The Betterment Party of Canada
2008 Election Platform
By Mike Mercer
The Betterment Party is a fiction, but it is also a vision for a better Canada.
Basic Platform of the Betterment Part
We at the Betterment Party believe that Canada is a great country, yet we think it can be an even better place. We aim to improve the quality of life for all Canadians.
The idea that a government should act with the best interests of its citizens in mind is today widely accepted. Unfortunately the old saying "government by the people for the people" usually seems more accurately translated as "government by the wealthy people for the wealthy people". The rest of the people are to be managed so they do not disrupt the wealthy from becoming wealthier. We accept the idea that people should be able to get rich. We do not accept the idea that poverty should exist at the same time as such enormous wealth. Our aim as a governing body would be to act in the interest of Canadians, providing effective ways of improving life for the majority of citizens, at the same time upholding the rights of the minority.
We realize that many people fear change, because there is an uncertainty involved. There are problems under the current administration, there have always been problems under both Liberal and Conservative governments, but - as the old saying goes - better the devil you know than the one you do not. As we see it, previous governments have tried to keep the country in working order by making the smallest possible changes, placing band-aids on the problems instead of really solving them.
Canada is like a person with a troublesome but not crippling tooth ach. The Liberal or Conservative dentist, whoever is in office, recommends a small operation to fix the tooth. However what they actually do is relieve the pain, temporarily letting the patient go about her daily life again. Eventually her tooth is troubling her again. Why not try a new dentist, one who will do what it takes to really fix the problem? Uncertainty is the answer. Because Canada has been under the Liberal and Conservative care so many times she knows what to expect, their treatment is unpleasant but tolerable.
What the Betterment Party prescribes for Canada rests on the facts that we are a liberal democracy in the modern world. By "liberal" we mean a society that respects rights and freedoms, which believes in balancing the good of the majority with that of the minorities, a country that values equality but does not expect everyone to be exactly the same. By "democracy" we mean a society holding the notion that the will of the people should influence the destiny of the country. By "modern world" we mean the high tech, information age, which presents us with numerous challenges.
In response to these factors the Betterment party had three major elements to its platform. Education - to address our place in the modern world. If we want to continue to be a top ranked country we must ensure our children have a better education than they are currently getting. Expanded Democracy - is offered as a step in the evolution of the functional expression of the popular will. It is not good enough that we elect leaders every few years and let them run things; we can offer an official way to influence them. The Citizen Payment Plan - seeks to address a number of issues in the realms of equality, freedom from poverty and economic opportunities.
Aristotle said; "Each man judges well the things he knows. The man who is educated in a subject is a good judge of that subject. The man who has received a well rounded education is a good judge in general."
If we want a nation of responsible mature people, if we want to be competitive in the global society, we need to educate our children much better than we have been doing. In the modern information age the claim "knowledge is power" seems very true. But it is not simply enough to know a lot of things. The ability to analyze and understand information is the real source of power. We need to provide our children with a greater general understanding of a wide range of subjects and a particular ability that has sadly been neglected by most modern educators, critical thinking.
The teaching of critical thinking has been neglected in our schools for one major reason, time restrictions. Teachers are pressed to convey a long list of selected facts to the students. They do not have more than a few minutes each class to deal with questions. The questions they do deal with are seldom critical, probing into the subject matter, but usually matters of clarification, as the students try to grasp what it is they have just been told and note what may be important to remember for the exam.
We need to create, at every level of education, a class in critical thinking. Its aim; the refinement of a young mind's natural habit of asking questions. "Why, why, why?" can seem like an annoyance but it is the core of a very important ability. We must create in the students the habit of looking at any facts, any situation, carefully and asking pointed questions. This more than any training in a given occupational skill will ensure the continued prosperity of Canada . Intellectual property is the key trade good of the information age.
