Beating back the barbarians
Rise up, ye artists and environmentalists, and vote strategically!
“The CN Tower, a symbol of futility fending off Conservatives since 1988, is now a beacon of hope,” the Calgary Herald‘s Don Martin reports, having surveyed the scene in various 416 and 905 ridings where the Tories threaten to chip away at the Grit colossus. In Brampton West, for example, he finds last-minute candidate Andrew Kania, who “worked on Dion’s leadership bid and serves on the national election readiness committee,” explicitly campaigning against a Harper majority—a tacit acknowledgment of that very real possibility and. Back in safely non-Tory territory, Martin describes the lawn sign battle between Gerard Kennedy and Peggy Nash in Parkdale–High Park as “evenly matched,” but notes that GK the Invisible faces an uphill battle to turn the riding back Liberal.
(Quote of the day, incidentally, goes to Kennedy on the subject of Stéphane Dion: “I still believe I made the best decision for the party and the party has to reprove itself to Canadians. I mean this, there is a Stéphane Dion to be seen and appreciated that’s not yet fully on display.”)
If Stephen LeDrew’s treasonous outburst, disastrous poll numbers, the surging NDP and the threat of losing seats in Fortress Toronto and of a wipeout in British Columbia aren’t enough to convince you that Dion is captaining a sinking ship, Lorne Gunter, writing in the Edmonton Journal, suggests you check out the strategic voting scenarios. It seems that even if the anti-Harper crowd voted for the strongest opposition candidate in every riding in the country—which isn’t going to happen—it would still only result in a modest Liberal minority. That’s god-awful Chrétien-era standards, but it’s way better than their current situation. Which just proves, Gunter argues, that “fragmentation on the left is every bit as important [for the Tories], if not more so, than the support [they] themselves achieve.”
The Ottawa Citizen‘s Susan Riley gives her thumbs-up to the strategic voting website voteforenvironment.ca, likening it to a “GPS for directionless non-Tories.” The rather crucial question of whether strategic voting actually works—whether “disparate individuals [are willing] to set aside their own first choices for the common good”—remains unsolved, she concedes, and with the possible exception of Elizabeth May, every party leader will fight the idea tooth and nail. But the fact that Harper recently cautioned against the practice shows the very prospect makes him “nervous,” says Riley. “What if all those ‘niches’ that Harper so disdains—environmentalists, spoiled artists, soft-on-crime academics and the rest—decide, ‘Wait a minute! We are the majority. Let’s vote like one’ “?
Does this high-toned arts-obsessed niche include fans of “Joni Mitchell, Tomson Highway, Leonard Cohen, David Cronenberg, Gordon Lightfoot, k.d. lang, Rita MacNeil, Ronnie Hawkins, Sarah McLachlan, Blue Rodeo, the CBC series on Canada’s history, Denys Arcand’s movies, Michel Rivard and his phoque d’Alaska—some of ‘ordinary’ Canadians’ most popular artists?” Janet Bagnall asks rhetorically in the Montreal Gazette. Rubbish! The “heart and soul” of Canada “can be found, by anyone who wants to see it, in rodeos, back-country music halls, Yorkville art galleries, the Winnipeg ballet and even on a Montreal stage as Quebecers toast their achievements over the past year,” she insists, and no amount of store-bought Republican wedge politics will convince us otherwise!
The Tories are perfectly happy to spend $220 million on a tax credit for transit riders that will prevent “a risible 30,000 tonnes” of carbon emissions—”a staggeringly high per tonne cost,” Jeffrey Simpson argues in The Globe and Mail—but when it comes to the carbon tax, their belief in incentives goes out the window… with the Liberal campaign in tow. Neither pledges of revenue neutrality nor the assurances of sage economists can change the fact that “Canadians don’t want a carbon tax,” Simpson laments, which leaves us with “policy incoherence”: a Conservative government emissions plan that simply won’t work, provinces signing onto their own agreements, and the unchallenged title of “the country with the industrialized world’s worst emissions record.”
You call that pessimism? Buckle up for the Globe‘s Gary Mason, who cannot “recall a federal election campaign that failed Canadians more profoundly than the one we’re in the midst of now.” Forget climate change if you must, though it is “the most pressing issue of our time.” We should at least be talking about whether we’re “a nation of peacekeepers or front-line participants,” “how we are going to compete with the Chinas and Indias of the world,” and how to rescue ourselves from “the economic, social and moral morass in which we now find ourselves.” Instead, Mason laments, everyone’s just frantically Googling everyone else’s candidates in search of Nazi or 9/11 references.
