Thursday, October 22, 2015

After the Election

What time is it? Clock at the Mennonite Heritage Museum
October 19th came and went; the result was almost anti-climactic given the polls. The country did not grind to a halt as it also didn't on Y2K night. Oddly, because the internet now makes it impossible to prevent news from spreading, CBC declared a winner while BC voters were still lining up to vote. Just as oddly, our new government was elected with fewer than 40% of the ballots cast; 60% of us saw our ballots flushed down the toilet—if choosing a party to govern is the only real point of voting.

The Harper government taught us a lesson in improperly-structured democracy: a majority government—having no need for sincere debate because it knows what the final vote will be—easily falls into the trap of dismissing alternative views. The Harper government bullied bills through parliament because they could. Their own backbenchers became little more than bulk; opposition party members little more than irritants. Most Canadians sent a representative to Ottawa who effectively had little or no influence on legislative choices. It's a recipe for cooking up demagoguery.

If we believe that our affable, ethical, likeable new prime minister won't fall into the Harper trap, we obviously don't believe that old maxim: power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. Thank goodness for the independence of the courts and for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that curbed the Harper government's most-reprehensible intentions! In a properly-structured democracy, the senate would be the guardian of country-wide regional interests and the welfare of minorities. But we know how the pork-barreling appointments to that dysfunctional body have—over time—rendered it worse than useless.

Trudeau has promised to do away with first-past-the-post elections. History has taught us that when a party benefits so obviously from the system that brought them to power, their enthusiasm for switching to some form of proportional representation magically disappears; only opposition parties seem to favour the change and if it comes about, it will probably happen when we have a minority government where cooperation, negotiation and compromise are needed for parliament to function.

I hope I have to eat these words in the future; that would be a pleasant surprise. 

But life goes on and ours will continue to be a country that's far from perfect, but almost as good as it gets in a world that's run by human beings. I just hope that this election won't go down in history as the “niqab and nice hair” election; for that I look to Justin Trudeau to be as prime minister what he was as campaigner for election. It was high time that both the tone and direction of our politics took a refreshing new turn and that's basically what Trudeau promised us on the hustings.

What I liked least in Trudeau's (and Mulcair's and Harper's) platforms were their promises regarding what they would do for “the middle class.” Putting aside for the moment the odious implication that we are a society of classes, it's by far the more urgent business of lifting the poor out of their poverty that cries for attention. It's not clear that the people who are not poor and not rich (the “middle class”) are actually in need of special concessions while indigenous communities, single moms, low-income seniors and the working poor are obviously desperate for imaginative help, like NOW.

Although I admit that I found the “get rid of Harper at any cost” mentality undignified and a bit childish, I am glad to see the Harper era end. For all the bluster recently about “values,” I don't think the previous government ever grasped that “Canadian values” and “Conservative Party of Canada values” are not necessarily the same thing.

I think Trudeau gets it. I hope Trudeau gets it.

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