Several media commentators have noted that the 2019 federal election campaign is lacking in big, bold ideas, and the quality of political debate has accordingly suffered. I suspect most Canadians feel the same.
While the media is drawn to stories of controversy and scandal, during an election campaign most Canadians want to hear about the parties’ plans for their future, for our future as a country. Past campaigns have taken advantage of the public’s attention and painted a picture of what the future could be for our nation. In this campaign, no party has been able, or arguably even tried, to capture the public’s imagination. And the campaign is the poorer for it.
At a time when Canadians are increasingly anxious about their own futures, Canada’s future and even the world’s future, where is the leader who can inspire Canadians and draw us together in common purpose? Where are the big ideas that could transform Canada, and build national pride? Canadians are right to be disappointed that the campaign has not offered this vision to voters, but it also represents a missed opportunity for all political parties.
With healthcare consistently ranked as a top priority of voters, imagine if one of the parties had outlined an ambitious and innovative healthcare platform? Some may argue that a commitment to a national pharmacare program is a bold idea, but they’d lose that argument. The idea of a national pharmacare program is not new; it dates back to the 1940’s and was first recommended in 1964. It may be an important policy measure, but it is hardly visionary.
Likewise, the parties have missed an opportunity to rally the country around a vision of the future of health research. Research Canada’s polling tells us that 91% of Canadians say that health and medical research makes an important contribution to the healthcare system and that an overwhelming majority of Canadians (86%) are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports increased funding for health and medical research. Few policy issues enjoy this type of broad, almost unanimous support, yet none of the parties capitalized on this support.
Imagine the reaction of Canadians to a party who could paint a picture of Canada as a world leader in health research, which promised ambitious targets for investment and growth, leading to medical discoveries and break throughs which could change the world, as Frederick Banting and Charles Best did when they discovered insulin. From stem cell research to genomics to health AI, there are numerous exciting and promising fields of health research in Canada that will revolutionize the future of healthcare and create a huge social, health and economic return on investment, but they all need political leadership and commitment to realize their full potential.
While the Green Party committed to implementing the full Naylor report, the other parties were silent about the future of science in this country. While many pay lip service to creating a knowledge economy, the parties have not used this campaign to set Canada on a course to achieve that goal. As we near the end of the campaign, this represents an unfortunate missed opportunity. And Canada is the poorer for it.