Saturday, November 11, 2006

This is not America

Speak for yourself...

Howard Dean will give the keynote address at the next Liberal convention where a leader will be chosen. My previous predictions aside, it will be Bob Rae, the only man on earth more forgettable than John Manley, my pick last season. And in this party beset by squabbling, dependence on the mainstream media, poor use of intelligence and no leadership whatsoever, is it any surprise that they are looking to take advice from the only man who more publicly screwed himself out of a leadership nomination? Pick some winners guys, it’s getting embarrassing.

The Conservative Party did exactly the same thing when they allowed Stevie the monstrous luxury of steering Ottawa westward through the plains. He had never won anything he had ever set out to do. In political parties and in lobby groups he had failed consistently over and over. He managed to divide the vote in his own favour just enough not to gain any particular support, make allies or convince us he was a good choice, none of that. He made enough of us spiteful (and rightly so) towards our leader at the time who by the way, had no concept of how to win himself, that we chose him as a “viable alternative”. Martin, a true example of how to sit on your laurels, never once came on the offensive, never once reminded the country of our ridiculous, insane, exorbitant surpluses, never once reached out to Quebec, he simply perched there like a toad confused by new building developments near its home.

Enter Jack Layton who had the chance to get a few things on the table, came completely sideways towards getting anyone behind him on anything, and Duceppe who spoke eloquently, passionately, had a coherent message and didn’t back down. Those two undermined themselves, Layton on mandatory minimums, Duceppe on Quebec as a nation.

We lack leadership. Our government is currently run from a winning, yet minority party. They need to make allies, they need to work together with other parties, and they need to convince those who oppose them that their ideas are good. What we get rather than that sadly, is posturing, name-calling and dunderheaded idiocy masked as “getting things done”. Funding for the arts are cut, funding for the women’s lobby is cut, and for three weeks straight I was forced to ponder the Mackay-Rice Question.

Cheney visited Alberta a few years ago which had me screaming at the top of my lungs because he went straight to the premier, Ralph Klein and did not meet once with the Prime Minister. My head came off again this year when Steven Harper visited George W. Bush for his birthday bearing gifts of lovely shiny things. Harper has been taking cues from the under-the-radar, seemingly grassroots tactics of the GOP in the states. Word gets out for rallies via email forwards and direct mail. Huge groups of people gather and reporters scratch their heads wondering how they didn’t know about it sooner. These are usually religious groups who mix politics with the afterlife and tend to treat their own country’s policies with the same dogmatism they treat their spiritual lives. That’s how the Conservatives got so strong in Catholic Quebec without anyone figuring it out. And all the while the pollsters stand staring, saying they couldn’t possibly have seen it coming.

The Liberal Party appears to be trying something similar. The only thing, well, okay. There’s no nice way to put this: Pick someone who can win. The record of your mentors will speak volumes for the quality of advice they can offer. Stevie, are you there? This is for you too. The United States of America is not a democracy; it is a republic. They have massive divisions in a much smaller space, a much bloodier history and a vastly higher population. We in Canada don’t live in a democracy either; we are a constitutional monarchy. We may not take any appreciable cues from the British Royal family now, but our parliamentary system, its rules and regulations, its functions and properties, our principles of self-government in fact are based on management of a state on behalf of an absent leader. The Prime Minister is literally meant to manage the affairs of the country as needed, taking the occasional advice from the governor general who reports to the queen. We have far larger provinces, huge amounts of elbow-room, and a much smaller population in comparison to our next door neighbor. I don’t think based on these differences that it is unreasonable to expect elections to be run differently in our two spaces. We have a long history of doing uncomfortable things that shaped who we are. We have also a long history of addressing our own sovereignty. Our automatic deployment in WWI at the behest of England divided Quebec against the rest of the Anglophone country at the time, and set the stage for further divisions and ignorance for many years to come. Trudeau’s refusal to send troops to Vietnam made him extremely unlikable by our neighbor. We developed the CRTC with the mandate specifically to ensure that there is some Canadian content in the media we use to communicate to each other, we held two referendums on Quebec and chose by close margins to remain a country.

This is not America. We are Canadians and we expect if I may, something better. We deserve real information and not hate ads. We deserve real leadership and not headscratchers asking “how did that happen?” We deserve leadership. In the last few years, our citizens have been deported by another country as they tried to come home and our leaders and their hired help did nothing. Our activists have been placed in the custody of the DEA while committing no crime in our country. We have refused time and again to address any national interests held by First Nations, and finally the softwood lumber question has been answered by a duplicit fire-starter.

Liberals, for the love of God, reach back to your roots. Remember what made Jean-Chr├ętien fun. Remember how unlikable Trudeau was even here for quite some time. Remember the budget surpluses and for god’s sake remember that Howard Dean is going to offer only enough advice to ensure Steven gets a majority next time. Conservatives, you must find a leader who is more, well, Canadian. A flapjack flipper Stevie may be, but who in their right mind would cave on softwood at a time when we were winning, cut the GST and then claim to be fiscally responsible? He may compare his party to that of Paul Martins and sneer, but he must live with the knowledge that despite all the scandals, despite the misuse of funds, above and beyond all that, our country was rich and safe and free.

Jack and Gilles, climb up Parliament Hill. Do you remember what happens next? Stop it stop it stop it stop it, or we’ll all come tumbling down behind you. Get the schmooze back on, dust off your mojos. Start convincing other parties and provincial premiers that accepting these actions at face value is not an option. If I had to go through a no-confidence vote about tiny flags and golf balls because of Harper, you can bet that given a good reason like our Constitution, our sovereignty, our health-care or our fucking lumber, I’ll happily skip to the polls and again tell Harper what I think of him via ballot.

We have an obligation to run our own country well and by our own standards. Shying from the ideas of others is certainly not what we are about, nevertheless we must take whatever care we can to find our own way, our own values and yes, our own keynote speakers.

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