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Dear Prime Minister:
OK. So the votes are (almost) all counted and we have a new government.
Majority, minority or coalition, it doesn’t matter. You’re now prime minister and you have a big job ahead of you.
You’ve spent the last six weeks crisscrossing the country, hopefully listening to Canadians. Now it’s time to govern. Here are some suggestions on where to start.
1. Better politics:
If the pre-election polls are accurate, this Parliament will be governed by a party with about one-third support of the electorate. This is not a resounding mandate. This is partly because people are discouraged and disgusted with the campaign styles of the two main parties. Speeches and ads that deliberately misstate the other party’s intentions are transparent and maddening and coarsen the tone.
Cut it out. Don’t respond in kind if the other guy does it. Tell us what you will do and don’t lie about it.
Hate, name-calling and insults should not be part of the process. All of that just makes it easier to issue a threat, and the next step is violence. No one should have to wear a bulletproof vest on a Canadian campaign trail.
Do something about third-party advertisers. The rules are too loose and much of the nastiness in this ugly campaign originated in social media ads generated by groups connected to one party or the other. These carbuncles on the political process are allowed to skirt campaign finance limits and corrode debate to the lowest common denominator.
Reduce the power of the prime minister’s office. We’ve allowed our parliamentary system to shift power to the PMO, and MPs are now not much more than trained seals, voting the party line, no matter what. Give MPs more say. One or two might actually have a good idea once in a while.
All party leaders should encourage these things. But you’re the prime minister and you set the tone. If you behave more like a leader whom people can trust, that job gets easier.
2. Health care:
It’s a provincial responsibility, but federal money is crucial. Atlantic provinces have older populations, and since older populations require more care, their costs are higher. A new funding formula that accounted for these demographics would help.
Clearly, global warming is underway and constitutes a serious crisis. Your new government should find ways to use new technologies to lower Canada’s carbon emissions while remaining good stewards of our natural resources.
It's a tough job, being prime minister, but you asked for it. Make some progress on these items, and you've got a better chance the voters will give you another shot next time.