Anyone can run, anyone can think. To run well and win a race requires training and exercise. We accept this, but we seem hesitant to apply the same logic to thinking. Should we not have some training and exercise for the mind? For those who say "that is what schools already do", I ask what fantasy world they are living in. At best some teachers encourage their students to think, at worst many teachers want their students to shut up and memorize the lessons. In either case there is next to no training given about how to think carefully and critically. Facts may be true or false, that is only half the story. The difficult thing to grasp is how facts can be used to influence us, depending on how they are presented. History for example is all about selecting facts and placing them into a narrative. Some facts are always omitted, others are often simplified. Students must be made aware that this sort of thing goes on in all aspects of life.
Democracy in particular expects people to make a choice based on info they are given. Ideally they elect the candidate with the best platform, the one who logically seems to have the best plan. But how can they judge the platform? Sadly modern elections have become all a matter of personal mudslinging. We listen to the information we are fed by the media, the rhetoric that is carefully constructed. We do not dig deep to read the platforms that each candidate is standing on. We do not make use of our skills at critical thinking. We vote against the guy we dislike most.
Aristotle also said; "All pursuits aim at some good." What is the aim of education? It should have two goals . First - to provide the student with the ability to think critically about any issue. Second - to provide a general knowledge covering a wide range of subjects.
What most people mean when they talk about democracy is the well known system of representative government. They believe the idea of direct democracy, where all citizens vote on all issues, is unworkable . They are quite right. In a large or heavily populated country it would be nearly impossible to have direct democracy. However this does not mean that we must forever stick with the current system of electing representatives every few years, then sitting back as they run the show. Here we put forward the idea of an expansion for our democratic system. This suggestion would not alter the current system of elections. It would be itself an Act of Parliament not a constitutional alteration
The PIR; Popular Issue Referendum;
The government will hold not less than 1, not more than 3, referendums each year. These are to be considered binding expressions of the popular will, upon specific issues. Each referendum will concern itself with not less than 1, not more than 3 issues. Each issue must be formed into a clear question of action. For example; should the Government do X or Y or Z in regards to our troops overseas.
Step 1. An issue of popular concern is selected by an impartial source (a panel of 3; the Governor General, the Speaker of the House, and the Head of the Supreme Court).
Step 2. A period of 1 month is then allotted for the formulation of the question and the proposed action plan. Each political party holding a seat in the House of Commons may suggest a plan to deal with the issue. At the end of this time, the above mentioned impartial source approves as clear and intelligible the question and the plans, which are thus fixed.
Step 3. Another month is then allotted for debate and campaigning. Each party is allowed to promote its plan, with in a limited budget.
Step 4. The referendum is held. The government is thus bound to carry out the plan which gained the most public support.
The PM's Power
The Prime Minister is not considered an impartial source in terms of the referendum. However he will have the ability to select an issue, and require that it be included in the next referendum; although he does not have authority over the wording of the question. He does not have the power to bar any issue. He does not have the power to set the timing of a referendum, although he may make a request.
The Timing of a PIR
In terms of frequency, we may have as few as 1 referendum with 1 issue in a year or as many as 3 referendums, each with 3 issues, in a year. Referendums may not overlap. There must be 1 month minimum between them. If there are several popular concerns, up to three may be officially announced as issues at the same time. Otherwise they may be addressed in the next referendum.
About the PIR Question
How exactly is a question selected for inclusion on the referendum?
The question must be clear so that the average voter is not confused. It should be in the basic form of a "to do" statement. For example; should the Government do X or Y or Z in regards to a given issue. The possible actions must be summarized in brief on the referendum ballot itself. A detailed text about the issue and the full text of the plans must be made available one month in advance of the vote. This is done only after a review from the impartial panel.
Enforcement of PIR
As this is a democratic state and the referendum is a direct expression of the popular will, it is clear what authority the results have. However there is no practical mechanism to ensure the government will follow the selected plan of action effectively - just as there has never been a way to make a government keep its election promises. The PIR may serve as a bench mark for the people's confidence in the governing party when it next comes up for election.
