William A Gardner
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Elections and Consequences
Perhaps it was just another federal election. Something of a nail-biter mind you, but one that reaffirmed the stability of the existing traditional order of Canada. It was won by the 'Natural Governing Party' so the center of Canada could go back to business as usual, quite satisfied that the country is safe from those who would harm the country’s social programs by implementing balanced budgets, or destroy the planet's environment by ignoring the looming existential carbon crisis. Jobs would be front and center whatever the ethical implications.
Atlantic Canada went Liberal as usual except for a few Conservative seats in New Brunswick. Quebec voted in a bunch of Bloc members (something of a minor surprise). British Columbia split mostly between Liberal and Conservative with a smattering of socialist green. Alberta and Saskatchewan which both voted strongly Conservative (no surprise) were put back in their place. Manitoba split the vote although favoring the Conservatives. The north stayed solidly Liberal. And the NDP went back to being that socialist other Party. In retrospect the result was almost a ho-hum for central Canada even if the Conservative did win the majority of votes by a narrow margin. The country was back in good hands and all that dirty laundry from before and during the election could be dropped into some remote hamper and forgotten.
But was there more to this election than one might imagine?
It is said that a country is founded on a set of common beliefs, or myths, through which citizens and regions perceive a positive role for themselves and their region within the country. These myths must be attractive, have sufficient truth, and be simple enough to motivate people to support the concept and reality of the whole. One example is the American Horatio Alger myth that people from humble backgrounds could achieve a life of middle-class security and comfort through hard work, determination, courage, and honesty. Then there is the Canadian myth of being polite, welcoming, hard-working and honest. This is the land of peace, order and good government. There is also a Canadian myth that our public institutions are fair and honest, and that a citizen will receive a fair shake from the police and the courts. And of course there is the myth that our leaders represent the interests of all citizens and will treat each region fairly in their use of power. For the most part we take these beliefs for granted and hold onto them tenaciously for they are essential to our feeling good about ourselves and holding a country together.
One may remember post-2015 federal election when people would say that 'The World Needs More Canada', and 'Canada is Back'. Well, if we still believe that the World Needs More Canada, then the events of the past few years will put that into stark perspective. This federal Liberal government has worked to forgive a company for its corrupt practices, has used political power to try and subvert the legal process and the institution attempting to uphold the laws of Canada, and has gone out of its way to damage if not destroy the main industry of one region of the country using an ideological belief based upon questionable science. The leader has broken rules of parliamentary ethics and been convicted of ethics abuses, and despite proclaiming his feminist credentials has summarily ejected from his caucus any female who might question his power to ignore the law. There are many more examples that indicate clearly that the myths that hold Canada together are a long way from reality. Is this what the world needs more of?
One other example (among many) is the irresponsible manner in which the federal Liberal government is spending our tax dollars and indefinitely running excessive deficits despite a promise in the 2015 election to balance the budget in a few years. Deficits are a hidden tax on the next generation of middle class citizens and create an increasing drain on current tax revenue. It means look after today and let tomorrow look after itself. The federal government already spends more than two billion dollars a month on interest payments under the current very low interest regime – money that could be used for aboriginal housing, improved health care, or better education. With the projected deficits this expense will increase rapidly. So much for their promise to improve life for the middle class. It is no surprise that so many ordinary people in Canada find it increasingly difficult to get ahead, and why food banks are oversubscribed. Is this financial profligacy what the world needs more of?
We live in this world of myths and, despite the egregious behavior on record for this Liberal government, the voters ignored it and returned them to power. The danger here is that parts of the country are starting to understand that the myths on which the unity of the country are based are simply no longer valid. Where is fairness when large corporations get favored treatment and a get-out-of-jail card? What confidence can we have in our legal institutions if the government of the day can influence and even subvert their decisions? Can we trust the courts to render a fair and impartial decision? If our government leaders do not abide by the law themselves then what about the honesty of the public institutions which they supervise? If one region can be thrown under the bus for questionable ideology and regional vote purposes then is our belief in regional fairness valid? Is the Equalization program really about equality?
This election has done damage to our myths about Canada and the consequences may well be an increasing division between regions and an increasing cynicism about the value of honesty and hard work. Like Newton's Cradle, the action of one ball swinging may have effects well beyond the original impact, and the result of one election may have consequence far beyond its simple outcome. It is not the hysterical or rude antics of the loudmouth that should be of concern, but the cultural shift in attitude of the average quiet citizen, for that shift is hidden from view and relatively permanent.