“An election if necessary, but not necessarily an election” seems to be off the table. St-Stéphane, le Dauphin Dion, has apparently reached a decision: Liberal MPs are to spend the summer communicating new Liberal policies (to be revealed shortly) to the electorate and then the fall session will “be allowed to begin”.
It is not my place today to throw wood and camp stove fuel, along with a lighted match, on the fire of controversy about the various Conservative bills and Liberal Puffery placed against them that occasionally manages to leak out around the edges of the drool and theatre surrounding Liberal indignation over “In-and-Out” and the rebuttals thereunto that pass for the nation’s business these days. Talk radio, at least here in Vancouver, is ignoring the whole sordid mess of Ottawa: none of it matters. This echoes what I was highlighting last month during the lead-up to the Vancouver-Quadra by-election: the irrelevance of the whole Ottawa thrust and counter-thrust. My guess (and, to be fair, my hope) is that when Stéphane’s Liberal MPs — the underwhelming Don Bell in North Vancouver, the indescribable Dr. Hedy Fry in Vancouver-Centre, the party-switching Ujjal Dosanjh in Vancouver-South, the lunch-bag-let-down Joyce Murray in Vancouver-Quadra, the seldom-seen Raymond Chan in Richmond and the generally-forgettable Sukh Dhaliwal in Newton-North Delta — come to hit the hustings in what on all the available history and evidence ought to be fertile ground for their party they discover that not one — not a single one — of the “policy issues” they want to talk about get any traction, or, indeed, any interest, other than the local party ground troops from the EDAs there to clap on command.
I’m not being hard, by the way, on the Liberals — the NDP MPs and the Conservative MPs are just as likely to meet quiet indifference to their presence in their ridings, and to require equal levels of support from their EDA members out to make it look good — because, frankly, if the Lower Mainland of BC is anything to go by there’s little going on in Ottawa that’s seen as mattering to people here, and even less that anyone here can do to influence what goes on in Ottawa. (Do you suppose there’s a correlation between BC’s “worst compliance record in Canada” with the Canada Revenue Agency and that sense that that happens over the mountains, across the Prairies, and through the endless lakes and forests that lie between here and the Nation’s Capital really happens on another planet?)
The Liberals, for instance, are likely to be here selling Dion’s much-anticipated Carbon Tax. BC residents, of course, will — oh, frabjous joy for Dominion Day! — be paying the BC Liberal Government’s carbon tax come July. Of course, in the grand scheme of things, 2.4¢/litre doesn’t sound like much, and as a percentage of the typical current pump price for 87 octane of $1.31.7/litre perhaps it’s not. But it’s the principle: Excise Tax, Deficit Reduction Tax (for a deficit long gone), GST & GST on the taxes!, Translink Tax … the list is long and here’s another one. The hub of cross-border shopping in Canada is across the Peace Arch/Douglas Point crossing, followed very shortly by a stop at a Washington State filling station, where, at US$3.60/US gallon, the price is still only 96.4/litre in Canadian funds. Selling yet another tax won’t be easy. Selling reversal of the GST cut — every trip to Bellingham is 2% cheaper now when you declare your purchases on a day trip — won’t go far, either.
The Liberals will be pitching their wares against the latest Statistics Canada data, which shows that BC has benefitted the least — wages up a paltry 0.7% over 2001-2006 (and how much is the cost of living up?) with increased bifurcation of the incomes of British Columbians out of the middle class and into the small but increasing-like-mad incomes of the “rich” and the growing numbers of the poor. They’ll be selling against a party with the same name, and many of the same well-known “names” involved, that gave the Premier a 54% pay increase, Cabinet Ministers a 39% increase, established independent “Boards” for BC Ferries and Translink that voted themselves massive (40-60%) increases while raising fares, and which has recently funded playground equipment at well-heeled private schools like St. George’s without a penny going to any school on the East Side of Vancouver, all because St. George’s could write the matching funds cheque and despite all the hard work of the parents and community around the East Side schools they couldn’t raise the sums required in the time available. Blatant mis-steps like these await the Liberal MPs.
It’s not even a matter of being tarred with the same brush because of the similarity of name: it’s that they’re coming back with a “Government Knows Best” approach when a spring of similar arrogance has been laid down by the Province. We get to deal with our MLAs next spring; we get to deal with these MPs now. Expect — just as in talk radio — the average citizen not to give any care as to which level of government did, or proposes, what: you’re here, I’m ticked, you must be responsible.
That lack of knowledge of where and whom to actually target, of course, is yet another indication of the disconnect involved. (The inevitable “that’s not us, that’s them” en riposte, of course, solidifies the inclination to ignore the lot of them.)
As with Chicken Little (or Professeur Puffin) the running about shouting le ciel tombe day after day has now led to the point where tune-out is complete. Vote, don’t vote; topple, don’t topple; threaten, don’t threaten; it’s all just noise now. If Ontarians, for instance, have expressed more favour for the Liberals since In-and-Out that can just as much be because Ontario’s Provincial Government is Liberal, and fighting Ottawa’s Conservatives as it might be for In-and-Out. In other places the shift is not happening, or not profound: evidence of disregard or a belief that, yes, they all do it.
What this means is that when the next election does finally come it will be fought, not on accusations of sleaze (much though a Kinsella-inspired Liberal War Room might salivate at the thought) but on policy. Chatter about global warming has died down and mostly gone away, in the face of tougher economic times (jumping food and fuel prices, slowing pay, increasing taxes and fees, fewer opportunities, knowing people who are now laid off) and a winter spent literally chattering as La Niña worked its oscillatory magic on our weather. No doubt the warming goes on, but it is not the issue it was. Feeding the family, dealing with the member in distress, wondering how to close the gap between income and every two-bit oligolopolist and agency head who thinks they’re the only one shovelling a double-digit increase at you: that’s what matters.
A bevy of MPs who have spent this year sitting on their hands or ducking for cover when the division occurs — we might call it a sit-in, except the last place they wanted to sit was in the House — will come to face a population likewise on sit-down strike. Or most of them at any rate: there will be those who shift their agitation (such as with immigrant community leaders) from the Conservatives for “changing the rules” to the Liberals for “not stopping this” (as has been threatened). For the rest of us, though, we’ll get to yell at any politician who shows their face.
It shall all be a fire storm of sound and fury — signifying nothing.