If we believe that democracy is good for our country, should we not try to make it better? The modern age gives us the tools to let the will of the people be expressed clearly and officially much better than ever before.
Part 2c. Citizen Payment Plan
In accordance with the idea that our government should provide a minimum standard of living for all citizens and in regards to addressing constant labor problems, the following plan is put forward. It will here be referred to as the CPP.
Poverty in a country like ours should not exist. There is no justification why the vast resources and wealth within Canada can not be used to ensure that every citizen has a decent subsistence level. The current welfare system is an attempt to do so, however it has serious flaws as anyone who has had to live through it can easily point out. One of the greatest problems being the numerous ways you may find yourself disqualified or penalized. The CPP will offer an income without strings.
Unemployment is a problem with two essential elements:
The first problem of unemployment; out of work people can't buy very much. They only contribute to the economy as consumers of cheap "made in foreign country" goods. It is economic logic that the more people who are able to buy goods, the more demand there will be for goods, and thus the more jobs there may be in making and selling said goods. In short people with money can spend it - people without it, can not.
We must stress that it is the number of people with money to spend that matters. The rich have lots of money, but they spend very little of it directly in the economy. Most of what they have is invested and will end up making them more money. The average and poor people tend to spend nearly all their income on consumer goods. They cause the demand for goods and services that really drives the economy. Thus we must not simply ensure that people can scrape by with a nose above the poverty line, but also that they can earn enough cash to buy stuff. The CPP offers a way to do this.
The second problem of unemployment; is that a pool of out of work people puts the advantage, in terms of wages and job conditions, into the hands of the employer. Because there are many people looking for work, employers can keep wages low and make demands of new workers, especially in fields that do not require high degrees of specialized skill. If the worker does not bend over and accept the conditions, the boss can easily find a replacement.
Competition between workers for jobs is the true spirit of capitalism. Without it, or some other justification for low wages, businesses would not be able to make the profits they now enjoy. We see this truth at work every time a company shuts down a factory here to open one in the third world, where labor costs are so low. The CPP offers a way to deal with the situation that will put the advantage into the hands of the workers.
What is the Citizen Payment Plan?
The CPP is a replacement for most of our current social aid systems; Welfare, Unemployment Insurance, Family Allowance, and Old Age Pensions. The CPP aims to offer a stream lined, single agency approach to providing financial wellbeing to all Canadians. This will be done by paying every citizen over age 18 a monthly amount, calculated in accord with the subsistence level of his/her province. This amount will be linked to the cost of living and adjusted each year, so that the real standard of living will remain the same. This amount will be approximately equal to the take home pay from a three day / week minimum wage job.
The government would open an account for every citizen in the Bank of Canada; the CPP payment would be deposited in said account on the first of each month. The individual would then be free to use the money as he/she wished. No system for imposing penalties would exist. However there would be a system for awarding extra income to those who need it, the handicapped and the elderly. A small additional payment would also be provided per child in a family.
The CPP would not be subject to income tax.
In the interests of justice, all citizens would be considered eligible for the CPP, however there would exist two categories of exclusion. First; voluntary withdrawal from the program - suggested to the very rich who really do not need the income. Second; legal suspension of the payments aimed at criminals who are serving time in jail. They would not get the benefit of accumulating money while being punished for their crimes.
What effects will the CPP have?
Aside from combating poverty and streamlining the government social aid institute, the CPP aims at a profound shift in the field of employment. With subsistence assured, people's need to work is reduced. There will be some lazy people who may refuse to do any work - so be it. There will be a lot more of the population who choose to work part-time. Instead of the requirement of holding a 5 day / week job, to make ends meet, people may comfortably hold a 3 day / week job and achieve a similar material standard of living with time to enjoy what they have. This drop in the number of hours worked will provide job openings for other people. Thus more of the population will be employed, but each individual will be working less.
It must be stressed that the CPP unlike all existing programs is a no strings attached payment; in that you are allowed and encouraged to earn money and engage in all sorts of normal financial activities without worry that your payment will be penalized.
