U.S. Elections Should Be More Canadian

There is no mention of it in today's New York Times, but there is a national election in Canada today. The American media may not take Canadian politics seriously, but in Canada, it is very serious business.

So serious in fact, that Conrad Black in the National Post complained that,"At the leadership level, there has been practically no trace of humor. To voters wondering what is missing from the current picture, this could be part of the answer -- we have not been very well entertained."

As an American political comedian who is disturbed by the silliness and overly "entertaining" nature of the Republican Presidential candidates and the media's coverage of them, Mr. Black should be thankful that Canada takes its politics and elections seriously.

The three major party leaders, the Conservative incumbent Stephen Harper, the Liberal Justin Trudeau and the New Democratic Party candidate Tom Mulcair have largely run a campaign focused on the major issues that confront Canada. And the newspapers and broadcast news outlets present detailed comparisons of the parties stands on those issues.

Harper has sadly injected an element of fear-mongering into the campaign but taking a stand against the wearing of the niqab by Muslim women in citizenship ceremonies. Fortunately, his opposition has backfired and hurt the Conservatives in the polls. But for the most part, the debate has been serious, sober and substantial. Much like the Democratic Presidential debate last week.

Our election process would benefit by adopting this Canadian approach to politics. We should drastically shorten the campaign period, which now begins almost three years before the election. This year's Canadian election was the longest in history. 78 days. About the length of one Ted Cruz filibuster. And in contrast to the virtually unlimited amount of money by unnamed donors that flow into the campaigns of most of the candidates, the money allowed for the candidates in Canada is far more restricted. Each political party used to have a $25-million spending limit, regardless of a campaign's length, although since the Conservatives passed the Fair Elections Act, this 11-week campaign allowed the parties to spend more than $50 million.
A lot for Canada, but a drop in the bucket compared to what American campaigns spend.

And finally, American politics needs to be less funny. A good political comedian can find humor in serious issues. We don't need the candidates to be cartoon characters uttering nonsensical comments to help us out.

Mr. Black and all Canadians should be happy that their election campaign wasn't very entertaining. Running a country is serious business. And so is running for office.

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