With just over two weeks to go, I'm assuming everyone knows by now who's going to win this election. That's right — nobody. Nobody's going to kickstart the economy. Nobody's going to elevate Canada's standing in the world. Nobody's going to seriously make a dent in greenhouse gas, climate change, the melting Arctic or Vancouver's gridlock. Nobody's going to bring the Canadian Peso back above 80 cents U.S. Nobody's going to guarantee your Charter freedoms and nobody's going to kick ISIS' arse.
So if nobody's going to win, who's going to lose? That's right — everybody. None us are going to get what we want under the election tree. Some of us, most of us, are going to get something, a nice orange maybe, a lump of coal for sure. We'll get bragging and tears, lies and incriminations, a tax bite here, a tax break there. Largely though, we'll get bidniz as usual.
And we'll get by.
Yes, we'll even muddle through another four years of Mr. Harper's malevolent remaking of whatever we thought Canada used to be ... if we're unlucky. Maybe we'll muddle through a halting minority government, maybe even a minority government led by ... well, somebody other than the Mean Clown. (Forgive me; I can't help myself.)
Watching Monday's Munk Debate on foreign policy the only thing that stood out for me was (a) how dreary our choices for Prime Minister of Canada really are; (b) how three ostensibly grown men can stand in front of cameras, having their very words and visages beamed live to the tiny segment of the country watching, and still have the unbridled audacity to shovel such massive amounts of bull by-product while keeping a straight face; and (c) how little will change regardless of which of them winds up in power.
Uncle Tom seemed above it all. His well-practiced continence lacked only a cardigan to fully channel Mr. Rogers and take us back to the neighbourhood, the one where kindly Tommy Douglas looked after us all, kept a bag of treats handy even when it wasn't Halloween, and all was right with the world, albeit a smaller, simpler world. Even his attacks seemed avuncular, if bordering on Wicked Uncle Ernie.
Pudge seemed like a man who would never run out of miracle cure snake oil and never be around when those who drank it went blind. His was the high-wire act of obfuscation, taking a bit of this truth, a bit of that truth, blending it into an alchemical mix that turned nonsense into gold. I'm still trying to understand what, "Canada's taken in 15 per cent of the 'area's' (emphasis mine) refugees!" means, when Canada's welcome of Syrian refugees has been, shall we say, parsimonious and grudging. But when Parson Pudge speaks, facts become fancy and no opportunity shall be left behind.
Sir Justin charged forth in his golden chariot, pulled by his mighty steeds — youth and indignation — slashing and thrusting with his stammering sword of hope and change. His thrust and parry was deflected by Pudge, gently ridiculed by Uncle Tom and in the end, there was no blood on the ground, save perhaps that shed by hope and change.
Absent was the Maid May. And 'twas not for no reason she sat home a-tweeting. This was a "debate" about foreign policy. Foreign policy is made by governments, something she has less chance of forming than Pudge does of developing a human personality. After all, the debate was happening in the acoustically perfect Roy Thompson Hall in the centre of the universe — Toronto — not in Quebec, a place of such special status the hard-done-by citizens would not be allowed to have a debate on, well, anything, without including the knave Duceppe, who likewise has no chance of forming a government but idly dreams his life away longing to form a country.
Like all good democratically minded, small 'l' liberals, I used to be offended by the exclusion of the Maid May. Is there no voice for a minor or fringe party in the supposed democracy of Canada? Isn't it enough she managed to get herself elected to Parliament? Something about her exclusion didn't seem right. Didn't seem fair. After all, how was any alternate voice ever going to thrive in our antiquated first-past-the-post electoral system if we didn't get the chance to ignore it during the leaders' debates?
But then I forced myself to sit through the video of Sept. 22's Sea to Sky, et. al., riding's all candidates' debate at Quest University — the first forum where all of the candidates came together to put forth their positions — and it suddenly became clear why the Green Party is as roundly ignored at the federal leaders' level as, say, the Rhinoceros Party was, lo those many years ago and why Gilles Duceppe should be, and is, everywhere except Quebec.
There's an old joke, Yiddish if I'm not mistaken, that goes something like this. A man walks into a corner grocer and says, "How much for your bananas?" The grocer replies, "Two for a quarter." The man says, "That's outrageous. Your competitor down the street sells them for three for a quarter." "So buy them there," says the grocer. "He's out of bananas," the man replies. "If I were out, I'd sell them for four for a quarter!" says the grocer.
That's kind of how the Green candidate's performance at Quest left me feeling. Parroting the party's platform, he was able to promise bananas far cheaper than anyone who actually had them could sell them for and still stay in business.
His attitude, physical demeanour and bombast was dismissive of his opponents. His litany of all the wonderful things a Green government would do — ah, if only such a thing were able to exist — left his opponents, who to a greater or lesser degree seemed to be constrained by, what shall I call it, REALITY, scratching their heads in wonderment. The fact so little of the boast could ever walk on its own mattered not at all and left those who operate in the real world wondering where we too could purchase the giant's magic beans.
And that's the other reason I discovered why minor parties should be excluded from national debates. Fantasy always trumps reality. In Paul Simon's words, that's why God made the movies.
Funny thing though. It was exactly the type arrogance displayed by the Green candidate at Quest, that "I know better than all of you" attitude that got Whistler so fed up four years ago when he was running for re-election as mayor — an election which resulted in the blood of all incumbents, including the mayor's being left on the floor.
Some lessons apparently have to be learned more than once.