A major consideration of the CPP is the family. Currently most middle and low income families need both parents earning an income to make ends meet. With the CPP in place, conditions will easily allow one parent to stay at home with the kids as the other works, or for both parents to hold small jobs on differing days, so that one of them is always free to look after the home. In this way the demand for daycare will be reduced.
The CPP will effectively void the need for complicated new employment laws, which are increasingly in demand to make the working situation more humane. Many studies show that North Americans are working more than Europeans, and that stress has become a common problem. The CPP offers a way to address both issues without creating new laws.
Some criticisms of the CPP
A plan like this will crash the economy, because no one will want to work .
The CPP while providing a reasonable standard of survival does not provide for much in the way of luxury goods. Without any other income a person could not afford to buy lots of "toys" or big appliances or a vehicle. The "need" most people have for more stuff would drive them to work. The problem with most aid programs currently in existence is that they offer less than what a person really needs to survive and they make it nearly impossible for said person to make up the difference. The idea is to earn as much as you want, not to struggle to earn as much as you need.
This sounds great for the average person, but how is it good for a business?
To be fair we must ensure that the CPP does offer some benefits to employers as well as employees. The CPP would include a restructure of the mandatory contributions, like the UI and Old Age funds, made by employers on behalf of their workers. A single smaller deduction would be made to support the CPP. Perhaps more importantly the security provided by the CPP would be justification for a roll back on minimum wage.
It has been noticed that people who work fewer hours in a week are more productive on a per hour basis. We are quite familiar with the "hump-day" experience felt in the middle of a 5 day work week or the "Friday afternoon - clock watching". Those who work a 3 or 4 day week experience much less stress and fatigue. Thus businesses will find their actual productivity per man-hour will usually increase. Certainly the flexibility of scheduling and calling in a replacement will improve.
Part 3. Looking at the Opposition Parties
We shall examine what the major parties present on their official web sites, by quoting them directly then commenting. Also we shall briefly look at their general tactics in the media during the 2008 election.
Part 3a. The Conservative Party
"Prime Minister Stephen Harper understands the global financial crisis. His plan for the way forward has been clear and consistent : balanced budgets, lower taxes, investments to create jobs and keeping inflation low." The world economy being the creature that it is, one should be careful about claiming to understand the global financial crisis. But best of all in the opening statement are the words "lower taxes" with no qualifiers or explanation the average person could think that the actual taxes they pay will actually go down.
"This is in stark contrast to Stéphane Dion and Jack Layton, who have only just realized that the economy is an issue." This sort of direct attack calls for justification. Should one really believe that the opposing leaders have "just realized the economy is an issue"?
"Dion wants to impose a massive carbon tax that will drive up the cost of everything and hurt families. Layton will increase taxes on businesses and drive jobs out of Canada . The Liberals and the NDP are both a vote for financial disaster. They have no plan. Both parties would gamble with Canadians' hard-earned money for short term electoral gain." One may question the value of "a massive carbon tax" and "increase taxes on businesses" but one must admit they are plans that do show an awareness of the economy as an issue.
"For the past year and a half, the Harper Government has been implementing a real plan to protect our economy. The Harper Government is working for all Canadians who have a job to keep, a mortgage to pay and a retirement to save for." Other Canadians, you are out of luck.
"A Conservative government will not be raising taxes. We will not impose a carbon tax. We will not cancel planned tax reductions for business. We will keep our spending within our means. It is that simple." That is nice and clear. As they did not say "We will not cut services or social programs." So they can do that with a clear conscience in the name of keeping spending within their means.
"The alternative is not a plan. It is just the consequence of complete panic, and this government will not panic at a time of uncertainty." This is a good solid statement that slams the opposition and allows the Conservatives stand firm on their ability not to panic. Do Canadians really ever worry about their government panicking?
