The End of Canadian Democracy

I actually don’t believe that title at all, I just realized that I do a piss-poor job at writing catchy titles that might make people actually click on my long-winded tracts. “Critically Speaking Gets Political“? Yawn. You’d think someone who’s been blogging as long as I have would’ve figured this all out by now, but what can I say? I’m just not edgy enough. (If it helps, read the title in the most sarcastic inner voice you can muster, and that would more accurately reflect my opinion).

Anyway, I’ll continue interrupting the usual raison d’être of this blog of writing reviews of movies that barely anyone reads, because I just can’t stop reading crap about our political mess. I really should stop, it isn’t healthy. But damned if it isn’t entertaining (another unfortunate circumstance of all this political reading? Constantly seeing terms like raison d’être and putsch… which I just had to look up now to find out what it means).

Hail Harper!

Hail Harper!

Speaking of terms I’d never heard until recently (wait, to be clear… I had heard of raison d’être before), prorogation. Apparently, the prime minister can ask the Governor General to put the house on hold. And has. And she said yes. It’s an affront! A dangerous precedent! A… a… meh. Just as it was hard to get worked up about the fiscal update that started this mess, it’s hard to get too worked up about Governor General Michaëlle Jean’s decision to grant Stephen Harper’s request to prorogue. Admittedly, it’s not a great move for the country, as it undermines the intent of the rule to become a stalling tactic for an embattled politician. But at the same time, I’d argue that calling a non-confidence vote seven weeks after an election over a Ways and Means matter isn’t exactly true to the intent of non-confidence either. So if one side can legitimately use Parliamentary rules in a traditionally unusual manner, I suppose the other side can too.

But more than any of that, I’m okay with the prorogation in this particular case simply because everyone could use a break to chill the fuck out. I don’t know why everyone was in such a rush to reshape our government over a fiscal update that happened EIGHT DAYS AGO. A little time to take a step back and see what’s really at stake here seems prudent to me. But what do I know, I’m just a blogger. We’re legendary for our calls for restraint and hatred for snap decisions.

Do you realize that if Harper hadn’t suspended Opposition Day last week, we could already have a new government today (or at least the transition period could have begun?). Does that not strike anyone as… I dunno… abrupt? A finance minister floats out an update (of things to be voted on later, not things to be immediately passed into law) on Thursday, and the government is overturned on Monday. Is that really how things are supposed to work? Before anyone has even had time to do a poll on the electorate, an unprecedented alliance of rivals led by a man who was soundly rejected by his supporters and had effectively resigned his post was to become the leader of the country?

Again, again… I UNDERSTAND HOW PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEMS WORK. I really do, so spare me the civics lesson. But I still fail to see the harm in proceeding with a little bit of caution and due diligence. And like last time, I have to wonder from a political standpoint why the Liberal party would want to rush into something like this without first taking the pulse of the electorate. Sure, they’re within their constitutional rights to form a coalition that has the confidence of the House, but politically it makes sense to make sure they have the confidence of the electorate. Seven weeks ago they got a pretty resounding no, so going into this fight with Stéphane Dion at the helm was just silly. I get that they didn’t have time to go in with someone else in charge, which was why they should have backed down once they got Harper to back down from his partisan fiscal update (which he did almost immediately).

I suppose they just figured the Canadian people would see the ultimate justness of their actions, which I think shows how out of touch the Liberal party has become. I’m not sure why they’d think that a Ways and Means measure most Canadians couldn’t be bothered to follow would have more emotional appeal than the idea that the party who won the election was suddenly not going to be government, but they apparently did. Which speaks a lot to Dion’s failure as a leader: he might be a great Parliamentarian and shaper of law, but he doesn’t understand the politics of perception and how to present ideas effectively to voters. That’s how “Not a Leader” stuck to him much easier than “Basically the Same as Bush” stuck to Harper, because Dion was seemingly disinterested with the presentation side of politics, and was unwilling to cede control to those who could have helped him in that area. Just in case we all forgot that in all this excitement, we were given this…

The content is fine, but the presentation is poor. Very seldom do we get such perfect metaphors in our lives, but Dion served this one up on a platter. Maybe the people whose advice he continually ignored during the campaign did this to fuck with him.

So where did this leave us? I tend to agree with people like Coyne that the coalition will probably die out in the next seven weeks, as enough Liberals look at the polls coming out and decide that this Faustian deal isn’t worth hanging their political futures on (although, to be fair, I tend to agree with people like Coyne). But if it goes the other way and the coalition stays strong and rejects the Conservatives upcoming budget, then I’ll be much happier with the results than I would’ve been if it had all gone down this week. I’d still prefer an election after that, but could live with the coalition (although again, that’s more because I think it’ll be a failure… but at least the fact that it stuck together for a couple months would prove that maybe it could get a few things done).

But enough about all that, let’s talk about me. Specifically, how all this turmoil has affected me. First off, reading all these articles and blogs has not only weakened my faith in both Canadians and the internet in general (always a danger when one wades into the murky water that is message boards), but it took up valuable internet hours usually dedicated to overanalyzing my fantasy football team. DAMN YOU PARLIAMENT!!! A PLAGUE ON BOTH YOUR HOUSES!!!

