So tomorrow, we here in Canada will go to the polls. The day after, one way or another, we will have a new government. This is truly a historic event, in that for the first time within my living memory I have no clue who will be the winner. The polls all say different things, and in recent elections the polls have all been wrong anyway. Nevertheless, for the sake of convention I suppose I should give my opinion on who you should vote for.
Before grappling with that question, however, I feel compelled to address a few misconceptions that have been propagated by all the major contenders in this election thus far. Firstly, if you are not obligated to vote. I know that this flies in the face of everything you have likely heard, but it is the truth. If none of the three (or if we’re being generous four) candidates for the post of Prime Minister appeal to you for some reason, by all means stay home and do something else with your day. Oh, I’m sure others will implore you to do so, saying our ancestors died so we could enjoy the fruits of democracy (which is a bit of a simplification of the two global conflicts that wracked our planet over half a century ago but not entirely untrue either) but the cornerstone of democracy is in fact choice. Should you choose not to vote because no one on offer appeals to you, or you honestly feel so uniformed you could not make a reasoned decision, or even if you simply are so apathetic you can’t take the fifteen minutes to do so it is a choice you are free to make completely guilt free and with the knowledge your absence probably will enhance the final decision and not worsen it.
Secondly, the world likely will not end no matter who inevitably emerges triumphant tomorrow. For all the rhetoric thrown about by the various contenders for the throne, the differences between the various factions competing for the prize are actually quite small. One candidate might offer hot fudge, another might hawk the desirability of sprinkles, and a third may very well proclaim the absolute superiority of peanuts, but underneath it all it is sadly the same vanilla ice cream. On the status quo that has dominated our political debate since the end of the Second World War no one offers anything even resembling a challenge. Trudeau may very well run a tiny deficit if he is elected, and Mulcair will bring in a national daycare program, but the fundamentals will remain the same. No one seeks to truly challenge the liberal hegemony that in the centuries following the Enlightenment has come to dominate every facet of our public life. What we have seen emphasized by all contenders as massive chasms that separate them truly amounts to little more than tinkering around the edges.
Now, all of that being said I have voted for the Conservative Party in the advance polls and would suggest you all do the same tomorrow. For as much as Stephen Harper does not offer a fundamentally different platform for society at large than that presented by either Justin the witless wonder or Thomas the sinister smiler where he has chosen to take a different path it has largely been the right one. A victory of small differences is a victory still, and even if the only accomplishment that is politically possible is a slight slowing of the Great Decline of modernity we have been subjected to since that sad day when a mob of Parisian plebs liberated a handful of thieves and madmen from the Bastille and changed the world forever it is better than nothing, I suppose.
On the economy, the opposition’s assertions that we are on the verge of darkness and despair are simply untrue. We came through the Great Recession better than most and have continued to prosper, and to compare the government’s record over one of the most depressed periods of global economic growth to what was achieved in the boom times of the 90s is like observing how a rickety old man with arthritis cannot run as fast as a spry young boy of sixteen. Yes, the decline in oil prices has caused some unpleasantness but our reliance on the energy sector is one of those eternal tales of woe Canadians moan and groan about under all governments. Government’s ability to magically waive a wand and “diversify” the economy is quite limited. People keep pulling oil out of the ground and exporting it for one simple reason, it’s profitable, and much more so these days than trying to make cars or carpets or candlesticks while competing against companies in China or India where workers are paid a pittance. Most of us are employed, most of us have gotten a raise, and there is every sign this will continue into the future. The idea that Justin’s tiny deficits of ten billion dollars a year (in an economy of two trillion) will have any real effect is as laughable as Mulcair’s desire to raise corporate taxes. More worrying is the NDP’s opposition to the TPP trade agreement, and the ambivalence of Justin Trudeau on the matter (given that should he become Prime Minister it will most certainly require him to rely on the NDP in parliament). We are a trading nation. There is no getting around the fact that our population is too small for autarky to be possible. Our economy therefore depends on exports, and for that we need access to the world’s markets….and the idea we can acquire that without some measure of reciprocity is absurd.
