What’s in it for me

I am back from my period of mourning over the state of the world — hello world trying to see that there is potential in you instead of everything just becoming awful endlessly. The last couple of days I’ve been back to being a productive human being. It’s also been very cold so that’s helped — for example I could be going to a talk about urban design tonight but then I’d have to leave my home and breathe -25c air and have my face hurt and I already did that once today.

One of the things that I’ve found interesting about recent events is the what’s in it for me angle. This being that voters really just want parties to make them feel that they will make their lives better — I say feel because the feeling is far more important than the actual reality and policies. Voters will vote for whoever convinces them that their lives will be marginally better if they are elected.

Voters are essentially customers. They want you to tell them how you will make them better off. Left-wing parties need to do a better job of speaking to voters at this level. The NDP had the chance in 2015 to talk about big services and programs they wanted to introduce but blew the chance. I would happily vote for a national pharmacare program. They should’ve talked that to death and attacked everyone else for wanting to leave twenty per cent of Canadians with no insurance. Instead they were afraid to own the higher taxes issue. People in the Nordic countries consider big government a bargain. For paying taxes when they can they get full coverage and security for life. Yes those taxes are high but they get all the services they need when they need them. It’s basic logic. Social democracy is actually a great deal. Anyone who has ever looked at Blue Cross packages would tell you that those premiums are expensive and very limited. Paying an equal amount in higher taxes with no copays or services that aren’t covered (like wisdom teeth removal) would actually be a great deal. Millennials understand this. Life is precarious and difficult and we’d prefer security to low taxes.

Environmentalists and social democrats have to start convincing people that they will make their lives better. We don’t need the Leap Manifesto. People don’t want to get bogged down in ideological debates. I just want free prescriptions and a national day care program. Leave the pretension aside. I like social democracy because I think government makes people’s lives easier and better. Let’s start telling people that we will make their lives easier and better.

It’s also crucial that we build a system where everybody is doing well and where we don’t ignore the needs of specific communities. Obama managed to create a lot of jobs and a great deal of growth. The economy was doing fab but some people who were left behind by that thought he’d failed. Who cares if unemployment overall is basically at the nationally optimal level when your county is dying? It was the same thing with Brexit voters who felt excluded from the prosperity of the EU.We need to do more for them and ensure that they have the services and investment they need to recover. Ignoring certain areas is not going to work out for anyone. We have to build a system that works for all our regions as well as people in the country, suburbs and cities. If we become countries of separate regions with distinct interests and values we will struggle. We are also becoming increasingly divided between rural, urban and suburban interests, between the coasts and the prairies. What we need is politicians who can see the needs of everybody and address them. If we pick and chose then some people will feel ignored and we’ll end up in a huge mess.

Scotland is an example of how to be alert to these needs. Based mostly off of reading transportation policies (and I have read most of Scotland’s key transportation planning documents) you can tell that rural and remote communities are very important. The needs of extremely remote communities that can lose access during storms are mentioned frequently and carefully considered. The Islands and Highlands feature prominently in decision making for ferries and transportation networks. While there are regional differences between bits of Scotland there is also a strong feeling of shared identity. Thinking about the needs of people very different and potentially far from you is the way you get to that.



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