September 24th, 2018

Take campaign promises with a full helping of salt

By Medicine Hat News Opinon on March 2, 2018.

Provincial and federal elections are a little more than a year away so it’s the season for making promises to win votes.

Voters are often swayed one way or another based on those promises but the track record of politicians following through, is not good.

With that in mind it is worth considering major promises made in the past that were never fulfilled.

When Brian Mulroney instituted the GST he promised it would all be revenue neutral. The percentage was finally lowered under the Stephen Harper Conservative government, by one per cent in 2006 and another one per cent in 2008. Those two percentage points decreased government GST revenue by about $6 million.

With Canadians upset about the GST the Liberal party under Jean Chretien had a mantra: If elected the Liberal government would axe the tax.

“I say we will replace the tax. This is a commitment. You will judge me by that. If the GST is not gone, I will have a tough time the election after that,” said Liberal Leader Jean Chretien in February 1993. He won the election and became the prime minister but did not abolish the GST.

More recently, in the last federal election, Justin Trudeau campaigned on restoring door-to-door mail delivery.

“On Canada Post, we promise to restore home delivery,” said Trudeau during the election.

“We will stop Stephen Harper’s plan to end door-to-door mail delivery in Canada,” said campaign literature in part.

A review was done and nothing changed.

Justin Trudeau also said the Liberals were committed to ensuring that 2015 would be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system. A review was done and nothing changed.

The Liberal government under Pierre Trudeau was facing a Progressive Conservative party challenge in 1979. Joe Clark’s minority government proposed an 18-cent-a-gallon tax on gasoline to address Canada’s mounting debt. It brought an end to the Clark government.

Pierre Trudeau promised that tax on gasoline would not happen if the Liberals were elected. He won the election in 1980 and introduced the National Energy Program that saw a tax increase per litre of gasoline that was even more than what the Clark government had proposed.

Provincially, the NDP carbon tax is also to be revenue neutral. We don’t have details on that yet but it is worth looking for. It is also worth nothing that in the election that saw them win a majority government there was no mention at all about introducing a carbon tax.

In an election, a party hoping to form government should be capable of doing some research to determine if what they want to promise is feasible and whether it can be promised. Once they choose to make a promise there should be a penalty if they do not follow through.

Suggesting they can be voted out in the next election is not adequate.

Perhaps election campaign promises should be accompanied with a signed statement that the person will resign if the promise is not fulfilled within a certain timeframe. This would generate second thought before declaring the promise. Unless there is a signed guarantee and penalty voters will know to simply dismiss the promise when deciding who to vote for.

(Gillian Slade is a News reporter. To comment on this and other editorials, go to, email her at or call her at 403-528-8635.)

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