The stump speech you would like to hear, finally

A lot of people thought my column in the Chronicle Herald today, A stump speech you will never hear was a bit too cynical. I don’t like cynicism, especially in myself, so I offer this. Here’s a speech we wish politicians would really give.

My fellow Nova Scotians. Thank you for taking the time to come out and hear a political speech, because I know you are doing it in the public spirit of wanting a better community for ourselves and our families.
I’m not here to provide quickie answers to all of our problems. That has been done in countless speeches going back to our earliest elections in the 1800s. I’m going to be straight with you.
We have problems in this province and my party doesn’t have all the solutions. In fact, no leader or party can tell the whole truth in an election campaign and expect people to support them. So too often, we have resorted to half-truths, vagueness and open-ended promises.
Let’s change that. From now on, our party is going to promise only what it can actually deliver. And we ask people to demand more from us.
While I’m at it, I should admit that the other parties in the election have also proposed worthwhile ideas. If elected, the best thing I can do is to take those good ideas and apply them to government. And give credit where it’s due, even if the credit goes to one of my opponents.
I promise you, Nova Scotians, that my party will take steps to run government sensibly and gradually reduce deficits until the budget is balanced. That means higher taxes in some cases and service reductions in others.
The only way that public spending can be reigned in is to take stern measures. This is a fact. You can’t have it any other way.
But maybe people don’t want to face either of those alternatives. If that’s the case, they should all be prepared to live with higher deficits, more debt and a big bill to be settled in the future. We will owe our province to the banks, hedge funds and foreign money people who own our debt.
Government can no longer be all things to all people. Help me and my party make wise decisions about what services are really necessary and what we can do without. Help us make fair decisions.
On power rates, we promise not to make silly promises that can’t be fulfilled. It’s absurd to promise that “breaking up the monopoly” at Nova Scotia Power will reduce rates on its own. Encourage competition, sure. But I’m not going to indulge in political posturing by setting myself up as the crusader who will save the little guy from the big corporation.
Also, I’m just not into promising rate freezes because they aren’t realistic. Electricity is expensive. It’s also vital. And we waste it. We have had decades of idiotic energy policy and we can only change it if we agree that it costs money to do things differently.
We need a long-term, not short-term policy on energy and it has to be in keeping with the need to protect the environment. Burning coal and natural gas don’t do that.
On this business of rates. People, it costs money to generate electricity and wire it to your house. Real money. You use it, you pay for it. No premier can promise to defy the established market for energy. Governments don’t have the power to create cheap power. There, I’ve said it and you can quote me.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t encourage smart policies that will gradually get us out of the energy hole we’re in. We must. The first step is a massive public education program to help everyone understand what the true costs are of keeping the lights on.
We won’t deregulate energy to the point it becomes a free-for-all. Nova Scotia Power dominates the market. But it’s still a market. Let’s not get in the way of competition but admit that policy, on its own, can’t create it.
On jobs and employment, I admit that my party has no better ideas than anyone else. We have to stop subsidizing private business, but we can’t do it alone. Governments around the world indulge in subsidies and we’re scared that we can’t compete.
So we subsidize, rescue and improvise employment support policies as we go. We’ll still do that under my government, at least let’s all recognize that’s what’s happening.
And by the way, governments don’t create jobs, except for civil servants. I promise to stop using the term “job creation” in any of my future speeches so as not to hold out false hopes.
Nova Scotians, we don’t encourage tourism by turning our province into a fairy land of silly myths. If we build a dynamic community that is alive with the arts, culture, music, architecture and outdoor activities, in a pristine environment, and if we just be ourselves, others will travel here to join us.
Nova Scotians, we don’t solve the health care problem by fiddling with bureaucracies. We have to face up to the fact that our population is aging and we need more of everything in the system. That’s going to cost a lot of money.
So why don’t we let private clinics do some of the work? If you really think breaking up monopolies makes for a better market, then break up the health care monopoly currently owned by the government and operated by disciplined cartels of doctors, unions, professional guilds and drug companies.
Do we care about the environment? Evidently not, because no party has made much of it. If people really cared, I mean really cared about the natural world around them, they would raise holy hell with governments.
It appears that they don’t, so that’s why politicians only give lip service to the environment.
In conclusion, fellow citizens, and I include both those work hard and those who are just coasting, I can’t promise to make very much better in your life. But now that you know that, the small talk is past.
Vote for me, because I don’t promise one damn thing.

About Dan Leger

Journalist, broadcaster, consultant. And sailor. I've been a pro journalist for more than 30 years as a reporter, writer, producer and senior editor. Parliamentary reporter for The Canadian Press. Executive Producer, CBC Television News, Former Director of News Content at The Chronicle Herald. Gemini Award - Best Live Special Event Coverage (1999) and Atlantic Journalism Awards winner, Commentary (2007 and 2009).
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