Opinion » Maxed Out

Not feeling optimistic about politics? These tips might help



There are only three ways to be optimistic about the outlook for Canadian politics. The first is simple — tune in to any newscast from the United States. The race for the executive and legislative branches of government — and given the age of four of the nine Supreme Court justices, mid to late 70s, arguably the judicial as well — is a revival of the real Gong Show. It's as though Forest Gump was writing the words coming out of many of the candidates' mouths, expanding on his Philosophy of Difference: stupid is as stupid does. Or in this case, says.

So inane, so polarized, so wilfully ignorant is much of what is being said by candidates that I have finally completed my road to becoming Canadian; I no longer recognize the country of my birth and its political system. As they say at the end of every utterance, God bless the United States... she may be the county's last hope.

The second way someone who feeds on politics might find hope is to, and I know I run the risk of scuttling our small ship of state, look at what our own mayor and council — yes, and staff — have accomplished in the months since they took office. Certainly not everything they wanted to but many things we had been told by the former office holders were simply impossible pipe dreams.

First among those things was to forge a sense of common purpose and unity. The discord among the previous councillors was enough to leave many of us wondering whether it was being scripted by reality TV writers or big-time wrestling. It's almost nostalgic to remember back to a time when pay parking was a gut-wrenching, divisive issue. It's never mentioned these days and whatever hole it left in the budget by reducing rates and keeping Lots 4 and 5 free hasn't been large enough to notice.

And while we were told over and over again there was no sound economic reason to hold property tax increases to merely the rate of inflation — I believe the accurate quote was, "It never made any sense to me why we should tie property tax increases to inflation" — this group of dreamers managed to hold the increase to zero this year and are busting their butts to do the same next year.

They're not perfect, as witnessed by the recent cluster f... oh yeah, family paper, debacle at Mons where they fell into the old ways of the "council hand" not having a clue what the "staff hand" was doing, but they've been good enough to drive our former councillor turned Questionable columnist to moan about not tossing him enough red meat to work up a lather over. Not perfect, but at least a glimmer of hope that not everyone who gets elected to office loses both their mind and philosophical compass, assuming they had either to begin with.

The third way to be upbeat about current politics is to be blissfully ignorant, either by nature or through self-medication. There's a lot to be said for blissful ignorance. What I don't know won't hurt me is the corollary of Homer's what doesn't kill me will make me stronger. I know tuned-out people and frankly sometimes I wonder whether theirs isn't the less bumpy path to follow. Maybe in my next life.

If, however, you're cursed with a pathological need to pay attention to politics, the landscape in the Great White North is as bleak as a snowy, February day in Churchill. Stephen Harper is transforming Canada into a country fewer and fewer Canadians recognize and is set to begin delivering the coup de grace when Parliament reconvenes. As disheartening as this is, it's easier to follow the path of blissful ignorance and not think about it because there's little anyone can do to change it. With no realistic opposition — a leaderless, near-dead, Liberal party that stands for, well, no one knows what they stand for, and a Cult-of-Jack NDP without Jack — Harper will enjoy the clear field the Liberals use to enjoy... back when they balanced the budget and ran surpluses.

And the outlook is at least as bleak provincially. With only eight months until a spring election, Christie Clark seems to be the provincial NDP's secret weapon in its quest to regain power. You can be forgiven if the name is unfamiliar. B.C.'s stealth premier is a bit groundhog-like. She pops up every so often, looks around, makes an outrageous pronouncement and then disappears again, perhaps to "take the pulse" of the people, which she seems to be able to do with any noticeable interface between herself, her ministers and whatever people she's talking about.

She was notably absent last week when whomever is in charge of finances popped up long enough to give his quarterly outlook. Not surprisingly, the outlook is bleak. With natural gas markets glutted and prices down, the province is facing a revenue shortfall of about a billion dollars. Ms. Clark's response was the sound of one hand clapping. I guess we'll have to wait until the legislature sits this fall to discover what it is her government plans to do to address the "unexpected" shortfall.

Oh, I forgot, she's cancelled the legislative session this fall, a tried and true strategy she learned from Gordon Campbell. When the going gets tough, the tough disappear. But I see her point of view. I mean when you have so accurately taken the pulse of the people what possible purpose, other than having to face embarrassing questions, can be served by listening to what their elected representatives have to say? The fact our MLAs have sat in session fewer days this year than part-time preachers preach is irrelevant.

So we'll wait until sometime next spring, when the budget is conjured, to discover what the Clark stealth government has in mind since we haven't been able to find a pulse to take, unless you count the elevated heartbeat of the ministerial rats sinking the good ship Liberal party. With so many high-power politicos opting to spend more quality time with their family, I can't help but pity their families.

Unfortunately, what she probably has in mind is what PM Harper has in mind for the federal budget: more cuts to personnel, more cuts to service, the quest for more imaginary "efficiencies" — like putting some IT wonk in charge of ozone tracking — and more discord in the public service.

What we're not likely to find is more money for education, health care or infrastructure. Unless you count the additional wasted millions earmarked for the White Elephant on the flank of Blackcomb mountain. Some things are sacrosanct.

Time to medicate.