The Conservative party page offers several assurances that they will keep things constant and stable, it also offers one main attack on the opponents - that their plans are no plans at all. Fear is their propaganda tool of choice. If you are happy with Canada as it is and want no changes for the better then a vote for the Conservatives is reasonable.
Part 3b . The Liberal Party
"Richer, Fairer, Greener; the Liberal Party of Canada's fully-costed, fiscally-responsible platform, lays out a progressive, inclusive vision to make Canada a stronger country for the next generation." Lots of catchy buzzwords here. But most importantly they do promise to have a plan to make Canada better. Will it really be fiscally-responsible, progressive and inclusive?
"Liberals are proud to continue our tradition of strong economic and fiscal management," says Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion. "Fiscal discipline is now part of the Liberal DNA. We were the party that turned a huge deficit into eight years of surpluses, and we will continue to put fiscal responsibility first. A Liberal government will never put Canada into deficit. Period." This statement stands in contrast with the Conservative claim that "Stéphane Dion has only just realized that the economy is an issue." It blows the Liberal horn of past success, without actually attacking anyone.
"We are committed to balanced budgets, which is why all the commitments in this platform are set within a prudent fiscal framework that includes a contingency reserve of $3 billion a year to be applied to the debt if it's not used - a prudent measure irresponsibly abandoned by the Conservative government." Here is the first shot at the opposition, and it is one that has a verifiable element to it. Unlike the Conservative emotional attack: "The Liberals and the NDP are both a vote for financial disaster . They have no plan ."
"The cornerstone of the Liberal platform is the Green Shift plan. This innovative and forward-thinking plan will cut income taxes, put a price on pollution, fight poverty and position Canada to be a leader in the 21st-century global economy." That sure sounds like a great aim. In specific it claims there will be lower income taxes, and fight poverty not simply "lower taxes" as the Conservatives mention. One may say its just semantics, but in politics just like in law, the words matter because they can create loopholes.
The Liberal party page offers several hopeful promises, although it fails to explain what the Green Shift really is, even after some digging at their web site the details were still unclear. It also makes only a single - non personal - attack against the Conservatives with provable evidence one may argue, rather than an emotional subjective assault.
Part 3c. The NDP
"A Personal Message from Jack Layton; The commitments we are putting before the people of Canada in this election are about hope and opportunity for you, your family, your friends and neighbours. They are about a future where you come first. There are many ways to measure the success of our country. All kinds of statistics. Some are more important than others. For me, the most important measure is the success of ordinary Canadians. In short, I am proposing real change from the way things have been done in the past. Not just change from the last 25 months, but change from the last 25 years." All this is a very bold statement. A promise to do what is good for the ordinary Canadians, implying that other parties have not done so. Also there is the promise to really change things, which may be seen with hope or dread. Certainly the people who have benefited from the way things have been done for the last 25 years would be nervous at these words.
"It all starts with action on your priorities at the kitchen table, not just the boardroom table. We'll stop tax giveaways to corporations that don't need them, or who ship our jobs overseas." But if we do not bend over to create a business friendly environment, then corporations may close up and put people out of work. This is not the kind of step you can take without a plan.
"We'll support companies that provide training to workers here. We'll invest with companies that are innovating in the new energy economy, and creating new green collar jobs for Canadians." Oh look, here is a plan to deal with the fallout from the above situation. It may have faults but it is not right to say, as the Conservatives do, "They have no plan".
"We'll stop the shameful rip-offs and gouging by cellphone giants, banks and credit card companies." Excellent, but how exactly can they do this? Tinkering with the ability of giants to rip off people is a dangerous business. There better be a damn good plan here.
"We'll shorten health care waiting lists by training more doctors and nurses. Five million Canadians don't have a family doctor. One million are on waiting lists." That is good, but it is not as much of a radical improvement as I would hope for, given the opening statement.
