Free? But nothing is free!

We’re sorry, I wrote a text on this subject during the last election: free! The fetish word of the election campaign. The candy promise, the favorite promise: “Grrratis my friend!!! »

As five political parties clash in Quebec at the end of the summer, teams of strategists are scratching their heads to get your attention. And no word has so many sex appeal than that of free. Simple, concrete, it affects both the wallet and morale: it’s like a gift.

The 2022 edition of Election Pledges already contains some very original open access pledges. Quebec Liberal Party proposes free ferry services. Québec solidaire has already tabled two such proposals: free access to all contraceptives and free access to national parks.

We are at least three months away from launching this campaign. Let’s say our parties start early with the waltz of promises. The season promises to be fruitful!

First focus. It’s a big lie: nothing comes for free. When a government says it’s free, it’s actually letting all taxpayers foot the bill for a service that few use. It must be highly justified.

Free is expensive

Not only does the service not miraculously become free, but sometimes free is expensive! These suggestions will likely increase the actual bill for services. When it’s free, demand increases and users pay less attention to it. We open the door to waste.

Take the case of contraception. Imagine free condoms. It’s pretty obvious he’s going to waste something. People will drag themselves here and there, they hoard, they forget, they lose. It’s probably already happening, but if you’re paying out of pocket, pay more attention.

Free parks are a great concept. But you risk attracting more people, including people less interested in parks, especially drawn in by the free entry. Then new costs could arise. Overcrowding that requires more staff? An increase in damage to assets leading to additional costs?

The user-pays principle has proven to limit waste. The user pays at least part of the cost, he becomes aware of the value of the service.

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I personally include commitments to release this and that in gadget promises. Simple, clear, easy and enticing. This reflects a certain laziness on the part of political parties. It’s easier to formulate a gimmicky promise than it is to work hard to build a solid program on a dry subject like health.

For those wondering if candy promises work, I must remember that Justin Trudeau was chosen by promising to give money for a holiday. And also free camping!

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