Thursday, April 23, 2015

Truth or Truthiness - take your pick.

2 / 35,344,962 Canadians live here . . . for now.
In an article posted on the CBC website today, Don Pittis applies the Stephen Colbert definition of truthiness to the budget and the opening salvos of the 2015 election campaign. Truthiness is defined by Colbert as “something expressed as a truth because it is a feeling from the heart without evidence or logic.” Something like, I guess, repeated statements that “this budget is balanced,” even though no family or business, for instance, would make such a claim if selling off assets and raiding the savings account had to be included as revenue in the calculations.

“There is nothing new in the accusation that politicians are economical with the truth. In fact, in a system like Canada's, where caucus solidarity is so strongly enforced, the ability to lie with a straight face is essential for survival. That's because no matter what your true feelings are on any issue, you must always speak and act as if the party line is actually your own.”

We're going to hear a lot of truthiness in the next six months and many Canadians, I expect, will jump on one or the other truthiness bandwagons simply because they either don't have or can't process the facts. In politics, that includes believing in a party enough to vote for them on the basis of a slogan like “We're better off with Harper.” It's true that certain parts of the population will have more money to spend as a result of recent tax reductions, senior-care concessions and income splitting coming on top of the reduction of the GST earlier on. (Except for the GST reduction to 5%, none of these initiatives benefit me.)
The truthiness in all this is that reducing the size of government services is good for us, never mind that it selectively benefits only parts of the population, allowing them to eat a bit higher on the hog. The truth is that you can't decimate your revenue base without cutting into the services these revenues previously provided.
Fact-seekers will take a close look at where expenditures are being redistributed to make tax reductions possible. They'll note, for example, that funding to CoSA crime-prevention programs is being eliminated while expenditures for incarceration capacity is increasing. Others will simply continue to insist that “we're better off with Harper,” or Trudeau, or Mulcaire.
The truth behind the Conservative Party of Canada rests on an ideology, an ideology that's as old as the Old West in America: call it individualism to oversimplify shamelessly. The NDP platform, similarly, will reflect a worldview, an ideology, that is different from that of the CPC: collectivism, loosely described. One sees individual initiative as the key to a better world, the other sees us struggling together to achieve common goals. Somewhere between their truth and their truthiness, the Liberals tend to cut their policies to fit the occasion. That practice, too, expresses an ideology, or at least a political approach.
And what of us who will cast our ballots? If we don't have or don't comprehend the facts, how do we decide where to put the X? Most Canadians decided years, even generations, ago. Loyalties to a political party are probably as strong as our commitments to our various religious denominations used to be. We easily swallow the truthiness of that with which we have long associated ourselves. 

Voting is not so much an exercise in sober calculation for most Canadians as it is a contribution to a hope that “our team wins.” And “our team” is that brand with which we've come to feel at home.
Elections are decided by that minority of Canadians who happen to have no such long-standing loyalty—swing voters, that is.
A final point: The Mike Duffy trial is demonstrating again that there are flaws in the way our democracy works and doesn't work. Our inability to reform it to make it better is surely a demonstration of the entrenched value the flaws provide to the partisan system we've inherited. As long as the traditional governing parties benefit politically from the whole population being screwed by the system, there's no likelihood for change toward proportional representation, senate reform or the partisan way even parliamentary working committees function.

No comments:

Post a Comment