We’re not totally sure what larger point John Robson, writing in the Citizen, wants to make about the proliferation of political gaffes here and south of the border, but we generally agree with the various sub-points that bubble to the surface: it was rather weird of the NDP to welcome a candidate “whose political philosophy was openly based on weed” and then be shocked to discover he’d smoked the stuff; had Sarah Palin said Franklin Roosevelt (who wasn’t president) had gone on commercial television (which didn’t exist) to explain the 1929 stock market crash instead of Joe Biden, she’d have been “pilloried for cluelessness”; and we can’t “complain endlessly that political debate is trite, bland and vacuous, with politicians constantly trying to play it safe” if we’re going to fly off the handle when a candidate simply argues “that if Canadians weren’t sissies someone would have come to the aid of that poor guy beheaded on a bus, and advocate[s] ‘concealed carry’ handgun laws.”
Forget strong leadership, Rick Salutin advises in the Globe. “Self-proclaimed strong leaders tend to come from the populist tradition—Huey Long, Maurice Duplessis—or totalitarian leadership cults,” and the ongoing (relative) stalemate in the polls suggests Canadians aren’t particularly impressed by Harper’s strong-like-bull persona or turned off by Dion’s dogged determination to stick to the environmental storyline, against the advice of his campaign team. (“Could he think it isn’t a show,” Salutin wonders—”that the planet really is in danger?”)
In the National Post, L. Ian MacDonald assesses Justin Trudeau’s chances in Papineau against Bloc incumbent Vivian Barbot, and it’s fairly interesting, but we can’t get MacDonald’s contention that “he’s genuinely liked by all sides in the political class.” Care to comment, Mr. Duceppe?
The Toronto Star‘s Chantal Hébert files what strikes us as an unusually unoriginal examination of the decline of nationalism as the fulcrum on which Quebec politics pivots.
Hapless, but also guilty
The Globe‘s Christie Blatchford believes yesterday’s guilty verdict in the terrorism trial of one of the so-called “Toronto 18” must have come as a mighty shock to various media types, such as the Star‘s Thomas Walkom, and their readers, who had been assured that the prosecution’s case had collapsed, that star witness Mubin Shaikh was untrustworthy, and more generally that no one as inept as this gang could ever be considered “real” terrorists. Blatchford recalls surveying the remains of a couple of suicide bombers in Afghanistan who had blown themselves up on their way to the attack. “It never occurred to me to imagine that they weren’t terrorists merely because they had, in the most spectacular and awful way, failed.”
So what say you now, Thomas Walkom? Well, that the verdict is “a signal victory for Ottawa and its national security agencies” and a demonstration of “the remarkable reach”—if you catch his meaning—of our anti-terrorism laws.
“Haplessness wasn’t the point. Amateurish in conception wasn’t the point. Impractical in application wasn’t the point,” Rosie DiManno agrees, elsewhere in the Star. “Not benign and not a folly: That’s the point. The threat was real.”
In the Post, Colby Cosh examines at the latest theories about Stonehenge, including one suggesting it was a Lourdes-esque place of healing, based on the number of maimed and infirm people who seem to have been buried nearby. The considerable “faith in human nature” implicit in this theory highlights the filial connection between the Bronze Age folk who built Stonehenge and their descendents who study it, Cosh suggests. After all, he writes, “if we found corpses with holes in their chest scattered around an Aztec temple, we would know better than to declare it a cardiac hospital.”
The Citizen‘s Dan Gardner takes a crack at converting the mainstream media-bashers to mainstream media-lovers, noting a recent, widely reported survey sponsored by Energizer purporting to show that “the majority of Canadian women do not feel safe while walking at night,” and not-so-subtly suggesting they buy some kind of Energizer product to light their way home. Many stories that appeared “were nothing more than re-writes of the press release,” he notes, and didn’t take note of either the questionable survey methodology or much more soothing numbers from Statistics Canada. So, uh, didn’t the mainstream media fail here? Well, yeah. But as newsrooms shrink, he argues—thanks to people not buying newspapers, natch—it’ll only get worse.