There are less than two weeks remaining before Canadians head to the polls to pick our next Parliament, and so far the whole election has been about as exciting as the series finale of Friends – no real surprises, just a comforting reinforcement of character stereotypes. The Liberal is self-righteous and patronizing, the Conservative is too religious and rightwing to be taken seriously, the NDP-er is far too negative for a party that is supposed to be about hope.
After a decade under the Liberal Party whip this was supposed to be an election about vision, but once again it has disintegrated into a six-week long comparison of haircuts and a tit-for-tat on the issues. To tell you the truth I’m learning more about the candidates’ positions from their mud-slinging opponents than I an from the parties themselves.
For example, both the Liberals and NDP say that Stephen Harper would have committed Canada to the war in Iraq, will pull us out of the Kyoto Protocol if elected, and doesn’t personally support a woman’s right to choose or a gay couple’s right to marry, but it doesn’t say anything of the kind in the Conservative Party’s "Demand Better" platform.
The Conservatives say the Liberals would continue the same blatant patronage of party supporters that has occurred in the past, and which led to the sponsorship scandal, but you won’t find any reference to either patronage or sponsorship in the Liberals’ "Moving Forward: The Paul Martin Plan for Getting Things Done" platform.
The debates were slightly interesting, but to be honest they were really more about trading insults and scoring points off one another than a test of good leadership. It’s a popularity contest where the candidates are graded by the media and the public on their poise under pressure, their appearance, their presentation and their ability to dish out zingers. The only thing missing was the bikini contest.
Although you can get some idea of a candidate’s personality through the debates, it helps to recognize going in that a quick wit is not the same as intelligence. You should also recognize the fact that our party leaders are not exactly speaking off the cuff out there and that their statements are carefully rehearsed beforehand to make the most impact on the 11 o’clock news. No new ideas are ever presented, and the candidate’s rarely break away from their party platform unless it’s to dish out an insult.
That may sound cynical, but I was really hoping that this election would be different.
I was hoping that Paul Martin would represent change rather than the status quo, that Stephen Harper would be a more enlightened kind of conservative, and that Jack Layton would do more to represent the besieged middle class and honestly try to win this election.