I'm not sure what the right balance between top-down and bottom-up democracy is. Stephen Harper's continued a long-running trend of consolidation of power in the PMO, a trend I think is nearing its breaking point. When I see video like this I'm inclined to think we could save a lot of money by replacing MPs with poker chips, if that's effectively how they're going to be treated by party leadership. Justin's the odds-on favourite to win, and given his stance on decentralization, I'm okay with that. What people criticize as a lack of substance can be spun as an intent to bring Canadians to the table, listen to their concerns, use evidence to determine the most effective way to address those concerns, and sell that as a coherent platform in 2015. I'm not saying it's going to play out like that. The cynic in me says that every politician who's ever promised reform like this hasn't done so. But if we give him the benefit of the doubt, then the most important question, at least for me shifts away from "Who's going to be leader?" and towards "Who's going to champion distinct and iconic policies that distinguish us from our political competition?"
Martha Hall Findlay's been doing that since before the campaign began. Ending Supply Management, implementing Universal Daycare, calling out the notion of the middle class for how awful it is as a way of framing issues... these are substantial ideas, ideas that could have consequences in an election, and they're ideas that distinguish Martha from the rest of the pack. Too much of the debates has been candidates agreeing. Harper's awful, legalize pot, focus on the economy, appeal to the West, and commit to some form of electoral reform. If all you've got for your candidate beyond that is the argument that you'd do a better job as leader than Justin because of some perceived flaw in his experience or character, good on you, but the hordes of people signing up as supporters and donating to his campaign don't see things the same way.
Relentless focus on the economy as a selling point? That's kind of a minimum requirement, and I'm far more interested in the decisions a leader will make that impact upon it than how long they stare at the TSX ticker. More to the point, the decisions they'll make that other candidates won't make. Like standing up for Canadian families struggling to pay for basics like milk and eggs so that the Dairy Board can run pre-roll ads in movie theatres. Or the overwhelming majority of Canadian farmers who aren't covered under supply management, whose ability to export their goods is kneecapped by our unwillingness to change this policy. You want people to have more kids? Make it easy for parents to find child care. Making it easier to pay for child care as the Conservatives did, while well intended, has a similar effect on childcare pricing to the one increasing student loan limits has on university tuition.
Whether it's deserved or not, the Liberal party has a reputation for inconsistent policy. Perhaps a bit more bluntly, it has a reputation of pandering to voters and saying whatever's necessary to achieve power, as if that were an end unto itself. As opposed to, you know, making hard but necessary decisions to move the country forward with the utmost compassion for those negatively impacted in the change. Claiming to support evidence-based policy is one thing - having the courage of your convictions, and sticking to your guns when it's unpopular is another. When I vote for Liberal leader (and register for that if you haven't!) I'm voting for Martha Hall Findlay because I believe the party needs to commit to doing what's right, rather than what's easy. Justin's openness to collaboration makes him a 2nd ballot choice I'm exceedingly comfortable with.