Pledges and promises

It was ironic that in the run-up to the UK’s 7 May General Election, the people forecasting an impending financial bonanza were not the party leaders but rather the country’s department stores. Their confidence was based on the sure knowledge that on Election Day, Britain would already be celebrating the arrival of a new royal baby. The arrival of a baby princess has the UK’s high streets looking forward to projected sales of up to $1.5 billion.

Economic prosperity is, of course, constantly at the forefront of all politicians’ minds, but general elections are not the best time for honest appraisals of a country’s economic prospects. Politicians want to be elected and they will say what they think voters wish to hear. In Britain, after five years of sustained austerity measures and budget cuts, nearly all the political parties were faced with the daunting prospect of persuading the country to accept five more years of spending cuts. David Cameron promised the country that the good times were just around the corner, while Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democratic leader, claimed that his party would achieve ‘prosperity for all,’ even as a junior coalition partner. All Labour could do was pledge that future cuts would be done with more compassion for the poor. Promises, promises! Another coalition was all that could be expected.

Are Canadian politicians any better? With almost six months to go before Canadians go to the polls, it is too early for the parties to set out their electoral platforms, but the federal governement’s recent budget effectively threw down the gauntlet to its opponents. Harper has promised hard cash, a balanced budget and lower taxes, despite collapsed oil prices. The Liberals have pledged major governement investments and an upgrading of Canada’s infrastructure, meaning some tax hikes. Get ready then for even more policy promises before October. In the end, like the UK, Canada may well end up with a coalition governement. And promises will not have had anything to do with it.

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