Here’s the sad truth about minority government: we’ve had it for five years now and we’re not getting any better at it. Elections, coalitions, prorogations—watching our politicians trying to manage a minority is like watching a labradoodle trying to land a jet or David Caruso trying to act. My fellow Canadians, it’s time to face up to a disturbing fact: we are starting to make Italy look stable.
Sure, the prospect of a minority government was exciting back in 2004. It was the first one in 25 years. But the thrill has worn off as it does with all novelties, like leg warmers and environmentalism.
Nowadays, minority government isn’t working for anyone. It’s not working for a public that seems turned off by all the unsavoury side effects, including endless political gamesmanship and Jack Layton being relevant. And it’s certainly not working for reporters. Since 2004, the media have devoted an estimated 105 per cent of their time to predicting the date of the next election. October! Novemberish! Wait, can I phone a friend?! Election speculation has become our national pastime, displacing the old pastimes of watching hockey and ignoring new Alanis Morissette albums.
Politicians aren’t handling it any better. Look at what minority government has done to Michael Ignatieff. Sure, he’s an improvement over Stéphane Dion, in that Liberals now believe it’s possible for their leader to make a decision without consulting more people than were killed in the film 300. But Ignatieff has stumbled trying to discern the nuances of minority combat.
First, he went with tough talk and brinksmanship—but that had a downside (accusations of recklessness). So he shifted to conciliation and restraint—but that had a downside (accusations of bwock bwock BWOCK!). Finally, he napped all summer long but that had a downside (hilarious bed marks on face). Now the Liberal leader is starring in a series of ads in which he greets Canadians from a forest, presumably to coax them into exchanging their current government for a bag of magic beans. Just plant ’em in the ground and watch the Liberal culture of entitlement regrow!
(The forest is a curious setting given Ignatieff’s message, isn’t it? The Liberal leader talks about his vision for an ultra-modern Canada capable of taking on China and India, yet he’s surrounded himself with all the fast-paced energy and dynamism of . . . trees. Maybe I’m missing something and there’s a high-tech factory of Keebler elves in the background.)
Three years of uncertain government have taken a toll on the Prime Minister, too. Sure, Stephen Harper has betrayed or backtracked on pretty much every promise he’s ever made, which is very majority of him. But he’s also been reduced to finding new and ever less plausible ways to convince Canadians that holding an election is risky.
This time around, he’s warned it will threaten critical stimulus spending. He’s warned it will “screw up” the economic recovery. He’s warned it will allow woodland blonds to eat up all our porridge and break our chairs. More recently came the hysterical threat that an election might delay the processing of home-reno tax credit cheques. All that’s left now is for Harper to inform Canadians he simply does not have permission to fight another election, preferably in the form of a note signed by Juan Epstein’s mother.
Harper is also trying to convince us that a fourth election in five years would take an emotional toll on the country—that the arduous chore of hoisting a pencil and using it to choose a whole entire candidate would lead to a nationwide outbreak of Post-Election Stress Disorder, an affliction characterized by a pale, spectral population roaming the streets in a daze, randomly marking X’s on telephone poles, automobiles and our slower-moving dogs.
This isn’t the Stephen Harper we know and . . . well, let’s leave it at “know.” Avoidance doesn’t suit him. But that’s what a minority does to you. It takes away your confidence. It reduces your options. Going into political battle without a majority is like entering a slap fight with one Clay Aiken tied behind your back. No matter what you do, you just can’t win outright.
Yet minorities are becoming ingrained in our federal political culture. If something doesn’t change soon, voters at campaign rallies are going to start chanting, “Four more months!”
Enough already. Whenever the next election comes, let it end with a majority. Sure, a majority government—be it Liberal, Conservative or . . . gotcha, Jack! You thought I was going to write “NDP” there, didn’t you? You’re cute—will lead to widespread corruption, unbridled hubris and quite possibly the sight of Sheila Copps emerging from her Michael Ignatieff costume, cackling, “Now I’ve got you! Now I’ve got you all!!!!!”
But given the alternative, we could all use four peaceful years of arrogance, deceit and de facto dictatorship right about now.