"We'll face the challenge of climate change - not with Mr. Harper's idle words or by taxing you and your family - but with tough laws that force polluters to clean up the mess they've made." They will be happy to do so, if they can find a way to pass along the cost of the clean up to the consumers of their products. This idea and the Liberal's carbon tax both have the same flaw. Unless they are very cleverly implemented, the companies will easily pass the costs along to the people at large.
"The government will do its job. We will not stand idly by and wait when tainted meat, or bad water, or any public health emergency threatens your family's health. Instead of a Canada where growing corporate wealth benefits only a few, we will strive for social and economic equality for all. We will build a strong Canada that is as compassionate at home as it is competitive abroad. We will stand with every man and woman as they seek a better life for themselves and their children. I invite you to cast your ballot for a government that puts you and your family first. Don't let them tell you it can't be done." These are very noble sentiments.
The NDP page offers many hopeful promises, and may seem too good to be true. At the same time its claim to change the way things are done may worry many people, especially business men. The attacks made against the opposition are quite mild, focusing on what they have done or not done, rather than on what they may do in the future.
Part 3d. The Green Party
"The Green Party's vision for Canada includes a variety of measures designed to make taxation greener while at the same time help seniors, low-income Canadians and stay-at-home parents. The most significant policy innovation in the Green Party's platform is to transform how taxes are collected in Canada through what is called a "Carbon Tax Shifting." In essence, the Green Party believes that carbon emissions, along with other pollutants, should be taxed. The windfall will be used to decrease payroll taxes, allow income splitting, support seniors and help low-income Canadians." This plan assumes that the green-shift in taxation will actually provide a "windfall" that will allow other forms of taxation to be reduced by a meaningful amount. The obvious fear is that the net effects would end up costing Canadians more.
"While the price of carbon intensive items like gasoline, electricity and heating fuel will rise with a carbon tax, other taxes will fall to compensate. As a result, the overall effect of the Green Party's carbon tax shift will generally be neutral." This prediction shows wisdom, in that it acknowledges the inevitable price increases as companies pass the buck to consumers. It may be called overly optimistic, but it should not be dismissed as "no plan at all."
"Rural Canadians could be most impacted by a carbon tax due to a lack of public transportation infrastructure and the necessity of cars for transportation. With this in mind, the Green Party has developed a "carbon tax rebate" that mirrors the current GST credit. It is targeted at lower-income Canadians and it is weighted to help rural Canadians offset the higher cost of a carbon tax. Rural Canadians also tend to have lower incomes than their urban counterparts. The Green Party will cut all income taxes for those making less than $20,000 a year." This sounds like serious consideration of the effects that their plan will have.
"The Green Party's carbon tax shift will unavoidably increase fuel prices, but it will also reduce taxation levels in other areas. Most Canadians will not significantly be penalized by the carbon tax shift, nor will they benefit. However, those who will find themselves better off as a result of a carbon tax shift will be lower income or rural Canadians and seniors. In other words, the Green Party's carbon tax shift will help those who need it most. By shifting government taxes onto carbon intensive industries and off of income and payroll, Canadians will be given more control over how they are taxed. By making smart energy choices - purchasing a hybrid vehicle, performing a home energy audit, using public transportation - Canadians can save money otherwise paid in taxes and at the same time, save our climate from catastrophe by helping to reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions." This is a good policy and it is well thought out. It is of course a risk, but not necessarily a recipe for economic disaster as the Conservatives would claim. The biggest danger in the plan is the way businesses may react to it.
The Green party page offers a good account of their main platform item. It claims things will be better while at the same time there will not be much significant change. Although they are generally thought of as the most radical of the major political parties, their page seeks to address the fear of change issue, by not offering numerous utopian improvements - as the NDP do. Also they made no attacks at all against other parties.
How they act in other media
The above has been an analysis of the official party web sites, in particular what they have to say about their own platforms. However most people do not vote based on reading such information, they vote based on the influence of other media, like TV and radio. Thus we must consider the election campaign as it has been played out there.
