be ready to be surprised

There is every indication that an election is going to be called this week. And if not, then soon after. So you face some choices.

There is every indication that an election is going to be called this week. And if not, then soon after.

So you face some choices.

New Democrat, Liberal or Yukon Party – what’s it going to be?

A better question is whether it really matters.

This is the type of crazy talk that gives modern political parties night sweats. Because they rely on their own unique swagger to sell their brand.

But, despite protests to the contrary, the brand really doesn’t matter.

Take a second and think about the New Democrats. How are they different from the Conservatives or Liberals?

And are the Liberals different from the New Democrats or Yukon Party? Really?

Sure, you might come up with sophisms like the New Democrats are going to gut the economy, make Yukon a park and improve health care and social programs. Or conservatives are going to manage the finances like a banker and will manage and broaden the economy.

But that’s bunkum.

Just look at history.

One government greatly angered environmentalists by not suspending mining claims in a proposed park and licensed many of the mines that rising metal prices made economical today.

It modernized and expanded the economy by putting broadband internet in every community. And it ran a surplus.

Meanwhile, the other cut the ribbon on mines approved almost a decade earlier, greatly expanded the bureaucracy and, on a whim, built two expensive community hospitals.

It also squandered $36 million of public money on a high-risk investment, doubled the territory’s dependence on federal transfers to $1 billion and still managed to saddle us with a debt that’s approaching $200 million.

So, which was the Yukon Party government and which the NDP?

See what I mean?

Governments are rocking along in ruts worn in the political landscape that have, in many cases, already determined the direction they will roll.

While there may be much excited rhetoric, there is little deviation from the well-established trail.

During an election, ask a politician where they stand on the general issues and you’ll get stock answers.

Try it.

Ask them about higher taxes? Nobody will admit to the need to raise them.

Ask what they think about mining? Every one will support it.

Ask what they think about parks? They are important for tourism and the environment.

Economic diversification? Essential for the future of the Yukon.

Health care is something that must be safeguarded.

Education must be widely available and improved.

The problem is that nobody wants to get pinned down.

But, as a citizen electing a representative, it’s your job to pin them down.

The trick is to get specific.

So, when candidates hit your doorstep, try forgetting their political banner.

Ask them how they think the territory should go about recruiting doctors and nurses to staff its hospitals.

Get them to talk about how they might use $18 million in housing money to put roofs over people’s heads.

Ask them about the territory’s high internet, cellphone and phone costs, and whether the territory should play a role in having them lowered.

Question the candidate about financial responsibility, the territory’s debt and whether, in the face of that, taxes are going to have to be raised. Then get them to explain why, or why not.

Ask them, specifically, if user fees should be imposed on the health-care system; and whether the bureaucracy should be cut. If so, where?

Find out how Yukon Energy can secure more power. Should we build dams, or tap the southern grid? How might either of these issues be paid for?

In light of the recent failures of the police in the territory, should the government review the RCMP contract?

Ask if the territory needs more assisted-living options for people with mental or physical disabilities or addictions.

Should the landlord-tenant act be updated, and, if so, how?

Should miners retain the right to stake anywhere in the territory under the old free-entry system? Or should it be changed?

And should the Peel Watershed be afforded some protection, or should it be opened to mining?

And, if protected, should the claim holders who staked after the land-use plan was announced, and who therefore knew it was possible extensive mining in the region might be curbed, be compensated?

Ask them how they might defend, or fight for, their positions in government.

Forget the party for a minute and get a read on the person. Figure out where they stand and how well they understand the issues.

Handle it like the job interview it is.

Once you do that, you’ll get a good read on who the best candidate is for the job.

And, who knows, they may surprise you.

They may be a conservative. A liberal. Or even a socialist.