Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Lure of Political Promises

"This is just a single example of a political proposal that finds company with hundreds of others that are bait for those tasked with placing an “X” on a ballot."

As from my Blog description, I trust it is clear that I am not a unconditional follower of any political party, rather I enjoy the whole display of political entertainment that can range from comedy, horror, suspense, thriller, fiction, non-fiction or more frequently head in hands disbelief.

Equally as indifferent, do I have passionate about particular party platforms, or who is standing on the platform at the present time. What I am fascinated with is the political process, and the mechanics that go into a party’s election or maintaining their power.

A recent article on a local politicians attempt to “fine” the government in power for breaking campaign promises is a shining example of how political parties prey on the naivety of the voting populous. By no means is this an insult to voters that are excited about the concept of forcing the elected government to stand by election promises, as at a glance, this seems like an excellent idea.

This is what our local politician, Kelly Lamrock is proposing:

"The Fredericton lawyer said political parties should be forced to register their promises during an election. And when that party forms power, an independent office would hold them to account to make sure they follow through on their campaign commitments.

“If an independent office finds for instance they have not delivered, that they have lied their way into office, they should see a reduction in the funding they get from the Political Process Financing Act,” he said".

This is just a single example of a political proposal that finds company with hundreds of others that are bait for those tasked with placing an “X” on a ballot.

Upon a bit more examination of this example, and taking a few additional steps in understanding the ramifications of this particular suggestion. This simple and attractive sounding idea could derail the democratic system. Running something that is as complex, fluid and ever changing as a provincial government requires adapting to current economic, social and political situations. A party being handcuffed (by potential financial penalties) on promises made at election time, but facing significantly changed landscape of the current time, would be at best dangerous, and at worst, financially devastating to the province. Taxation promises made in a time of a booming healthy economy, may not be fiscally responsible to maintain in the case of a sudden significant downturn in the economy. Promises for employment, healthcare, education etc, may not be responsibly met in the case of a unforeseen trade embargo on our natural resources export (for example).

Having a government that has been elected under the conditions of meeting promises or risk penalties would result in a government that is managing the province, not with the best interest in the population in mind, but their own political party’s financial health. A scary thought to imagine, that regardless of the state that the province dwindles to.. The governing party hold steadfast to outdated, inappropriate mandates, for fear of financial punishment.

This example would result in what would look like a ruling minority government, one unable to make the difficult and occasionally painful decisions in order to maintain a strong province. In a minority government, they are handcuffed on difficult and distasteful, but necessary policies in fear of losing their ruling position, and in a financial penalty model, they would be equally as powerless in fear of fines.

To step back to 30,000 feet, it is an interesting exercise to hold ALL political promises up to the light as this one, and to take a moment to look past the attraction to the simple policies, and see what the long term effect on our province might be.

I often get chastised in comparing public sector to private sector, but at the risk of more ranting email in this regard, I am confident that the CEO’s of large organizations, in order to remain in business, and profitable, look daily at adjusting their organization to current environment. Taking away their ability to change business plans, adjust their workforce, manage costs would result in a slow painful death for their organization. Suggesting they get fined personally for changing company direction is laughable. So how could we expect our government to be any different.


  1. I agree that you don't want to handcuff politicians.

    Elections are the right tool for holding politicians accountable for making bad decisions.

    Unfortunately the electorate isn't always skilled in handling the tool...

  2. Exactly my point Andrew, this is just one example - a quick examination of most of the election promises, need to be considered well beyond the surface of the platform. My fear is that too often, this scrutiny is not applied by all of the electorate, and equally as nerve racking, may result in a party being put into power based on fundamentally flawed promises. This applies to ALL parties in the running.