By Michael Stuart
Chair & Chief Policy Advisor
Rick Peterson Edmonton Strathcona Conservative Nomination Campaign
Starting last week, Michael Stuart has been outlining key policy issues in Edmonton Strathcona that are front and centre of Rick’s campaign. These issues all fit into the framework of the Conservative Party of Canada’s Recovery Plan. This plan covers five key areas: Jobs; Accountability; Mental Health; Country; Economy.
Today, Michael looks at Priority #2: Accountability.
As rightly identified by Conservative Party of Canada Leader Erin O’Toole in his convention speech, securing accountability in Ottawa needs to be at the top of the to-do list if and when Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government is defeated at the ballot box. Whether we’re talking about the treatment of Jody Wilson-Raybould, the many storylines attached to the WE Charity scandal, or the sexual misconduct crisis in Canada’s military, those with their grip on the levers of power in this country have seemingly treated any sense of accountability like an unfamiliar concept.
Mr. O’Toole’s plan emphasized that a Conservative Government will take numerous steps to change that, including the introduction of an anti-corruption law, the toughening of the Conflict of Interest Act and the Lobbying Act, and the development of the most effective transparency laws in Canada’s history. These are all much-needed steps in the right direction.
When lawmakers in Ottawa need to spend time investigating potential ethics issues, they have less time to spend legislating on issues that matter at the dinner table in Edmonton Strathcona. While nobody is denying the importance of this time spent over the last five-plus years, there is a clear need for a Government focused on reducing the opportunity for ethical breaches to occur at the outset, rather than one that is seemingly always on the defensive. It’s unlikely that any Government will ever be perfect, but it seems equally unlikely that there isn’t a better way.
Polling consistently shows that Canadians feel this Government is doing a poor job on these accountability questions. A recent Nanos poll shows only 8% of Canadians think that the Liberal government is doing a good job of investigating allegations of sexual misconduct in the military. Prime Minister Trudeau’s personal polling dropped precipitously during the SNC-Lavalin affair. The Liberal Party’s polling took a temporary hit after the WE Charity story broke. At the end of the day, Canadians deserve better than to have their news headlines dominated by stories like these.
The lack of trust in the Trudeau government is clearly linked to the spiraling debt problem – at least, that’s what we’re hearing when Rick and his volunteer team are on the phones or reaching out to Edmonton Strathcona residents. In the 2015 election campaign, the now-Prime Minister suggested he would allow only “modest” deficits before balancing the budget in 2019-20, only to see that plan go deeply offside even before the pandemic hit. People in Edmonton Strathcona are worried that their kids and grandkids will bear the burden of the Trudeau government’s massive spending spree. For so many reasons, people across the political spectrum simply don’t trust him or his government to "build back better" as promised.
The first step in building back a culture of accountability in Ottawa is to build a Conservative coalition that can win across the country. That’s why ridings like Edmonton Strathcona, which hasn’t been “blue” since 2008, are so important to this cause. As simple as it sounds, the only way things change in Ottawa is for things to change in Ottawa. When it comes time for residents in Edmonton Strathcona to nominate a candidate, the number-one priority needs to be choosing a candidate that can win in this riding. Without wins in urban ridings like Edmonton Strathcona across the country, the only thing we can expect is more of the same. And that's not good enough.