When it comes to campaigning, politicians market to voters just like businesses market to consumers. We voters are seen as taxpayers looking for the best bang for our buck, explains journalist Susan Delacourt in Shopping for Votes: How Politicians Choose Us and We Choose Them. Delacourt was a guest today on CBC Radio’s “Ontario Today.” She said she dislikes the term taxpayer and would like to be called a citizen. Government shouldn’t be something that happens to us; it should be something we are actively engaged in as citizens.
Believe it or not, Toronto, but engaged was exactly how I felt watching a recent political debate on the boob tube. I know, I know — between the three-ring circus at city hall and the scandal in the Senate, who among us has held out much hope for government lately? But there is hope indeed, courtesy of the federal by-election in Toronto Centre with candidates Chrystia Freeland (a former editor with Thomson Reuters, among other organizations), author and activist Linda McQuaig, former reporter John Deverell, and lawyer Geoff Pollock. (Freeland and McQuaig are also former journalists.)
During the lively debate (yup, I just used a cliché — give me a pass this time?) on TVO’s “The Agenda,” the candidates talked about actual issues and drew their lines in the sand. Freeland and McQuaig are diametrically opposed: Freeland is pro–big business, and McQuaig is sick and tired of the status quo. Deverell replied with a resounding yes when asked by host Steve Paikin if he was against economic growth, saying that unrestrained economic growth is not sustainable.
What? Politicians being forthright? Who knew? Granted, the bar is set pretty darn low, but still: This was like a cool summer breeze — no, wait. This was more like a quick slap to the face: surprising — and surprisingly bracing after the shenanigans of the last few weeks (I’m looking at you, Rob Ford *shudder*).
Journalist George Jonas is fond of the saying that the desire to run for office is exactly what should disqualify a candidate from running for office. He’s a wise man, that George. But regardless of the criticism aimed at politicians and advertising, I for one feel a little more like a citizen today thanks to a few engaged — and engaging — journalists.