Political Pillow Fight
What’s remarkable about this Canadian federal election is its utter banality. The three major parties are virtually deadlocked, yet the strongest thunderbolt so far has been about Boy King Trudeau’s hair. While the Americans (both left and right) are ripping themselves apart in polarity conflict and the British Labour Party has elected Trotsky in a tweed suit, Canada’s leaders are waging a pillow fight. With very comfy pillows.
Politesse remains a Canadian virtue. And there is much to recommend the muted blows that constitute the campaign so far. Many Canadians still recoil at the corrosive Tory ads that have fricasseed the hapless Trudeau for months. Meanwhile the petulant jibes of the Toronto/ Ottawa media silos over Stephen Harper’s lack of je ne sais pas are painfully civilized in their virulence.
If the campaign has had a moment where blood pressure crested, even briefly, it was in the visceral reaction to the drowned Syrian boy. The heartbreaking photo provoked an authentically Canadian dismay and a completely disproportionate response to the gravity of his desperate personal quest. Even flinty Post columnist Christie Blatchford was advocating open borders to assuage first-world guilt over the Syrian mess.
Still, that media blip seems to have largely subsided into bickering about Trudeau walking backwards on escalators, Mulcair’s extended family or earnest types saying “Harper’s far from perfect, but have seen the other guys?”
This election could easily be dropped into the 1970s. Pierre Trudeau, Joe Clark and Ed Broadbentdid these talking points— better— 40 years ago. They didn’t filibuster over each other, as the leaders did last Thursday, for instance. The Back To The Future debate— provided you could find it on CPAC— dwelt on corporate welfare, deficit financing and how to make government even bigger.
While the U.S. election is existential about government, nowhere Thursday was there the remotest suggestion that using government to boost your economy is like swallowing a tapeworm to aid digestion. From Mulcair and Trudeau you expect the public sector pep rally. But Harper cooed about abilities no government has ever shown to be efficient and empathetic.
The belief in the government tooth fairy was universal and reflects the Ottawa bubble where these men live. The Syrian crisis my have obscured the seismic crack driven in the economy by the oil fiasco, but the trio (abetted by their fatuous interviewer) acted as if the money spigot was still flowing.
It’s not that the water is calm beneath this surface; both sides face breakaway factions. The Liberals and NDP have waltzed around the subject of merging their forces to capture a majority from the dread Harper. But until the polling is clear on the wall, they’re acting coy. Meanwhile, Harper’s coalition of former Tories and Reform types is showing signs of coming unglued again as he talks like Reagan but governs like Chretien.
Thank God for the eco-loonies or this election might be a total snore. While the politicians were No-Dozing the public, a platoon of the beautiful people pitching their tent at TIFF (the Toronto International Film Festival) produced a vanity project entitled The Leap Manifesto. Drawing widely from the worlds of the arts and… the arts, it purported to strike a blow for Luddite liberalism.
Borrowing from Mao’s Great Leap Forward (estimated deaths: 45 million), eminent social engineers such as Naomi Klein, Leonard Cohen, Ellen Page, Yann Martel, Donald Sutherland and Neil Young (just when did Neil lose it?) are proposing the end of fossil fuels, a return to agrarian values, town hall meetings, no bogarting joints… zzzz.
Sorry, fell asleep and dreamed I was groovin' the ‘60s again, dude. Great stuff if you could vote UK Labour. Anyhow, for outright hilarity, the 14th century crowd have almost redeemed this election by going back seven centuries, not 40 years.
But not quite. Unless the Ghostly Trio of Harper, Mulcair and Trudeau are returned from 1970s campaigning, this result will be the unwilling led by the uninspiring.
Bruce Dowbiggin #notthepublicbroadcaster @dowbboy