Awakening this morning to find that the disrespectful cut-and-thrust that is now Federal Politics in this fair land has now descended into legal action has brought me up short. I understand that there are times in life — even in political life — when libel and/or slander must be met. By this, I do not say that this is one of those times, simply that I recognise the occasional necessity. But still, this morning, I am actually queasy as I think about how low we have sunk as a nation.
Whether Chuck Cadman, MP, was offered an inducement in exchange for his vote is not really the issue here any more. These last five days have been about nothing more than trying to throw mud, to obfuscate, to ruin reputations, and — by so doing — to gain some temporary advantage in the polls that could, in turn, lead to a non-confidence vote and perchance a change of government via the subsequent election. It is the very stridency, the bellicosity and the unending din and roar of it all that makes me see it that way. Right from the beginning this has been about drawing up battle lines, seeing how many influencers could be drawn into the camp and how much anyone who disagrees will be maligned for their personal failing in not joining in on the side of the
angelsdevilsangelsdevilsangelscamp, regardless of which camp that be.
No wonder the much-talked-about and generally-ignored Average or Ordinary Canadian just wants politics to go away. All of this behaviour — endless continuing references to Adscam, Sponsorship and Gomery, “let’s attack Mulroney one more time”, now the Cadman debate — is childish in the extreme, unproductive, lacking in care and concern for the country, disrespectful to the tradition of responsible government and to the institution of Queen-in-Parliament, and reminiscent of the sort of taunting best left in schoolyards (and supposedly no longer allowed there with all the rules about “bullying” students have imposed on them today).
It’s why, for instance, there is no sign on my lawn during this by-election in my riding, no money has been given to any campaign, and I am really starting to wrestle with the question of whether I’ll even bother to go to the polls on March 17th, because, frankly, at the moment, a pox on all your houses is looking more and more to be the right answer for Vancouver-Quadra and the nation — and none of this nonsense going on in Ottawa is even a part of a local campaign (yet). Still, the desire to get out the old black brush and the tar and do a little “guilt by association” is flaring high this morning.
“What if they gave an election and nobody came?” is precisely where our political class is taking us. Falling numbers of active voters, in turn, make freakish results much more likely. So, too, the likelihood of further impasses, both between the parties, and within the subsequent leadership campaigns that each will face at some point (probably for most sooner rather than later). The Liberal Party, after all, got their Joe Clark in Stéphane Dion, slipping up through deadlocked front-runners to become “the leader least likely to have been selected, but was”. (Not unlike Bob Rae becoming Premier of Ontario back in 1990, actually.) This will become more and more the norm: grandees in gridlock and someone no one can really rally behind making it through as the “least hated alternative”, just as the country will continue to be divided with each party strong in a region and weak everywhere else, so that no majority emerges time and again.
I’m sure it’s all very emotional and involving to those on the inside. It certainly keeps columnists and pundits fed with material to write about, speak on — and more than enough to keep talk lines buzzing. Very good for ratings, all of that, but frankly the nation tired of this nonsense a long time ago, and I think we will see, more and more, that each outburst of Eau de Scandale or Arôme d’Indignation will lead to a general debasement of all parties’ standings and all leaders’ satisfaction levels. Only the one who calls a halt to this despicable game can expect to see his or her rankings rise.
Of course, for those for whom partisanship is a way of life — as opposed to fidelity to our traditions — all of this will fall on deaf ears. Some may even say “oh, look, his side is weak, so he wants us to down our weapons”. Wrong. On this I take no “side”, other than the one I have put forward today. Sit down, shut up, and hang your head in shame — and I care not whom you support. I am tired of the lot of you failures not governing, not being governments-in-waiting, and not sticking to matters that matter.
As for all those who have blogged this morning about how their parties should keep hammering away, and go for that election call: be careful what you wish for. I can assure you that here sits one citizen who, were that to happen and were the Harper Government to be re-elected, would be mightily angry if you kept this yammering up after having “gone to the people”. (But then, I would be equally angry at that government if it didn’t stand down and stop running a permanent pre-election campaign.)
I’m (to quote the character of Peter Finch in Network) “mad as hell and not going to take it any more”. Somehow I think we are the real majority in Canada these days.