Essential as election campaigns are, I’m not a fan. They always seem to bring out the worst in us: too much lazy punditry on the latest polls, too many analysts droning on and on as masters of the bleeding obvious, and leadership tours reduced to little more than orchestrated photo-ops and tightly controlled rallies. When was the last time anyone did some real reporting from the campaign trail? I’m not blaming the journalists. Everything is so packaged nowadays, what is there to report? Comment on the electoral horse race, focus on the occasional gaffe or two and that’s about it.
Meanwhile, partisanship and emotions run high, leaving little room for anything approaching illuminating debate. Not to mention the wealth of misleading attack ads and nastiness on the hustings, this time, mostly from the party of you know who. Is this what democracy has become? An appeal to the lowest common denominator? Demonizing your opponent as if he or she were running to deliberately ruin and bankrupt Canada, just because they have different views than you do? I’m so old I can remember when politics was a relatively honourable pursuit.
This dispiriting campaign is the worst in memory. Although the three major parties have platforms sufficiently varied to give voters a decent range of options, manipulation of the democratic process and the relentless, divisive drive of the Conservatives to nudge their support up to the 39 or so per cent that produced a majority last time is enough to drive one to pee in a cup….or call up Rob Ford….or both…. It is to despair.
Thank goodness for that seventh inning and José Bautista!
Just to further jolly myself, herewith my Top Ten list of deliberate electoral shenanigans by the Conservatives that, taken together, illustrate just how much this country needs a breath of fresh air on Monday. Cast a happy vote!
(This just in: none of it worked……hehe)
- The three-month campaign. Shades of Bob Dylan’s never-ending tour, this is by far the longest, most expensive campaign in Canada’s modern political history. It’s a marathon no one wanted but the Conservatives. It was a calculated decision they believed would be to their advantage: more total money to spend, lots of time to overcome any gaffes or bumps on the road (Duffy, anyone?), and difficult for the opposition parties to maintain momentum. Plus, perhaps reducing the turnout by boring people to death. As for me, I’d rather be on Pluto, where campaigns last only three weeks.
- As Joel Gray sang in Cabaret: “Money makes ze world go round.” Not only do the Tories have a political war chest absolutely stuffed with cash, they took advantage of being in power by spending oodles of taxpayers’ money to flood us with pro-government ads in the months leading up to the campaign.
- Dividing Canadians. As we have learned over the years, Stephen Harper could care less about the 60 per cent of Canadians opposed to the direction he is taking the country. As long as the anti-Harper vote is split between the NDP and the Liberals, he can claim victory with less than 40% of the popular vote. He’s not the first political leader to exploit that, of course, but it’s never good for the country. We are better together, than divided.
- Never has a major political party been less willing to debate the issues. First, the Conservatives kiboshed the heavily-watched, English-language TV debates that have long been part of the political process. (Harper did debate on Radio-Canada — twice!– but that was in Quebec, where les Conservateurs had nowhere to go but up.) And at the same time, Tory candidates across the land have been missing in action at most all-candidate meetings. Sure, these grassroots gatherings rarely change anyone’s views, and they can sometimes turn into partisan gong shows but they are part of the process. Turning one’s back on the public in this small way shows contempt for democracy.
- There has rarely, if ever, been a government so obsessed with controlling its message. This has carried on into the campaign, where all reporters have experienced difficulty getting access to the Prime Minister for even a brief question, along with the inevitable, brusque control of political events by security.
- Yes, the date of the talks were set, but did the Conservatives, representing Canada, even consider asking them to be postponed for a month or so? Maybe a naive suggestion, but negotiating a major trade deal, with profound implications for the country, in the midst of an election campaign that, conceivably, you might lose, verges on the surreal. All behind closed doors, all without involving the Canadian people, and still without disclosure of more than a few meagre details. The rest is silence. How are voters supposed to make a decision on the merits or otherwise of Trans-Pacific Partnership, the largest free trade deal ever negotiated?
- Like Republicans to the south of us, the Conservatives seem to believe it’s better for their chances to make voting a bit more onerous. Hence, extra ID requirements for some, and unprecedented legislative proposals to restrict the independence of Elections Canada Some of this was withdrawn after a huge public outcry. But it showed where their hearts lay: the weaker Elections Canada and the lower the turnout, the better for the Conservatives, since a greater percentage of their supporters vote than all those young people. In the meantime, past budget cuts have surely contributed to the many well-pulicized, voter list fiascos and the schmozzola at many advance polling stations. It all smacks of a two-bit democracy.
- The politics of fear and division. Ethnic Chinese and Punjabi voters have been targeted with specific ads in Chinese and Punjabi, making absurd claims that Justin Trudeau supports making pot accessible to kids and setting up neighbourhood brothels? Why are they the only groups targeted? Then, there are those election pamphlets suggesting ISIS would be attacking people in their bedrooms, if the Conservatives were not bombing ISIS. Tory candidate Dianne Watts, once a sensible mayor of Surrey, originally distanced herself from the messaging. She told reporters she had her own style. A day later, presumably after receiving a phone call from election headquarters, she embraced the fear-mongering.
- A blanketing of the airwaves with attack ads on Justin Trudeau’s economic policies during the campaign’s final few days that are even more misleading than usual. Observed Globe and Mail economics reporter David Parkinson: “They paint pictures of their opponents’ economic platforms that are about as close to reality as a Dali canvas.“
- The niqab. Hammering away on such an inflammatory topic in the heat of an election campaign to win votes is reprehensible. This issue brought me down more than any other. Speaking of José Batista, also thank whoever’s up there for Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi. He says it beautifully. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/divided-canada-stands-to-lose-what-makes-it-great/article26848363/
(Cartoon by Steve Nease)