This is so not what she signed up for

This is so not what she signed up for

More than that, the events of the past week has torn at the delicate fabric that is my political leanings. I’m a bit of an odd creature in that I self-identify as a small el liberal, but have never voted for the federal Liberal party. I’m one of those socially liberal, fiscally conservative folks you hear about from time to time. The problem is that I’m VERY socially liberal, and only partially fiscally conservative (in that I support practically all social liberal policies, but am willing to be taxed and stuff for social welfare… as long as it’s not too much). Were I American, not only would I probably be a registered Democrat, but I probably would’ve been working the phones or something for Barack Obama.

As a result, I’ve voted Conservative in the past two federal elections (although I did not vote Progressive Conservative in the past provincial election). There’s plenty about them that I don’t like, but I reconcile my decision with the knowledge that even a right wing party in Canada fairly left of centre, no matter what attack ads from the other side would have you believe. Stephen Harper is not George W. Bush and the Conservative Party is not the Republican Party. As much talking as the left side has done this week about Canadians who “learned their civics from American television“, it often seems to me that many of them take their understanding of the political spectrum from American television. It’s really not that complicated: the federal Conservative Party of Canada is not as far to the right as the Republican Party because it is not a politically viable position to take in a centre-left country. Any fears I have about a strong right-wing agenda they might have are appeased by the knowledge that the only way the CPC can be successful is if they appeal to the desires of a wide swath of Canadians (in particular, they traditionally have to find ways to appeal to both Alberta and Quebec, not an easy task).

This contrasts significantly with the Liberals, who have gotten by first with support from Ontario and Quebec, then later mostly Ontario (ceding Quebec to the Bloc Québécois), and now seemingly limiting their support base to Southern Ontario. I try to avoid being the typical Albertan who hates all things Central Canadian (we call it “the East”, which belies a stunningly poor grasp of Canadian geography), but I still don’t think it healthy for what should be a federal party to base so many of their policies on one region’s interests, no matter what the population density of that region might be. Honestly, I think in my heart of hearts, I wish I could support a party that calls themselves “Liberal”, so I kinda hate them a bit for making that so fucking difficult. Would it kill them to even pretend that the thoughts and contributions of my part of Canada matter to them?

Cowboy hat? I take it back. The Liberal Party GETS me.

Cowboy hat? I take it back. The Liberal Party GETS me.

What does this have to do with the past week? Well, over the past week of ridiculously partisan banter by each side’s supporters, it’s forced me to take a hard look at all those “liberal media bias” charges that I usually laugh off while watching The Daily Show. While I still think it’s a safe way out for the Sarah Palin’s of the world to decry “gotcha media” tactics as a way of shutting down meaningful criticism, it’s hard to read the blogs at MacLean’s and not buy into the whole liberal media bias thing. Luckily, they still have Andrews Coyne and Potter to bring some balance to the proceedings, but if you were to judge this whole thing based on media coverage, you’d think that the public would’ve been ready to ride Harper out on a rail, but the polls don’t suggest this to be true at all (interestingly, the coverage has gotten a little more balanced after the release of the polls, but that could just as easily be the result of the come down from all the excitement as it is an attempt to realign themselves with the electorate).

But raging against liberal media bias is difficult because a) I am liberal; so I hate to use the term pejoratively, and B) I’m well aware that people tend to seek out opinions that align with their own, so I’m just as susceptible to that as those I’d be raging against. I will say that the reason why I appreciate the posts of Coyne and Potter (along with these recent ones by Paul Wells, Jeffrey Simpson, and, surprisingly, Rick Mercer) is that they aren’t quick to blame one side, but rather are prepared to blame all sides. There’s plenty of blame to pass around on this one, so to pretend otherwise basically invalidates your opinion for me, no matter which side you support.

Which is my biggest frustration with this whole thing: the way people tend to follow politics like it’s sports. Winning is the only thing that matters, your side is the only one that is right, and it doesn’t matter how you get the W, as long as you get it. Reading partisans on each side was like reading Patriots fans trying to justify Bill Belichick taping the Jets signals and running up scores, or any side of the steroid debate. This could be another reason why big el Liberals (or worse, NDPers) tend to annoy me more: I don’t really hang out with Conservatives. Oh sure, I have a lot of friends that vote Conservative, I do live in Alberta after all, but I don’t hear them earnestly rail against the other side using empty rhetoric as often as I do those on the left (to be clear, this isn’t because they’re above that or anything, it’s just that it doesn’t come up as often. But I’ve had to roll my eyes at the occasional anti-Ontario/anti-Quebec rant from time to time as well).

But it hasn’t all been bad. As I’ve said, it’s been plenty fascinating, and obviously it has lit enough of a fire under me to blather on about it in blog form (while that Bolt review just sits there like a neglected puppy… as does my actual puppy). Moreover, it’s given me some new places to visit on the web, from the aforementioned professional writers to a couple of political bloggers that I have to recommend: on the right-wing side is The Prairie Wrangler, while on the left is Calgary Grit. Both have managed to stay fairly level-headed through this whole affair, while making reasoned arguments from their political perspective (note: in this instance, as in all instances, “reasoned” is defined as “things I can agree with”). So feel free to check em out.

As for me, I’m gonna try and take the Crown-mandated seven week break from all this political talk and move on to other important matters, like deciding the best albums of the year and stuff. I’ll try, but I can’t promise that I won’t use this break to spread my message to win the propaganda war.

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One thought on “The End of Canadian Democracy

  1. Pingback: The Buzz » Blog Archive » The End of Canadian Democracy « Critically Speaking

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