Canadian Election: It’s Finally Over

Congratulations, Canada!  You’ve almost made it.  In a couple of hours, one of the doziest elections in our history will be over.  The signs will come down, the pollsters will put away their pencils and the politicians will crawl back into hibernation.  Tonight, Canadian Survivor gets one more 2-hour TV finale (just so we can actually see who gets voted off the public payroll) and that’s it – it’s over.  And, with any luck at all, Canadian politics will irrevocably change.  Thank God! 

As I said in the beginning, Decision 2011 — or whatever journalists are calling it this week — has nothing to do with the people of Canada.  This was a political election, pure and simple:  engineered by our politicians and for the exclusive use of our politicians.  This wasn’t an unnecessary election, per se, it just didn’t have anything to do with us.  Our politicians have been wandering around the banks of the Ottawa River, trying to figure things out, for quite some time.  For years now, nobody on Parliament Hill really knew where they stood in the political spectrum, and they needed to get re-aligned.  They solved the problem in typical Canadian fashion.  They held an election among the three opposition parties and today we’ll find out who won.  In that sense, I suppose, there is some drama, but we’re not getting very much bang for our buck, considering the money we spent.

Here’s what just happened; it gets complicated, so stick with me.  Ever since Stephane Dion got the chop for incompetence in 2008, the Liberals haven’t been quite sure how far left of centre they want their centre-left party to be.  Michael Ignatieff is about as close to a Red Tory as you can get without the name; whereas, Bob Rae and Ujjal Dosanjh both ran genuine socialist horde NDP provincial governments.  There’s so much political schizophrenia going around on Bay Street these days, it’s a wonder the whole party isn’t in therapy.

Meanwhile, in another part of the political forest, the NDP have been creeping to the right.  Jack Layton has introduced Thomas Mulchair, a former provincial Liberal, as deputy leader.  This move overshadowed Libby Davies, who is about to retire anyway and take her brand of left-coast-bad-girl politics with her.  Layton sees an opportunity to move the NDP from wacky wannabes into the sunlight as a reasonable left of centre alternative in Canadian politics.  This is especially feasible since the environment is no longer on the agenda and the Greens, now lost in the wilderness, aren’t chewing on his left wing anymore.  Jack set his laptop on “Find: Replace,” retooled his speeches to read “middle class” (instead of “working class”) called it change (a la Barack Obama) and plunged right into the fray.  Ignatieff, too proud to battle a “fringe” party like the NDP, set his sights on Harper’s Conservatives, blissfully unaware (until it was too late) that, without Quebec and the West, the Liberals have become not much more than an urban “fringe” party themselves.  Two political objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time, so the war was on.

All this would have been a minor skirmish, except Gilles Duceppe, probably the most competent politician of this generation, decided to take the month off.  He showed up briefly during the French language debate to scold Harper and rhetorically slap Jack Layton, but in general, he wasn’t there.  Duceppe is tired and wants to finish off his career back in La Belle Province.  He will get a good chance to govern as leader of the Parti Quebecois, when Charest’s Liberals collapse and he wants to take it.  Besides, he thought that the Bloc had little or nothing to fear until the old Rene Levesque-inspired sovereignistas start to die out in a decade or so.  Anyway, pension secured, Gilles went to bed early most nights and slept late.

And what about the guy who seems to be forgotten in all this hoopla — Stephen Harper?  After his five years in power, even the CBC couldn’t make the perennial favourite “secret agenda” label stick to him.  Harper’s diehard opponents still think he’s the living tool of Satan, however — just waiting for a majority so he can destroy Health Care, evict widows, stomp on kittens and sell us out to his American masters.  (Barack Obama?)   The truth, of course, is Stephen Harper isn’t the bogeyman any more than Joe Clark or Bob Stanfield were before him.  Conservative politics aren’t the manifestation of evil on earth, and most people can’t tell the difference between the day before yesterday and 2004, when Paul Martin was running the show.  Stephen Harper’s Conservative government is steady, and Conservative support might not be majority material, but it is deep and it is solid.  Besides, now that Danny Williams isn’t around to poison the well in the Maritimes, and if Harper can storm Fortress Toronto, he might just get a majority.  Regardless, tomorrow morning he will form the government.

