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June 16, 2004 — 5 PM

So, There’s An Election, Eh?

Major political parties are a little bit like genres of music: each may have its merits, and nearly all want to Mean Something Important, dedicated as they are to one or another portion of society. They are also subject to the influence of money and large corporations, and often those interests come ahead of the supposed audience.

In fact, when you start to listen closely to the songs in each genre, you find the majority of the singers are peddling empty lyrics over repetitive melodies, backed up by soulless rhythms. And when there is an original idea, it will always be ripped off and exploited by someone else.

Until now, I’ve avoided comment on the federal election here in the Great White North. The fact is, I tried to watch the leaders’ debate last night, but it merely confirmed for me what I think most Canadians already know: there is no major political party leader in this country who seems worthy of the office of prime minister.

My my, how the emperor’s clothes have quickly fallen off Our Man Paul Martin. Surely nobody would have predicted how his reign would come so perilously close to echoing Kim Campbell’s. Remember her? No? Our first female PM — she lasted about five minutes once we were done flogging her party for the evils of her predecessor, Brian Mulroney. Martin has been in charge for six months and all he’s managed to do is take what once seemed like a sure thing — Another Liberal Majority™ — and crumple it up and toss it on the summer barbecue.

I don’t really think Martin is incompetent, but his “Team Martin” handlers sure must be. Martin has done just about everything wrong so far, the primary crime being to forget to mention anything the Liberals have actually accomplished over the last ten years. Political analysts seem to chalk this up to an overzealous attempt to erase any mark of the Chrétien era, but it’s obviously a stupid strategy when Chrétien so handily won three elections in a row. Martin’s performance in the debate last night was also pretty sorry. He was great at seeming flustered and frustrated when he wasn’t speaking, and when he did speak, which was often, he could only spout platitudes. I can’t say I’m sorry though, because I’ve been hoping the Liberals would get booted out roughly since halfway through their first term in the mid-1990s.

Stephen Harper, leader of the Conservatives, seemed calm and composed by comparison, almost gentlemanly really, but I don’t support most of his party’s policies since they seem like a disturbing echo of various conservative provincial governments (Mike Harris, Gordon Campbell): cut taxes to benefit the middle and upper-class, and spend lots and lots, only not on social programs to help people that might actually need it. Oh, and state-sponsored culture? Who needs it? Business obviously knows what good art is, that’s why every important museum in the world is owned by Walmart.

Canadians, eager to toss out the Liberals, may very well elect a Conservative government whose policies I believe would conflict awkwardly with the majority in the country — particularly in Southern Ontario, and especially in Quebec, which these days is the least conservative place in the country. Furthermore, if the polls are to be believed, Canadians will elect the Conservatives not because they agree with their ideas, but merely because they aren’t Liberals.

Ordinarily I’d say that stinks, and why are Canadians so afraid of choosing a different path, and voting for, say, the NDP, but then NDP leader Jack Layton seemed to do everything he could during the debate last night to push away anyone not already firmly committed to the party. He hectored and he rambled, and obsessed far too long about an issue (weapons in space) that is really of low, low priority with your average domestically-concerned voter. But most of all, Layton just seemed like someone who has neither the poise nor charm to be a country’s leader.

Last night’s debate was the first time that Gilles Duceppe, leader of the separatist Bloc Quebecois, seemed like the most elegant and well-informed of any Canadian political leader. Since he has only a basic command of the English language, is running no candidates outside of Quebec, and therefore cannot possibly hope to ever be prime minister (not of Canada anyway), take from that what you will.

Fact is, I’m seriously considering voting Green for this election, if only to give them my $1.75 for the next election. How’s that? Well, according to legislation passed last year, political party campaigns in Canada will now be financed by the taxpayers, and each vote a party receives in this election — regardless of how many seats they win — will boost their pot of financing for the next election.

Since we’re looking at a probable minority government, that next election could be sooner than you think. Perhaps it’s time to re-think your vote. Voting Conservative to spite the Liberals is a poor recipe to improve your country. Voting Liberal because the Conservatives scare you is also foolish: the parties aren’t that different for one, but more importantly, the Liberal status quo has taken us nowhere over ten years. I’d support voting for the NDP, and in fact have voted for them in the past, but in so many ways, they are an embarrassing party, promising everything to every would-be socialist and armchair activist while knowing, or at least believing, that they will never have power and so will never have to pay for it.

I’m deadly curious to know what other people who think about these things are planning to do in this election. Those other people, if they are Francophone and live in Quebec, will seemingly vote for a separatist party despite knowing they will never be in power, nor be able to achieve sovereignty in a federal parliament. In what should be an alarming thought, though, that party will also very likely have the balance of power in any minority situation. Maybe Quebeckers know exactly what they’re doing. I don’t feel like the rest of Canadians, or any of the other parties, know in the slightest.


After watching the debate, I actually think I’d like to move to Quebec for a separation from the rest of Canada. I was quite impressed by Gilles Duceppe’s performance over the course of the debate. Jack Layton, on the other hand, was far too much like a salesman, constantly looking into the camera, smiling, and being so faux-positive it made me sick to my stomach. Paul Martin was far too repetitive about shortening wait times and improving healthcare (perhaps he should be talking with his western provincial buddy-buddy, Gordon Campbell). Stephen Harper, sadly held himself very well, and came off very calm and cool. Too bad his policies are backwards. Sigh…

Patrick | Jun. 17, 2004 — 2 PM

Previously: Biggetime

Subsequently: The Scare Vote

June 2004
the Archives