Today’s rant about being sick and tired of hearing about Canadian politics may come as a surprise to people who read my December 2 post, berating my generation for their lack of political participation and poor voter turn-out. I do still sincerely believe that citizens my age have a duty to be informed and involved. But democracy is a two-way street. Politicians who want our support need to give us something to vote for. Stephen Harper, the leader of the Canadian government, and Michael Ignatieff, the leader of the official opposition, are just not doing it for me right now.
I am tired of reading about whether or not Canadians will be subjected to a federal election this year (wasn’t that the question last year, and the year before that, and the year before that?). I am tired of the government being so arrogant (or perhaps so hopeful) as to make the claim, as they often seem to do, that “Canadians don’t want an election.” I am tired of the opposition being so unimaginative and so impotent that the only weapon they seem to want to deploy is the threat of an election, only to withdraw that threat as soon as anyone starts to think they might really be serious.
I am tired of Stephen Harper’s sweaters and musical stylings. I am tired of Michael Ignatieff’s plaid shirts and cross-country burger flipping. Why are they doing this? Why aren’t they running the country? What the heck is going on?
My January 17, 2011 Maclean’s came today, and with it a tidy little opinion piece by columnist Paul Wells entitled “How Stephen Harper Will Survive 2011.” Even before I read the article there was little doubt in my mind that Stephen Harper will survive 2011 just fine, though whether he’ll do anything with the power he’s still managing to cling to, anything that serves Canada more than it serves his party, is another matter. According to Wells, Harper is in a position of “relative strength” and “has a good shot at avoiding an election and, if he cannot avoid it, a good shot at winning it.” Let’s get this straight: Harper doesn’t want to win an election, he wants to avoid one, but if avoiding doesn’t work, it’s okay, he’ll win it. Harper also seems to be a fan of saying that the opposition is a fan of an election. Which seems silly, because if there was an election, Harper would win it, right?
Speaking of confusion, I am not exactly receiving a boat-load of clarity from the opposition either. Iggy’s bus tour and the fact that he’s a really smart guy (albeit a bit of a cold fish in front of the camera) notwithstanding, I don’t know much about what Michael Ignatieff wants to do for my country. He likes to complain about the Conservatives, that’s for sure, but any bozo can complain. I’m complaining right now. Ignatieff’s job is to be more effective than that, and the Liberals’ only claim to fame at the moment is that they do not agree with the government. Except when they do, of course.
Just for fun, here’s a little snippet of Twitter conversation I caught on January 7, 2011 between Paul Wells and Andrew Coyne (also of Maclean’s Magazine):
InklessPW Paul Wells
Interesting, since Libs also for planes & prisons RT @InklessPW “Planes & prisons” vs “families” & other good stuff: Liberal ballot questionacoyne acoyneie They’re still going to buy the planes, and they voted for the crime bills that necessitate more prisons RT @InklessPW
Again I’m confused. Both parties want some new planes? Both parties are on board with laws that would necessitate more prisons? I’ll take Coyne’s word on this one, even if it is just a Twitter conversation, even if Twitter isn’t always a good “source”, since he’s a much more knowledgeable person than I. I know 140-character limits tend to over-simplify issues a bit but it’s the very idea that bothers me. Planes and prisons for both Conservatives and Liberals? Talk about arriving at the party in the same dress and now having to figure out who “wears it better.”
If both the government and its closest rival agree on planes and prisons, and stimulus spending, and all the other big and small issues that the two parties have made gutless compromises on since 2008 (some necessary, some not), all that’s left for each side to do is accessorize that same old dress and try to convince us that the other gal looks trashy.
Which means that instead of being asked to consider which party better represents my values and beliefs regarding war, justice, education, and the economy (not to mention health care and the environment), I am being asked, by BOTH sides, to care about who is more cuddly, who likes “ordinary Canadians” more and terrorists less. To care about whether Iggy is “just visiting” or whether he’s here to stay, to care about whether Harper has something sinister up his sleeve or whether he’s doing what he truly believes is best for Canada. In short, I’m being asked to care about “politics”.
I don’t mean, “caring about politics” in terms of being informed, and of voting for the MP you think will best address your concerns. The “politics” I’m being asked to care about is mostly spin, hype, polls (whose conclusions my beliefs are never on the winning side of), a coalition of “Socialists” and “Separatists” that never really happened (and likely never will), and an election that isn’t happening yet, but that we don’t know for sure isn’t going to happen. This is the kind of crap that always seems to float to the top of the murky federal politics pool. I suppose I could stick my head in there and try to see if I can find any useful information but it’s not an appealing prospect.
This constant stream of exaggeration, hyperbole, and trivial detail seems to come from both sides. And it belittles me as a citizen. It makes me feel as though my part of the political process is about being led to the ballot box by half-truths and handshakes. It makes me feel as though nobody in Parliament thinks we’re smart enough to think about the actual issues that affect our lives and to vote that way. The fact that I haven’t seen either side touch health care with a ten-foot pole recently even though, at some point, we’re really going to have to, is not inspiring. It seems that while both sides certainly believe they have the right to govern, they don’t really have the guts to, and, to add insult to injury, they don’t think we’ll notice.
For goodness sakes, enough already. Conservatives, Liberals, just stop it. That new, nasty, media-sexy, but actually totally irrelevant barb you’re ready to let fly at the other party? That photo of you cuddling a cute kitten/baby/constituent you’re waiting to release? Just don’t. I don’t care. Go to your rooms. Think about what you’ve done. Think about what you’re going to do. I don’t want to hear a single word from either of you until you have something constructive to say.