Do you have the right stuff?

With the federal election about a month away, we’ve started our coverage by introducing you to the candidates in Haliburton-Kawartha-Lakes-Brock.

Last week, we profiled People’s Party of Canada candidate Gene Balfour. Today, we have the NDPs Barbara Doyle. Next week, we’ll bring you Liberal Judi Forbes, then Green candidate Elizabeth Fraser, followed by Conservative Incumbent Jamie Schmale.

We’re also working on a Q and A  … pondering what we will ask these candidates that will provide real value to readers – not just provide a free platform for their, and their party’s, propaganda.

It isn’t easy. Politicians have always been good at dodging questions to get their speaking points across.

There was a good op-ed piece written by Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post following the latest round of presidential candidate debates in the States. She wrote that her favourite question came at the end of the debate. “What’s the most significant professional setback you’ve had to face? How did you recover from it? And what did you learn from it?”

Sure, it sounds a bit like a question you might be asked at a job interview. But, interview questions such as this speak to a candidate’s character.

For example, we all know about Justin Trudeau’s run-in with ethics commissions on things such as flying on the Aga Khan’s private jet to his Caribbean island when Canada sends millions of dollars to his foundation. Unless we’ve been living under a rock, we also all know about the SNC Lavelin affair.

We could offer our local opposition candidates ink to criticize Trudeau but what real value is that to our readers? I think we would all agree Trudeau was very much in the wrong on both occasions. So, I would rather ask a question such as, “Describe something you’ve done in your work life that was ethically borderline? What were your feelings around that?”

Often with local federal election coverage, we see candidates simply parrot the party line and wonder if they have any original thoughts. Sometimes we don’t vigorously question those platforms enough. For that very reason, another strong question would be something such as, “Which of your party’s policies do you not agree with, and why?” Or perhaps, “Is there any issue that would make you cross the floor?” It’s the type of question aimed at knocking the parrot off of the perch.

As Rubin rightly pointed out in her Post editorial, “voters honestly don’t pick presidential candidates on the details of policy. They do, however, pick someone they trust, who understands their problems and who conveys empathy.” Arguably it’s the same with Canadian politics.

So, we want to know who is up for the challenge locally? Not just for now, but for the future. Do they know the riding? Do they grasp what’s important to local voters? Does their party’s platform reflect our existing, and changing, values here in Haliburton County?

We know people here are worried about climate change. They’re concerned about health care and long-term care beds. The economy is another key issue, as is how much they have to pay in taxes and what their retirement incomes are going to look like.

But they also want to know the character of those who would purport to represent them.

If you have a question you think we should ask the candidates, please let us know at editor@thehighlander.ca

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