The tone of debate

The provincial election on Tuesday should be remembered for the way in which the campaigns and responses were conducted.

The provincial election on Tuesday should be remembered not so much for the final outcome as for the way in which the campaigns and responses were conducted.

The tone of dialogue this time was much more civil and restrained than in previous elections. Gone was much of the rhetoric which accompanies many elections.

As in past campaigns, some of the candidates, letter writers and others commenting chose to focus on a party’s record or a candidate’s previous public decisions or statements. Such comments are appropriate as long as they do not become broad generalizations or attacks on a candidate’s character.

Attack ads and negative campaigns, at any level, can help to reinforce a position held by party faithful, but they are ineffective in drawing voters from one party to another. Few if any will change their views because someone has ridiculed their position.

The provincial election on Tuesday was not a foregone conclusion at the provincial level or in the riding of Penticton. Going into the election, there was no definitive prediction of which of the two dominant parties would win the riding or form the next provincial government. A lot was at stake for both the Liberals and the New Democrats.

One does not need to look back many years to see examples of more highly charged elections at the federal, provincial and municipal levels.

Often, the adversarial tone would continue after the election as the resulting government, the public or both were polarized and divided on issues where compromise and dialogue were needed.

We hope the campaign and pre-election discussion, as it played out in Summerland, is the way future elections will be conducted.

Whether this happens will be seen the next time an election is held.

 

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