Mud slinging is the term that comes to mind. Every advertisement that I saw on TV or heard on radio had a similar focus; slam the opposing leader. These attacks were almost always emotional, aiming to produce fear and mistrust. Harper became a tyrant who was going to lead us to our doom. Dion became a dimwit with no idea what he was doing. Layton became an unreasonable idealist or enemy to the economy. None of the advertisements ever said anything substantial. Very few offered a positive "we promise good things" message.
The politics of this election were not about any issues, as far as I could tell. The battle was over perceptions of personality. We were asked to vote on the question - which leader is worse? This sort of thing, now common in elections, makes a mockery of democracy. It makes image more important than substance. Not even in a positive way of candidates investing in promoting their own image. But rather in the negative way of attempting to destroy the opposing candidate's image.
Part 4. The "Harper copycat speech" issue
This is a great example of image assassination. At a press conference, the Liberals showed video of Harper giving a speech in Parliament on March 20, 2003. Much of his address matches the speech given by Australian Prime Minister Howard two days earlier, virtually word-for-word. Rae, the Liberal foreign affairs critic, said the revelation raises questions about whether Harper's foreign policy views can be trusted. "On this critical issue, on the world stage, this is a man chose to parrot and to mimic to steal someone else's voice," He added: "In law and journalism, in politics, if we can't speak with an authentic voice, who the hell are we?" A powerful attack against Harper, it puts him in a very bad light.
However that attack has a few flaws in it, which may be seen by anyone willing to stop and think, rather than simply react to the outrageous plagiarism of Mr. Harper. First of all there is the question about how foreign policy is set. It is never done in a vacuum. Canada always has to consider the position of its neighbor, supporting it most of the time, opposing it only when necessary. This is the reality of our political position regardless of who is President of the USA . Secondly we should stop and ask; how are speeches written? Almost all members of parliament use speechwriters when they have an important address to deliver. Perhaps Rae thinks that all politicians should always right their own speeches. Not a bad idea, but it is not actually how things are done. Politicians typically give the writer key points that must be included and describe the tone they wish to set, then allow the writer to do his job. In this case it seems the writer took a short cut in doing his work.
Providing a defense for Harper is not really my concern here. What matters more is to understand the attack. The Liberals found an event, several years in the past, that they could use to discredit their opponent, and they used it. They did not attack his policy position, but rather they cast doubt on it by pointing to an action that obviously bad - theft of some one's words.
Part 5. Betterment Party's media campaign guidelines
We refuse to sling mud. Any attacks that may be made by Betterment will be aimed at the policies of our opponents, not at the individuals involved. We shall call into question the actions of previous governments, where we have evidence to do so. We shall not engage in rampant fear mongering. If an opponent has a good idea we shall give them credit for it, if they have a bad idea we shall call attention to it. In brief this shall be the Betterment position to be expressed in the media.
In particular we shall propose a campaign based on humor. This includes offering a positive and hopeful message about the future, repeating often what we plan to do. We shall present a glib exterior using wit whenever possible so that people will smile when they think of us. Our candidates shall be instructed to give honest yet silly answers to questions, unless they are allowed appropriate time to fully comment on the matter. At the same time they are being glib, the candidates should refer people to the official web site and documentations for answers. For example: when a reporter on the street asks "What is this Citizen Payment Plan of yours?" I would answer "Its candy for everyone - go see our web site for details." In truth I would be happy to explain it; bud doing so can not be done in a 30 second sound bite. In the same vain, taking part in a leadership debate could not be done seriously.
A major target of our campaign is the established "big two", the Liberals and Conservatives, who have always dominated government. If I was not afraid of being accused of stealing someone else's words I would say " I am proposing real change from the way things have been done in the past. Not just change from the last 25 months, but change from the last 25 years." To a large extent I agree with Layton there. The big two have monopolized power long enough, its time for a new party to have a shot at running the country. "into the ground." a voice with a Quebec accent may be heard to say.
