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Opinion: The cost of elections will always be a bargain

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Quit playing make believe when it comes to our federal government’s spending

With the votes counted and the speeches heard, the federal election process is complete. No time has been wasted in analyzing the election results — or lack of results this time — and what they mean for the political landscape. What the lack of substantial change in power has caused, I think, are critiques for having the election in the first place and for paying as much as we did for it. However, in my opinion the critiques that have been levied against the election’s $610 million price tag are lazy and baseless.

David Moscrop was quick to critique Election 44 for what he thinks as being an overall waste of time for Canadians. In his most recent column published in the Washington Post, Moscrop asks rhetorically, “what was all this for?” before promptly stating the obvious that Trudeau and the Liberals were seeking a majority government. Is seeking a majority government not the goal in every election for every major party? 

Moscrop poses this question to doubt the election’s purpose because there was no significant change in power, and most Canadians are in the same position as before. As I see it, the results of an election are not a basis for arguing the purpose of that election. Is having an election in a democratic society supposed to have any greater purpose other than a country’s citizens voting for who they want to be represented by? I also think it’s wrong to conjecture that no significant changes resulted from this election. Three of Trudeau’s cabinet members were not re-elected, and over 40 of those who were elected overall are new Members of Parliament. 

The other major critique presented by Moscrop is directed towards the record-high cost of the election. For those who don’t know, the total price of an election includes the cost of printing all the ballots, renting building space for roughly 20,000 polling stations, obtaining the technology for the polling stations such as computers and phones, and most importantly — and most costly — the wages owed to the almost 300,000 people hired by Elections Canada to work the election. 

For Election 44, there was also the additional cost of PPE and other necessary safety measures because of the COVID pandemic. 

Sonia Aslam interviewed Moscrop for an article published by News 1130 in Vancouver. Aslam writes that “Moscrop feels instead of spending money on the election those taxpayer dollars could have been spent on some election promises made on the campaign trail, such as dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic or addressing climate change.” Although Aslam and Moscrop surely know better, they’re implying that the Trudeau government had $600 million at their disposal and decided to use it to fund an election instead of, say, addressing climate change.

Obviously, this is not how federal spending works. Trudeau’s government doesn’t even allocate the money that is spent on elections. Elections Canada has autonomy and access to federal funds to spend as they need when an election is called. Aslam and Moscrop are just thinking out loud about what other things this money could’ve been spent on, and let me just say, there are 600 million different things that $600 million could’ve been spent on. 

Depending on how you see it, the money spent paying Canadians to work the polls is an excellent way of “dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic,” as Aslam wrote, because it puts money in the pocket of people still trying to survive the pandemic, let alone “deal” with it. 

If Moscrop wants to criticize federal spending, the most recent budget tabled by Trudeau’s government is over 700 pages long and plans to spend much, much more than $610 million. Among other things, that budget also plans to deal with the COVID pandemic and address climate change.

In my opinion, paying $610 million for our citizenry to elect the people in charge of spending hundreds of billions of dollars every year is quite the bargain.

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