The Canadian Imagination

What it means to be Canadian; examining and reworking Canada as a nation.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Catching a breath

The Romanians have just finished holding an election. The two leading parties of this country of 22 million people, with 19 ethnic minorities, finished in virtually a dead heat. The very first message that came out of this result was, "We can work together."

In a time when political science students are eager to watch Canada's own real-life application of theory so close to their exams, the governor-general has prorogued Parliament, and the country breathes a collective gasp of ... catching a breath.

Don't call it relief, not yet.

Under the guise of unity, Stephen Harper and his Conservatives are spreading some of the most divisive messages ever seen in Canada. What can possibly be more divisive, more outright discriminatory, than to question which Canadians are "real" Canadians?

Jack Layton's rhetoric has not been far behind. It falls into second place only because it is directed almost entirely at an individual, not an entire culture. Of course, what Layton has utterly forgotten (or chooses not to remember) is that strong leaders valued for their strength in leadership are only strengthened further by personal attack.

Even with an apparently signed and sealed coalition, the Liberals continue to undermine their own leader to the point that the subtle sabotage has now resulted in a public videotape fiasco. (Michael Ignatieff, I am looking squarely at you and your people.) In a world where appearance is everything, equipment failure on a second-rate camera resulted in a grainy image focused on the bookshelves behind St├ęphane Dion rather than on the leader himself: and who besides me (whose eyes are less than high resolution anyway) pays any attention to the message when the medium fails? At least three other separate "glitches" resulted in confusion about just where to deliver the disc containing the taped address (more time lost), and it was only then discovered that there was not a separate English disc and a French disc? This ought not to be shoved onto Dion's shoulders. Adequate staff -- or staff willing to work competently for Dion -- were only too obviously not made available to Dion and those still trying to work for Dion. This is the mark of a party getting behind a leader -- and pushing.

The people have voted for an alliance of parties -- if not any particular type of parties, then by preference one where the Conservatives could vote with a rotating party; and if not that, then any alliance which represents a majority of the seats. Outside an alliance in which the Conservatives play a part, the only possible alliance is one which includes all three of the other parties together. Any of these results would be democracy in action. So would a return to the polls ... if such a return could reasonably be expected to return any result other than what we have already seen, twice. Beyond that, it is unconscionable waste of government money in a time when such waste comes close to being a sin: but this does not imply that the opposition ought in consequence to roll over and approve everything that crosses the table.

And if the coalition does manage to survive until January, let alone take over power, they had better manage to stay together for a full 18 months ... or else they will discover the full meaning of the word "backlash".


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