It’s all over but the wailing and railing.
This morning, Canada has a new government, a Liberal minority.
I suspect, not much is going to change. Even if it had gone the other way, actually governing tends to have a moderating effect.
We are, after all, a solidly centrist nation and we have a fairly robust system of checks and balances.
I stand by a recent column (“Maybe I am a glass half full guy after all,” The Interior News, Oct. 9, 2019) in which I suggest increasing political polarization may be more perception than reality.
Nevertheless, elections always bring out disturbing signs—not of the lawn variety, although there were a few of those too.
Dirty politics is nothing new — even if the means by which misleading and outright fabricated claims are spread has changed — and we had plenty of it in this election. Why can’t we rise above this, Canada?
I’m not talking about the legitimate practice of calling out political opponents’ failings.
Outing Trudeau for his brownface and blackface indiscretions was perfectly legitimate, something Canadians have a right to know about him.
Dredging up Andrew Scheer’s past statements on same-sex marriage and personal opinion on abortion is equally legitimate.
Personal character is something on which a leader should be judged.
On the other hand, advertising that your opponent is under criminal investigation (which the Conservatives had to retract, but continued to spread in the right-wing echo chamber) or that he is going to legalize all drugs (which they did not retract) is just fear-mongering.
The Liberals responded in kind. In an ad touting their campaign promise to ban semi-automatic assault weapons they said: “Once the Conservative Party takes power, these assault rifles will spread through the streets,” an unsubstantiated fear-mongering claim at best.
Locally, in more than one debate, the People’s Party candidate called for American-paid activists to be jailed. Jody Craven came up short of saying NDP candidate Taylor Bachrach should go to jail, but when you impugn your opponent because he once worked for an environmental organization that received funding from American environmental groups, then call for activists to be jailed, there’s a pretty obvious inference there.
Again, it’s perfectly legitimate to bring up Bachrach’s past associations, but the conspiracy theory that American environmental activists are interfering in Canadian resource development—not because that is what environmental activists do, but in order to advance American oil and gas interests—is laughable and a big turnoff for those of us in the centre.
Don’t worry, there’s plenty of this kind of nonsense from the left, too—secret Conservative plans to roll back same-sex marriage, dismantle universal healthcare etc.—although I didn’t notice a lot of that, at least not in the local campaign.
Polls have always shown the majority of Canadians don’t like negative campaigning. And yet every time an election rolls around, it gets a little nasty.
Why can’t we just stick to policies and ideas?
To their credit, the two main local contenders, Bachrach and Claire Rattée—the former of whom is now our MP, did pretty much just that, and both came across as pretty moderate.
In Canada, if you want to win the battle of ideas, you have to win the centre. That’s why throughout our history, the power pendulum has swung between right-centre conservatives and left-centre liberals.
Even Stephen Harper watered down his Reform roots to woo the centre.
When the NDP has been successful it is because they shifted to the centre.
Maxime Bernier split with the Conservative Party because he thought they were too centrist.
The Greens are gaining strength because their number one (only?) issue has become a top centrist issue.
Anyway, it’s done. I don’t think most of us will feel much of an effect on our day-to-day lives, but if you don’t like whatever the result was, we’ll get to do it all over again in four years (or possibly less).
Let’s hope we can do it without the dirty politics.