-term fu­ture, and so much of the top is­sues in this cam­paign will be a strug­gle be­tween long-term and short­term think­ing. Is this elec­tion about what hap­pens for the next few years or are vot­ers mak­ing choices for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions too?

Cli­mate change, of course, will be one of those big is­sues.

What was once a long-term con­cern — global warm­ing and the fu­ture of the planet — has re­cently been slid­ing on to the short-term hori­zon. Last year’s re­port from the In­ter­na­tional Panel on Cli­mate Change, warn­ing that the world had only 12 years to get its act to­gether to avert catas­tro­phe, has prompted many politi­cians and vot­ers to see the 2019 fed­eral elec­tion as do-or-die for the en­vi­ron­ment. Cer­tainly that is how it is be­ing cast by Lib­er­als, New Democrats and the Greens.

Many of the “think of our chil­dren” ap­peals of this elec­tion will re­volve around the cli­mate change con­ver­sa­tion. The par­ties in favour of a car­bon tax, for in­stance, can be counted on to ac­cuse op­po­nents of putting short­term, pock­et­book pol­i­tics ahead of their kids’ en­vi­ron­men­tal fu­ture — save a dol­lar at the gas pump or save the planet?

Kids, though, are also part of the stretched, work­ing fam­i­lies who are strug­gling, in the Con­ser­va­tives’ Cam­paign 2019 slogan, to “get ahead.” Af­ford­abil­ity is another is­sue with longterm and short-term di­men­sions — what’s in vot­ers’ wal­lets to­day and what eco­nomic fu­ture awaits the kids of to­mor­row.

Justin Trudeau’s Lib­er­als will be ac­cused over and over again, es­pe­cially by Con­ser­va­tives, of mort­gag­ing the fu­ture of Cana­dian chil­dren with all the spend­ing and debt sad­dled on fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

So on th­ese two key pol­icy de­bates — cli­mate and debt — vot­ers should be braced for a pitched bat­tle over how dread­ful a world Cana­dian kids are poised to in­herit and what kind of reck­less, short-term think­ing cre­ated it.

Will that fu­ture Canada re­main open to im­mi­grants, refugees and their chil­dren? This ques­tion too sim­mers in the not-so-dis­tant back­ground of Elec­tion 2019 and, along with it, some po­ten­tially intense, even ugly de­bates over how di­verse Canada re­ally is or wants to be.

Fit­tingly, as well, child­hood and chil­dren have been part of the pre­cam­paign skir­mishes lead­ing up the of­fi­cial launch. Lib­er­als and Con­ser­va­tives have been trad­ing barbs over the up­bring­ing of An­drew Scheer and Trudeau — can ei­ther man claim to have come from hum­ble roots in their own child­hoods?

Scheer has also been at­tacked for say­ing that mar­riage was all about hav­ing chil­dren dur­ing a long-ago de­bate on same-sex mar­riage, while NDP Leader Jag­meet Singh casts him­self as the only leader to suf­fer racist dis­crim­i­na­tion as a child.

In all th­ese cases, chil­dren aren’t just how politi­cians talk about the fu­ture, but how they reckon with their pasts as well.

No one knows at this point, at the out­set of the elec­tion, what the bal­lot ques­tion will be on Oct. 21. It re­mains to be seen whether Cana­di­ans will be think­ing of their short-term or longterm fu­ture when they mark their “X” on the bal­lot.

But the Star’s cov­er­age, whether on the lead­ers’ cam­paigns or out on the ground, will be keep­ing a spe­cial eye fo­cused on three big themes, in all their long-term and short-term di­men­sions:

En­vi­ron­ment, en­ergy and cli­mate pol­i­tics: Can the next govern­ment find a way to reckon with the chal­lenge of cli­mate change and also the im­por­tant role that fos­sil fu­els play in the cur­rent econ­omy?

Af­ford­abil­ity and eco­nomic anx­i­ety: All par­ties say that Canada is an anx­ious nation, de­spite a grow­ing econ­omy, with peo­ple ner­vous about their fi­nances to­day and their fis­cal fu­ture.

Po­lar­iza­tion, pop­ulism and im­mi­gra­tion: The po­lit­i­cal de­bates of Don­ald Trump’s Amer­ica are re­ver­ber­at­ing through Canada, whether Cana­di­ans like it or not. Will Elec­tion 2019, and by ex­ten­sion, our coun­try, be shaped by those forces too?

None of th­ese are child­ish con­cerns, though cer­tainly we can count on some ju­ve­nile pol­i­tick­ing in the days and weeks ahead. It’s worth lis­ten­ing when the politi­cians and vot­ers are talk­ing about kids in this cam­paign, though — it’s a way of wrap­ping our minds around how the vote on Oct. 21 will have an im­pact be­yond sim­ply who wins or loses on elec­tion night.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.