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COLUMN SIX: Whew, over at last

VOICE GRAPHIC

BY COLIN BREZICKI
Special to the VOICE

The election’s done with, thank goodness. I want to stand in a hot shower for ten minutes and wash off the grime. And the scripted replies. Oh dear God, those talking points.

I voted of course. What would otherwise be the point of enduring a campaign like that, for 40 long days and 40 nights? Mind you, while not voting would negate my right to complain, it would also remove my fear of being disappointed.

If God wanted us to vote he’d have given us candidates, said Jay Leno.

I didn’t vote as I did last time. Nor as I did the time before. This was a watershed election for me (and it seems for many). I wanted to change me as well as the government.

It wasn’t just my profound disappointment with the party I helped to elect in 2015. Like many, I soon tired of the righteous flags they presumed to plant on high moral ground not yet scaled. Over time those flags began to droop.

Our electoral reformist soon lost the plot. Our feminist’s double-dealing cost him the two strongest women in his cabinet. The champion of Indigenous rights qualified the conclusions of the very Inquiry he initiated, and then appealed a Human Rights Tribunal’s compensation to victims of the residential school system. The environmentalist’s dithering resulted in his purchase of a pipeline he will likely never use. Finally, the man who promised transparency and government by rule of law twice came afoul of the Ethics Commissioner, most egregiously in his attempts to interfere with the independent workings of the judiciary system and the Attorney General. The worst of it was his refusal to acknowledge that he and his boys in the back room did anything wrong.

Was any of this worse than any other government’s failures? Likely not, but this one promised to be virtuous. After all, it was 2015.

Four years later the high moral ground had calved away like an Arctic iceberg and floated out to sea.

All that other stuff—the posturing, the brown face, the about face, the costumes and the clichés spouted from coast to coast to coast—was more embarrassing than reprehensible.

A committee of political academics maintains that the Liberals kept most of their election promises and the economy is strong even if our deficit is through the roof. I acknowledge that, but the promises on which they built an electorate’s trust were surely broken.

Enter Harper Redux in the form of Andrew Scheer. If the Liberals’ problem is they break their promises, the Conservatives’ problem is they usually don’t. With them we ask: is there a difference between a promise and a threat? On major issues like health care, cuts, and our culture of diversity, it’s hard to tell.

As for their leader’s commitment to ethical government, Scheer’s refusal to answer questions about hiring a private consulting firm to get the dirt on political opponent Maxine Bernier should give serious pause. His transparency claim has already been compromised by his insurance salesman un-qualifications and his dual American citizenship (he once asked what Canadians thought of Michealle Jean’s dual French one, and what would they think if she had a dual American one).

I could still have voted for either of the two parties that have Tweedledummed and ‘deed their way through our election history. But then I took a closer look Jagmeet Singh and the Dems.

Singh emerged in the debates as a genuinely nice guy. While Scheer got a little nasty and Trudeau clung to talking points and continued to deny any scandal, and Elizabeth May brandished the lone plank in her platform (many would argue it’s the only one that matters), Singh came across as benign and mature. His platform might be built in the air (in this election campaign it’s hardly the only one up there) but the man has warmth and a sense of humour. When in debate he was mistakenly addressed as Mr. Scheer for the second time, he smiled, pointed at his turban and said, “What more can I do?” I was reminded of the ugly moment in Montreal when an ignoramus approached him saying he should take a pair of scissors to that thing on his head and start to look more like a Canadian. Singh smiled and replied, “I think Canadians look like all sorts of people. That’s the beauty of Canada.”

But my turning point came when the Liberals resorted to scare tactics. Seeing the sudden surge of the NDP they warned that ‘voting orange would mean blue.’

Strategic voting became the mantra on social media. Voting NDP would take away from the party that considers itself predestined to govern until the crack of doom. It would give the advantage to the party of Edward Scissorhands, who threatens to shear our social services to the bone.

I dislike being told how I should vote. I mean, yes, all parties tell us we should vote for them, but this was like being told off. Politics is bad enough without it getting all political.

When someone tells me I have no option, I invariably look for one. And I found it.

If we don’t change direction soon we’ll end up where we’re going, said a wise man.

Jagmeet Singh will not win the election. This time. If he did, his reaction would likely be, “What do we do now?” (ala Robert Redford’s character in 1972’s, “The Candidate”). At least it would be consistent with his answer to difficult questions about how to integrate prosperity, climate change and energy transitioning. “You have to elect us so we can figure that one out.” And if his feet are firmly planted in the air as far as foreign policy and fiscal responsibility are concerned, he’s hardly alone.

Normally, nice guys finish last. This time he’ll likely finish third, but I think he’ll be a presence and a factor. A check and a balance on what would otherwise be yet another majority government flying off in all directions and taking us with it.

It’s the number of votes, “strategically” cast or otherwise, that elect a government. But this time, echoing the playwright William Inge, I’m hoping it’s the weight of the individual vote that validates the democratic system itself.

Call it the electoral reform we never got.

I respect Jagmeet Singh. He’s not hard to pick out in a crowd, and I like the cut of his jib. I believe after our dashed hopes in the last government the man has good intentions. Yes, we’ve been offered those before, but maybe this guy’s word actually means something.

In the meantime, should we not take a moment to acknowledge our local candidates for their tireless work, pounding the pavements and knocking on doors because they believe they can help make our lives better?

At the end of the day politicians are human beings too, though, as someone remarked, it’s fair to ask what they are during the day. Most spend it working hard on our behalf.

For us, this unpleasant campaign is finally over. For those elected, it’s just begun.

 

 

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