BY: James Di Fiore
Canadians have often defined themselves through one main pillar of pride; we are not Americans. Some say it stems from an inferiority complex, others simply say it is due to our unfettered sense of civility. In either case, we have often conducted ourselves with an understanding that our politeness and reason would see us through.
Sadly, the days of the polite Canuck are over, thanks to a new divisive attitude fostered by Canadian politics, enabled by social media and abetted by polling companies desperate to remain relevant.
There was a time when most non-conservatives in Canada agreed that the domestic, wacky, political partisans belonged almost exclusively to the far right. The now defunct Sun News Network cemented this idea, and even gave birth to the notion that Canada was only sparsely populated with intellectual lightweights, glaring hypocrites and hotheads who used ban puns laced with spittle when lashing out at the country’s commies and hippies. If a nutty, right wing network can’t survive here, then surely we are still a country of mostly levelheaded sweethearts, right?
This election has unearthed a horrible reality in Canada; Liberal and NDP partisans who are just as unreasonable and rigid as their conservative counterparts. This reality is especially glaring if you participate in social media, where a political cesspool of halfwits, pom pom wavers and disinformation agents pollute computer screens from St. Anthony to Victoria, adding a sheen of shit onto an already nauseating campaign. Stephen Harper, Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau: all of them, according to their following of amateur pundits, can walk on water, ride unicorns, and have never, ever farted. They’ve also, according to their armies of loyalists, have never shown bad judgment. Not once. Ever.
To the apolitical, the apathetic or the average Canadian voter, this new reality is doing a horrible disservice. Supporters frame obvious gaffes as oppositional propaganda out of blind loyalty, setting the stage for an eventual prime minister who will have a chunk of the electorate that never calls truth to power.
Think of the last nine years as the dry run where conservative loyalists turned a blind eye to scandal after scandal, insuring that at least one third of the nation acted as the enabler for an out-of-control government. This unfortunate landscape, combined with majority status over the past four years, created the building blocks for unchecked power, the kind in which governments can run amok, pass any legislation they want and mold Canadian institutions without the consent of most Canadians or the input from Parliament itself.
The examples are everywhere in this election. Trudeau, who clearly lost a tangible chunk of support due to his bizarre doublespeak on Bill C 51, is propped up by fans – and I use that term literally – who were dead against the draconian legislation when it was announced by prime minister Harper, and have now done their best impression of a veteran politician by collectively flip flopping on the issue. Of course, if Mulcair or Harper had supported legislation they were on record saying they abhorred, those same partisans would be the first to yell and point. Not this election though. Trudeau, who also went on record two months ago chastising Harper’s use of deficits, only to announce his intention to run three consecutive deficits should his party win the election, managed to convince his fans that propping up Harper’s bill was a nuanced approach. Hey, what’s doublespeak to a clan of blind followers in 2015? Trudeau said back in April “Our platform will be fully costed, fiscally responsible and a balanced budget.” Today, Trudeau’s main campaign promise is to run three straight deficits. During one of the debates he even looked straight at the camera and told the country he was the only leader being honest with Canadians. The only thing more rich than that statement is the person who gave it, but his fans didn’t even blink.
Mulcair’s base is also giving their leader a free ride, even as they listen to him make contradictory statements in French and English regarding the Clarity Act. Make no mistake, Mulcair says different things depending on the language of his audience, but supporters give him a pass, knowing the strategy in Quebec has to focus on beating the Bloc and not leveling with all Canadians. The NDP also have the dubious honor of trying to balance their lefty brand with a newly adopted conservative economic plan, complete with balanced budgets and not much for working class Canadians.
As for Harper, his base is probably the most loyal group of followers since the exodus of the rats in Hamelin, ready to mark an X beside a man who has been lying to the country for nearly a decade. He lies to his base to solicit money, he lies to his base about his economic record, he lies to his base about terrorism issues, and has uttered a whole host of other fibs and half-truths designed to compartmentalize the base away from the vast majority of Canadians. It’s an Us VS Them strategy that demonizes non-conservatives, amalgamating the Christians, the racists, the climate change deniers and the wealthy hermits under one roof.
The big political picture is even more disheartening than any one party, especially as NDP and Liberal supporters attack each other with the same mindless rage conservatives have been using against both groups for years. Social media has created a wrestling ring of malicious, ad hominem attacks between people who have more in common than any other political groups in Canada. Make no mistake, the Liberal Party and the NDP are close ideological cousins, yet both are engaging in ludicrous finger pointing and absurd comparisons to the Harper Government. Some of this can be explained by their respective strategies of trying to nibble support from red Tories and moderate conservatives (yes, there are still some left), but much of it stems from a rabid mindset where winning is more important than principles.
Finally, pollsters are the gasoline this political hellfire needs in order to flourish. This race has been within the margin of error for so long that even a 1% lead is treated like a coronation of sorts. Daily polls are poisoning the opinions of casual political watchers, while parties themselves are using polling firms to unleash tactical strategies in a way that throws professional ethics out the window. The polling industry today is comprised of partisans and numerical alchemists, a propagandist arm of politics where results almost always mirror the ideology of the agency or the client.
The one saving grace in this particular election is the likelihood of a minority government situation. Harper has shown the other parties what majority governments can do to manipulate the rules of Parliament, and if one lesson can be realized it’s that one. But we should not risk more unchecked power just because the party wielding it aligns more closely with our views. It’s that kind of hypocrisy that has made this election a melting pot of red meat, scarfed down by partisans whose views span the political spectrum.