Crawl Across the Ocean

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Federal Election Blogging: Issue List

Despite the overwhelming response to my first post in this series I still thought I would take the time to take a wild stab at identifying the most important issues involving our federal government.

To compose a list, I relied on my own judgement, this list of where the federal government spends its money, this extremely comprehensive roundup of Canadian social research links1 and the party issue lists / policy documents (most have not put out formal election platforms yet), including the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, Bloc and Greens (summary / detailed).

So anyway, here is what I came up with, if you think I missed anything important (which I'm sure I did) let me know. I tried to list them in descending order of importance (based on how many people they effect, how severely they effect people, how much money is involved, the potential for long term impact, the magnitude of impact the government can have on the issue, to what extent the issue falls under federal jurisdiction and whether the issue demands a response or could be left alone with minimal consequences) but it's a bit of a hopeless exercise since calling it apples and oranges would overstate the comparability of many of these items and it's pretty heavily in the eye of the beholder. Anyway:

Fiscal management - Fiscal Balance / Debt Reduction
Global Issues - Peak Oil
Environment - Global Warming / Climate Change
Global Issues - Debt Relief
Domestic Security (War on Terror)
Global Issues - Use of Military
Global Issues - Aids
Social Issues - Health Care (enforcement of Canada Health Act, Size of Health Transfer)
Crime - War on Drugs vs. Harm Reduction
Global Issues - Amount/Nature of Foreign Aid
Aboriginal Affairs / Spending: Indian and Northern Affairs
Fiscal management - Taxation Policy (not how much taxation, what kinds of taxation)
Environment - Air/Water Pollution
Bilateral Issues - Trade: NAFTA, Chapter 11, Softwood Lumber Dispute, etc.
Democratic Reform - Electoral Reform
Environment - Other (genetically modified food, dumping of oil in shipping lanes, etc.)
Crime - White Collar (national securities regulator, money laundering, tax shelters etc.)
Social Issues - Child Care
Democratic Reform - General (anti-corruption policies, whistleblower legislation etc.)
Environment - Toxic Site Cleanup
Social Issues - Gay marriage
Spending Programs - Equalization
Spending Programs - Granting Councils
Global Issues - Trade Agreements
Spending Programs - EI
Violent Crime (mandatory sentences, etc.)
Communications / Culture (CRTC, etc.)
Spending Programs - Infrastructure
Economic Issues - Size of Government
National Unity
Division of Powers, Federal vs. Provincial
Spending Programs - OAS
Spending Programs - CPP
Economic Issues - Corporate Subsidies
Communications/Culture - CBC
Social Issues - Animal Rights
Economic Issues - Intellectual Property
Social Issues - Abortion
Spending Programs - Regional Development Programs
Housing Policy (affordable housing, role of CMHC, etc.)
Economic Issues - Productivity
Democratic Reform - Senate

With luck most of these will come up naturally during the campaign. So far I have been relatively impressed with the focus on issues (but that could just be because the horse race / personality stuff doesn't make it past my personal filter). With more luck, other people will write excellent summaries of various issues that I can build on (more on this in a later post) but I guess we'll see how it goes.

1 Hat tip to One Damn Thing After Another for the link to the Social Research links.


  • I think this is a very valuable list, Declan. These would all make excellent (for instance) technorati tags for indexing discussion on these issues...

    In the Crime or Violent Crime category I'd add prevention/reduction of gun crime, which is currently a very big issue in Toronto; although I don't know if Crime is really the category it would go in. Certainly the final outcome is crime, but it's not at all clear that the long-term solution is exclusively a law-enforcement matter.

    Several issues: `Spending Programs - Equalization', `Social Issues - Health Care (enforcement of Canada Health Act)', are largely questions of federal-provincial relations, which I think deserves its own category, although `National Unity' certainly overlaps.

    By Blogger Jon Dursi, at 5:26 PM  

  • Thanks Jonathan, I'd probably include gun crime as a sub-component of violent crime (which I didn't really label properly - should have been Crime - Violent). I think that even if the underlying problem is something different, it is still fair to classify it under crime, in terms of policy since it is the crime which is driving the need for a policy repsonse.

    It's funny you mention federal-provincial relations, since that was on the list as an item in its own right, but was the last one I cut, thinking it was redundant (esp. with federal-provincial division of powers). You're probably right about it being a category of it's own. Maybe I'll reorganize a little.

    By Blogger Declan, at 6:49 PM  

  • I'd include post-secondary education somewhere in there, too - somewhere near the bottom priority-wise, because it's mostly a provincial issue. But it tends to come up in most federal elections.

    I might also toss in labour issues under the Economic category - I don't know how much of that is a federal issue, but it might be significant that (I believe) this is the first time that the CAW is sort-of supporting the Liberals.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:02 PM  

  • I would add sustainability. I know it overlaps a number of other areas like environment but I think it is distinct in that you can be concerned about the short term or immediate implications of pollution without addressing the more strategic nature of the need to live sustainably.

    In a similar vein you might consider international organization (how do we organize ourselves "better")

    I'm not sure that those issues would resonate much though.

    By Blogger KevinG, at 9:52 AM  

  • MS - thanks, I see I didn't include education at all - I guess it has been a few years since I was a student!

    Labour issues are pretty marginal IMO (and I think Buzz siding with the Liberals may be proof of this) but they probably rank ahead of senate reform, at any rate.

    Kevin - by international organization do you mean things like Paul Martin's L20 idea, UN reform / governance, etc. I suppose those probably are pretty important in the long term.

    I figure sustainability is sort of an underlying theme to a lot of environmental issues like peak oil, climate change, pollution, waste management and so on. It seems like our unsustainable ways manifest themselves as numerous divergent problems which then become separate issues of their own, but I'm not sure there are any policy avenues which tackle sustainability generally (other than birth control!). Maybe I'll add it under the catchall environmental category.

    By Blogger Declan, at 10:45 AM  

  • It's a really good list, although I don't necessarily agree with how you've prioritized things. I see others have already tapped education and sustainability as suggestions - what about poverty and municipal infrastructure (as provinces seem to be downloading a lot of responsibilities onto the cities these days)? Also, I'd be inclined to say that aboriginal affairs needs more attention than just spending issues. Native self government, native unemployment, native substance abuse, native health etc etc.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:27 AM  

  • I would add The Health Issue as another category that is distinct from the health care issue.

    See my post on this for clarification on what I mean:

    Discussing all of these issues as a blogosphere would be viable perhaps in the wiki that the Progressive Bloggers have set up here (your list would be a great start!):

    By Blogger Banba, at 1:09 PM  

  • "Kevin - by international organization do you mean things like Paul Martin's L20 idea, UN reform / governance, etc. "


    By Blogger KevinG, at 1:32 PM  

  • Deanna - I expected that people might disagree on the ordering!

    Poverty is a good suggestion, although I might put it under Income Inequality which is more general.

    I guess with the whole 'cities agenda' it makes sense to include municipal affairs as well. It occurs to me that I should have consulted the cabinet before making my list.

    orla - I hear what you're saying about health (not just health care) being important although I'm not sure how much of a role the federal government has to play. I guess an Environment - Health category would cover most government responsibilities in terms of making sure that people can live a healthy life if they choose (i.e. baning lead, trans-fa, that sort of thing).

    As for a wiki, I'm not up on the PB project, but the list is certainly open for copying, modification, denigration, whatever anyone wants to do with it. I'll probably update the post with a modified list based on everyone's suggestions in a day or two.

    By Blogger Declan, at 11:11 PM  

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