After a month of salacious tv ads, accusations from all sides, and 300 million dollars we have achieved…absolutely nothing! Actually I think everyone got what they wanted in this election. The Conservatives have more seats, but still a minority which is what most of Canada wants anyway. I don’t think the Conservatives have themselves to congratulate for their 19 new seats. The Liberal party’s media presence, at least in the west, was next to nothing. I think many people voted for their Conservative MP candidate just so Harper would get out of that goofy sweater vest and stop attempting to smile. However, it’s more likely that the Liberals have done nothing to shake the image that they only care about Ontario and Quebec. Not only that, if you have a place like BC with bad memories of a provincial NDP government, we are left with no centrist alternative to vote for.
Now, I’m not saying that Canada is going through a new phase of Reaganomics, Thatcherism, or any other variation “Big government=Bad, No taxes=Good” philosophy. It’s just nice to know that we can pay for the kind of services we expect from the government without burdening future generations. We love the idea that we can get our medicine, military and employment insurance without running a deficit. The Conservatives bring this ideal to the table, but it doesn’t cover other issues that Canadians are concerned about, like the environment or poverty. The other parties were very passionate about these issues, but offered little information as to how their strategies would work without bankrupting the country.
The Liberals “Green Shift” plan that cost them so much seats could have been a blessing if they had simply published some data on how it would work. It could have created jobs and spurred innovation in many industry sectors, but we wouldn’t have known that because the other parties had control of the plan’s image. The average commercial webserver can send out the equivalent of the library of congress in a matter of hours. It shouldn’t be a stretch publish white papers, datasets, or bill drafts of any kind.. The Liberals chose to respond by repeating themselves rather than provide more detail, like they were guarding the plans for the atom bomb. The rumour mills provided by the NDP and Conservatives were able to build on that uncertainty until both parties had gained seats in the election.
I want to point out a recent article in the Boston Globe about the nature of rumours. Researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology studied over 280 internet discussion groups to find out how rumours were born, spread, and killed. They found that rumours are based on a genuine attempt to find the truth. If you want to fight a rumour, first you cannot deny it if it’s true, and if it’s not true, make sure the truth is more vivid than the lie. The Democrats in the US are unwittingly putting these conclusions to the test in the forthcoming presidential election. Some Republican supporters have literally accused Barack Obama of being the Anti-christ. The website fightthesmears.com, along with the shear volume of information being published about the Democratic candidate are strategies dedicated to producing that more vivid truth. Forget the man’s stance on international trade. If he wins in two weeks, this will be a new chapter on how to use media to in politics. The internet has shrunk the costs of communication by exponential factors. No one will be interested in a repeated lie when the truth can be repeated just as easily. Candidates no longer be able to win elections based on hearsay and conjecture, but by communicating the most comprehensive vision of prosperity for all of their voters.