Illustration by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday October 21, 2014
Election promises candidates should not make
Election candidates say the darndest things. For the most part, it’s all motherhood. But sometimes they overpromise. Sometimes they promise — or semi-promise — things that just aren’t going to happen. Here are some examples. We’re not saying they all do this, but we know some do.
“If elected, I will stop school closures.” Candidates who say this, or even hint at it, are either naive or misleading. The province holds the purse strings and the decision-making over all education policy, in particular around closures and matching funding. A more accurate way to say this is: “I oppose school closures, but sometimes they are inevitable. When that happens I will work with my colleagues and with city hall to ensure unused schools remain community hubs so neighbourhoods don’t suffer.”
Here’s another one. “If elected, I will revisit amalgamation.” If a candidate says this to you, here’s a suggested response: “No, you won’t.” Only the province could revisit amalgamation, and it has no interest. That egg cannot be unscrambled. The Harris Conservatives forced amalgamation on Hamilton and its suburbs. A more honest pledge is: “If elected, I will work tirelessly to ensure my constituents and all citizens get a fair shake in the City of Hamilton.” Outgoing Mayor Bob Bratina got a fair bit of traction with his pledge to revisit amalgamation. Don’t get taken in again.
Here’s a classic. “If elected, I will work to put term limits in place.” If a candidate says this, it’s either untrue or it suggests the candidate is unwise, because any work invested in this project is a waste of time. Term limits would require provincial legislation to be changed, and there is no indication this or any provincial government is interested. Why? In part, because there’s a good chance that legislated term limits would not survive a constitutional or legal challenge. And in part, because if a provincial government indicated it supported term limits, it wouldn’t take very long for people to suggest they be applied provincially.
If you’re a person who believes that term limits are a good thing, the best thing you can do is ask your candidate if he or she will agree to voluntarily limit their time in office. If someone makes that commitment, take it for what it’s worth.
This one is less black and white. “If elected, I will make sure tax increases are never more than the rate of inflation.” This one isn’t untrue, necessarily. All three leading mayoral candidates say they will aim for tax hikes 2 per cent or lower. But that’s only half the story, because inflationary increases don’t get at the infrastructure deficit. And city departments are getting less than 1 per cent funding increases, which is less than inflation. Economic development wins will make a dent in this, but the bottom line is that in the medium and long term, tax hikes that low are not sustainable. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)