In the arena of foreign policy again the record is mostly good. The Conservatives, it seems, at least are willing to acknowledge the world as it actually is and take steps to deal with it. From the Ukraine, to the ever catastrophic Middle East, to North Korea the world has become a very dangerous place, and both the Liberals and the NDP’s response to it seems to be a desire to close their eyes, stick their fingers in their ears, and then hum loudly while hoping the entire mess will just disappear by magic or luck. Mulcair says as much with solemnness and sobriety, while Justin does so while making infantile quips and jokes, but underneath these distinctions of style the substance remains the same. The record is not perfect. Like the rest of the Western world, Canada made the regrettable decision to topple Ghaddafi and stood by with ambivalence as the Arab Spring turned the entire region into a charnel house of horrors. The continued insistence that Al-Assad must step down in Syria is also unfortunate, but more than redeemed by the government’s determination to continue fighting ISIS. The underfunding of the military is saddening, but a position shared by all parties and with honesty nothing on this front will change until the Canadian public decides they are willing to pay the price for a properly functioning military.
As for the assortment of scandals, scams and other lamentable incidents of ugliness that have been the source of many headlines for the various snide shrews in the media as they seek to demonstrate their continued relevance as their industry slowly goes the way of the horse and buggy all I can do is shrug my shoulders and ask what it was you expected. For all his merits, Stephen Harper remains a politician as do the members of his government. Politicians are in the business of getting re-elected, and will do and say whatever they feel is necessary to achieve this. Let us not play the blushing virgin and deny this basic reality. This is the sorry system of democracy that you have chosen to govern over you. You asked for it. You demanded it. You created this circus where any tiny misstep or gaffe or slightly off-colour quote is treated as a sight so hideous you would think it had turned us all into statues like Medusa’s face. You designed this system which rewards charlatans and smooth talkers for telling you how special and wonderful you all are, and demands that good news be exaggerated out of all proportions and bad news hidden at all costs. To turn around now and express you dissatisfaction at the shambles of it all is a tad bit more hypocrisy than I am willing to swallow.
And the assertion that Harper has somehow “changed Canada” in some unpleasant fashion is equally foolish. His lack of action on a plethora of issues from the environment to poverty to missing native women is a direct result of the fact that inaction is precisely what you want because you simply do not care. Oh you say you do, but really you don’t, at least not enough to actually pay the cost that would come with taking any meaningful course of action. Whether its carbon emissions or the lack of affordable housing or the decrepit state of our natives’ reserves the public at large has very clearly shown they want something done but only if in doing so there will not be the slightest ill effect on their lives in any noticeable way and whatever cost there may be is paid entirely by someone else (ideally someone nasty who deserves it like the rich). That’s the truth my dear Canadians, you do not really want anything accomplished on these issues. All you want is for some fair faced fellow to tell you sweet nothings and let you pretend that something might one day be done….in the fullness of time….at the right juncture…..after careful consideration.
In truth, to the extent that Harper has changed Canada it is for the better. He has hung the Queen’s portrait back up on the wall and made it once again a respectful thing to do. Our historical connection to Britain and honoured role as the loyal son of the greatest empire ever to grace this green earth has once again been highlighted and given the reverence it is due. While maintaining due respect to those of us who have come from other countries and cultures there has also been a very insistent assertion that Canadian values must also be preserved, and that which we find to be abhorrent be called so. Israel has rightfully been supported and the UN quite properly told to go fly a kite. Terrorists have been denounced and treated as the filth they are, and the moral relativism of our dear progressive proles rightfully rejected. All this is to be applauded.
So in closing, should you feel obligated to vote tomorrow out of some misplaced sense of nostalgic duty I suppose you might as well do so. When you do, it may as well be for the Conservatives. On the whole they have done as good a job as anyone could in this sad modern world we are forced to live in. Going forward, as we look for who to entrust to the thankless job of rearranging deckchairs and playing lovely music to hide the fact that the Titanic that is our civilization is slowly sinking into the icy darkness constructed by our modern day philosophes and intelligentsia we may as well leave it in the hands of the poor souls who are currently doing so. If nothing else they may manage to keep us safe in the new century of blood that is slowly dawning upon the world, and keep you well supplied with the bells and whistles you demand to distract yourselves from the sight. So mark your ballots (or don’t) and decide as you will even if you decision is to decide nothing at all.