Part 5a. Radio campaign projects
They are set into the typical 30 second time slot. They are variants on the following formats. 1. A voice lamenting his or her situation, giving a brief account of how they lost their job and do not qualify for UI or some other social injustice they are suffering because of the system ( not actually blaming any political party ). A second voice introducing itself as the Betterment Party offers to help. The first voice, in dramatic style, says that the situation is hopeless, nothing ever changer for the better. The second voice claims there are answers to our problems, the voters just have to show courage and try something new. The Betterment voice then invites the listener to read what the Party has to say on the web site. 2. A voice sounding like a reporter says: "Hey, look, it's the Betterment Party. Let's ask them a few questions." The question asked (a different one in several variations of the ad) should be obscure; off-topic or impossible to answer in a short time or an attempt to lead into mudslinging at other candidates. The voice of Betterment will give a short silly yet honest answer, and then ask the reporter to sit down for a long chat or go see the official web site.
Part 5b. TV campaign projects
These are of major importance, as they are costly but offer the best chance to reach the widest audience. A multilayered approach to making them must be taken, so they can be watched multiple times without felling stale. In other words we aim to make a spectacle of ourselves, something that is fun to watch. They are to run along the following lines, set into the typical 1 minute time slots.
1. Using the metaphor of Canada being a patient with a tooth ach. This should look like a spoof on a medical advertisement. The dentists will be wearing T-shirts under their lab coats to visually proclaim what party they represent. The patient will be hesitant to try a new dentist, even though the ones she usually goes to see ( Liberal and Conservative ) never seem to fix her problem they just ease the pain temporarily. The Betterment dentist will offer her a real cure, if she is brave enough to step into his office.
2. Using the metaphor of "the ship of state", Canada as a boat. This will require a set that looks like the engine room of a ship. The crew will be wearing T-shirts to visually proclaim what party they represent. The captain will look like some East coast fisherman. He will demand to know what is wrong with his boat. The Liberal and Conservative crewmen will claim nothing is wrong, as they stand next to a large crack with band aids holding it together. The NPD crewman will start to answer but the Liberal and Conservative will yell him down. The Betterment crewman will then say; we have a good ship but she needs some work, put me in charge of her and she will run better than ever.
Part 5c. Internet campaign projects
Aside from the actual documentation on the web site that will go into great detail about the Betterment plans, there will be lots of video clips. Extended versions of the TV advertisements will be available. These will include more colorful bickering between the "dentists" and the "crewmen" with someone one representing the Green party holding a potted plant looking nervous and a representative of the Block alone in a corner. Humor will be a major factor in these videos.
A more serious set of Rick Mercer style rants will also be put together. Released to U-Tube and posted on the official site. A Betterment candidate will be walking around on an actual Canadian navy ship; he will list the shortcoming that our various recent governments have left us with. These must be well-founded accusations, no metaphors or silliness or mudslinging here. This is a real attack on the unjust or incompetent ways social services are being handled. At the end of the rant he will say: "I know we usually work in a joke but this time the only joke is a bleak one, if you elect one of the parties who put us in this mess."
Keeping in mind how popular reality TV is, we will have a daily short video posted on the web site and sent to U-Tube about what our leader is doing today. These will sometimes be real, other times they will be staged will deliberate silliness. When people think about Betterment we want them to smile.
Part 6. Concluding Remarks
In presenting the Betterment platform for an election campaign we must be ready to face both serious criticisms of our plan and fear mongering attacks that try to discredit us. An election is a popularity contest. We aim to win by presenting a friendly face and a positive message; "Our country, as good as it is, can be better." We may use sarcasm and wit combined with the sharpest weapon, truth, in our fight. We shall point our problems where they exist and give credit to good ideas no matter who has them. We shall not use propaganda to sling mud at the opposing candidates.
The idea that a government should act with the best interests of its citizens in mind is what Betterment stands for. The charge we level against the former governments, and which we stand ready to debate, is that they did a poor job of acting for the good of the people. We shall do better.
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