Something is being avoided.
Why isn't the opposition making more hay over the scandalous record of the ruling Conservatives on food safety? Taking on food issues should be like looking a gift horse in the mouth.
But for some reasons, they are safely off the electoral menu.
One could almost ask, why bother with the complications of tax policy to reduce global warming when we could eliminate almost one-third of global warming emissions and create jobs, green jobs, with much less fuss through changes in farming and eating?
But you see, few pols actually want to touch that set of hot potatoes right now - and the traditional electoral left isn't inclined to push issues where government is only one part of an equation that includes citizen action and consumer choice.
I got to thinking about this after reading an essay in the September issue of the Literary Review of Canada, Canada's answer to the New York Review of Books.
In an article titled Progressivism's End, David Eaves and Taylor Owen argue that the forces that made for so many progressive developments during the 20th century - think workers' compensation, women's suffrage, free high schools, old age pensions, human rights laws and medicare, for starters - came undone after the 1970s, a decade of rarely examined chaos and tumult.
Conservatives came out of the 70s gate swinging, working up a new set of deregulating and privatizing policies branded as "neo-conservatism."
Progressives have never called for a rematch by updating "neo-progressivism" to respond to the new threat from the right, say Eaves and Owen.
Progressive support for same-old, same-old government programs has since saddled us with a paradox. The left's "older-style advocates, entrenched against innovation and reform, even in the service of progressive values, had unwittingly become the new conservatives."
This is why Canada's NDP, Liberals, Quebec sovereigntists and Greens - together a surefire majority of Canadians - can't figure out a way to add instead of divide, and why Obama gets his clock cleaned in the populist department by a political wacko from Alaska.
To my mind, there's one fundamental way that old-style progressives have missed the ball: they haven't grasped that civil society wants to be empowered by governments as much as they want governments to enact reforms.
Many of the social movements of the 1960s and 70s morphed into public interest groups during the 1980s and 90s. (Weirdly enough, public interest groups in Canada, as in the rest of the world, are called non-governmental organizations, while in the U.S. they're called non-profits, perhaps a reflection of which sector is seen as driving the public interest in different countries.) There's no sign that this trend is letting up, as citizen groups fill every niche of need, much as small businesses and micro-enterprises fill every niche in the marketplace.
Many of the staff and organizations in these organizations know more about their subject and the people they service than government staff. This trend is particularly strong in the fields of food and agriculture.
This increased capacity within civil society, as distinct from the state, is unprecedented, save perhaps for ancient Athens and the Iroquois Confederacy. As well, the Internet gives individuals some of the access to information (i.e. power) that governments once monopolized.
What's ready to be created here is a new architecture of government-citizen relations. In the food sector, for example, this could mean government inspectors posting findings publically while their work orders go through the slowly grinding mill. In other words, government has to intensify its efforts in the business of protecting the public - and can do so by relying on public engagement as a power tool of enforcement.
Think what citizen monitoring groups can do as part of public shaming in the food safety sector. Food, in particular, gives ordinary people opportunities for direct action that few other issues can match. If individuals want to support decent wages and working conditions for food producers in the global South, they just have to buy fair trade, for example; bringing such change about through government regulation is surer and better, but a lot slower to get started.
But the traditional left isn't big on this do-it-yourself public activism, preferring to frame solutions soley in terms of government programs.
On the other side, these kinds of NGOs are a big headache for politicians of all stripes. That's because such groups press for transparency - which always freaks out pols by making them ultra-accountable - as well as raising the issue of government sharing power with interest groups and activist citizens.
This may be the simple reason food can't get no respect in the election feeding frenzy.