That’s it: six weeks later; no big ideas exchanged; no national vision debated.  We can only hope that the politicians have finally sorted themselves out — because if they haven’t, and there’re any loose ends dangling about, we’ll all be back at it, in a year or two.

Canadian Election: A Family Affair

Last week, the State Legislature of Maine passed a law that made it legal for one-armed people (amputees etc.) to possess and use switchblade knives.  I suspect this is a good law, given the situation, but why under the sun and moon would anybody think about it in the first place?  I’m not even going to go there because it just turns into mean-spirited comedy.  You’ll have to fill in the blanks yourself — in your own head.  However, remember that somebody had to believe the state of Maine needed a law for these special circumstances.  They had to actively convince somebody in the Legislature this was a good deal, and that person, in turn had to convince everybody else.  I don’t know the final vote count, for and against, but obviously the majority of lawmakers in the state of Maine thought the people would be best served by a law governing switchblade knives.

It’s important to note that it takes a lot of time and effort to get a bill passed into law.  It’s not something you do one day after lunch.  The paperwork alone would make an environmentalist weep.  It’s a serious business.

This is where the whole law-making apparatus falls apart.  Those who govern us do not take their occupations seriously.  If they did, it would have been generally agreed, long since, that amputees in Maine — who needed to — could carry switchblades, and everybody would just shut up about it.  Honestly, how many times does it come up, anyway?  This isolated incident demonstrates that there’s a general theatre of the absurd attached to every government in North America.  The politicians we elect do the most ridiculous things — without a murmur of apology.  And then they try their damndest to make us believe it’s all so extremely important.

Just look at this current crop in Canada, trying to convince us that individually one of them is more vote-worthy than the other one.  Please!  Despite what the diehards say, Stephen Harper does not eat babies, Michael Ignatieff isn’t an American buffoon and Jack Layton doesn’t want to give all our money to homeless drug dealers.  They’re just not that evil!  Our politicos aren’t roaring radicals, bent on changing the world, and throughout our history, they never have been.  They’re uniformly bland.  In fact, Canada has actually suffered because our political leaders have always been cut from the same cloth.  As a nation, we don’t go in for revolutionary big ideas.  In the last 150 some odd years, Trudeaumania was the best we could do, and look where that got us.  Canadians like the status quo.  We’re like a Mom and Pop grocery store; nobody goes there for caviar or clutted cream but when you’re in a hurry, and you need a loaf of bread or a litre of milk… well, that’s a different story.

Think of it this way.  Our wannabe leaders are all from the same family.  They’re the children of the Mom and Pop store – kinda like a really, really cold Brady Bunch.  They have every one of the traits and idiosyncrasies that drives us crazy in our own families but we keep in touch — simply because they are family.  If you look at them this way, this unnecessary election makes a whole lot more sense.  Stephen is the oldest brother.  He thinks he’s been slaving away for years, without any recognition.  He’s arrogant and bossy and thinks he knows it all.  He’s been trying to run the show his way for so long he doesn’t think anybody else in the family knows what they’re doing.   Michael is the middle brother who got this cool job out of town.  He hasn’t been around for all the family problems over the years.  He didn’t have to drive Dad to the chiropractor, for example, or go to the funerals, or deal with all the other various problems.  Now, he’s come back home with some high-brow ideas, and he thinks he should have a say in the family business.  Jack is the youngest brother, and nobody takes him seriously.  He’s always been a little bit off the wall.  He gets to do the jerk jobs that don’t matter — like cutting the grass — but when it comes time to make the big decisions, nobody listens to him.  Elizabeth May is everybody’s little sister.  They pat her on the head and say things like “Good idea!” but she’s generally ignored.  At family gatherings, if there’s room, she gets to sit at the adult’s table, but if there isn’t, she has to go sit with the kids.  And Gilles is that somewhere-in-middle brother who wants to change everything around and open up a cafe inside the grocery store.  He doesn’t want to pay any rent — because he’s part of the family — but he wants to keep the profits of his little enterprise all to himself.  The rest of the family wants to keep him happy, but they think his idea is stupid.

Here on Day whatever the hell it is, that’s what this election is all about — one little family arguing with each other — after lunch on Boxing Day or Easter (or whenever.)  Nobody’s really serious, nobody’s going to get hurt and the family business will keep chugging along.

You can decide for yourself: how much of this is silly and how much of it is true?