Understanding the Canadian 2015 Federal Election: a slightly partisan primer for non-Canadians (especially Americans)

It’s federal election time up here in Canada. To those outside the land of hockey and poutine, this can be pretty confusing. But what surprises many is that our election season is a pretty puzzling time for Canadians as well. It must be, or we wouldn’t have spent the last ten years (yes, that’s three terms) under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a man who, in spite of Canada’s long reputation as a nation of niceness, makes George W. Bush look like an intelligent sweetheart with moderate centrist beliefs by comparison.

I recently wrote and posted a more lighthearted piece on understanding the Canadian Election for Canadians, through the lens of an episode of The Littlest Hobo. But nobody from outside of Canada is going to know who or what that is (briefly: it’s a beloved low-budget Canadian TV show from the 1980s about a dog who travels across Canada helping people. Basically, if you were to cross Lassie with Michael Landon’s Highway to Heaven, you’d be 90% of the way there).

The Littlest Hobo, iconic Canadian hero, immortalized (I think) in glorious 16mm film. We're a quirky people, what can I say?
The Littlest Hobo, iconic Canadian hero, immortalized (I think) in glorious 16mm film. We’re a quirky people, what can I say?

But as this blog has grown, I’ve started getting more and more attention from international readers who are pretty baffled by the gong show of Canadian politics. I think it’s worth writing this supplementary piece for you, my dear non-Canadian reader, to try and explain just why we’re so embarrassed by our declining reputation on the world stage, our increasingly North-Korea-like isolation from the G6/7/8/20 countries, and our growing hostility to the scientific and academic world, the global human rights community, and the fragile climate we all share with you.

So… where do I start?

Lesson 1: Stephen Harper is Bad

In short, Canada’s problems begin with our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. I hope they end with him, too, but of course nothing in national governance is ever quite that simple. Who is Stephen Harper? I’m grimly happy that you asked.

Stephen Harper is the most despised politician in the history of Canada (Yes, including and surpassing Rob Ford, our biggest city’s infamous crack-smoking former mayor). He is the worst leader in our country’s history and a man who will live on in our history textbooks as a sort of totalitarian political bogeyman, an uncomfortable reminder of how close a country as nice as Canada can come to domineering fascism.

Now, because of Harper’s association with words like “totalitarian,” “fascism,” “despot,” “bigot,” “police state,” and similar words, an unfortunate thing sometimes happens on the Internet. Namely, you see a lot of associations of Stephen Harper with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, and I want to take a moment to address them. This is an unfortunate and unhelpful invocation of Godwin’s Law, on which I should take a moment to set the record straight.

Comparing Harper to Hitler is not accurate, it’s not fair, and I think it’s even disrespectful to all those who suffered under the Nazis. Hitler was a true monster responsible for millions of deaths, who brought unfathomable misery to the world on a scale that we in cozy little Canada can never fully understand. The people who compare Stephen Harper to Hitler are ignoring or minimizing a lot of very important, very terrible historical facts. I don’t think the comparison holds any water: Stephen Harper may be, by far, the worst world leader ever to represent Canada — but I don’t think that even puts in the top 10 Worst World Leaders in History. In my estimation, he barely cracks the top 100 — somewhere between John Lackland (1166-1216) and Nero (37-68), with a few of the less savoury traits of each.

At the same time, he’s the only Canadian leader who ever gets compared to Hitler, even if it’s a misguided and ignorant comparison. That’s worth thinking about all on its own. A cursory Google Image search of the name “Hitler” next to each of our three front-runners’ names – “Harper,” “Mulcair,” “Trudeau” — reveals some very interesting things. Even if the comparison’s a faulty one, it’s worth asking why so many are making it so repeatedly. Hitler comparisons are, above all, the ultimate weapon of disdain. Our last long-serving Conservative Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, was not well liked. Neither was our last Liberal, Paul Martin, who was also no stranger to political scandal. But you have to be really hated to get Godwinned on the Internet. No Prime Minister in Canadian history, save Stephen Harper, has had that dubious honour.

Perhaps it’s because Stephen Harper is the only Prime Minister in the four-century history of Prime Minstering, in any country, to lead a government found to be in contempt of its own Parliament. And yet he continues to rule. In 2011, due to our already-shady electoral system and some very dodgy electoral practice on the part of his personal party, he achieved a majority government with only 38% of the popular vote. This somehow translated into 54% of the available seats in Parliament, which translated into 100% of the power and control over which laws are passed and which laws are thrown out. He has passed more unconstitutional legislation than any Prime Minister in history. He has been defeated more times in the Supreme Court than any Prime Minister in history. And of the senators, ministers, and members of Parliament appointed by him or serving under him, more of them are under police investigation, on trial in criminal court, or serving jail time, than from the appointments of any Prime Minister in history.

When he entered majority power, he threw out all the letterhead that said “Government of Canada” on it — which is what the Government of Canada has been called since 1867 — and commissioned new letterhead that reads “Harper Government.” It was taxpayers who paid for this. This is the sort of man we’re talking about.

He is the only Prime Minister in History to have hired a personal stylist and makeup artist on the taxpayer’s dime. Apparently he was inspired by seeing a wax dummy in a dull grey pot helmet once, and decided that would be his go-to look. He’s all about getting taxpayers to pay for his public image, whether we’re talking $300 per application of his waxy robot makeup, or half a billion dollars for propaganda commercials and other ads to convince all the gullible old Canadians who watch traditional cable just what a swell guy he is and what a great job he’s doing (the worst part: sometimes it works).

A handler presses the hidden button, activating Stephen Harper just in time for a 2006 debate. Either that, or the hand of a private makeup artist in very expensive jewelry makes a micro-adjustment to Stephen Harper's silver-touched helm of ignorance, ensuring that every hair, like every MP, is exactly where he wants it and doing exactly what he tells it to do.
A handler presses the hidden button, activating Stephen Harper just in time for a 2006 debate. Either that, or the hand of a private makeup artist in very expensive jewelry makes a micro-adjustment to Stephen Harper’s silver-touched helm of ignorance, ensuring that every hair, like every MP, is exactly where he wants it and doing exactly what he tells it to do.

Lesson 2: Some Tangled Political Complications

So why hasn’t Canada ditched this guy? Well, like anything else in politics, it’s actually quite complicated.

With Canada’s duly gerrymandered first-past-the-post system, a massive taxpayer-funded propaganda machine, and a multitude of competing parties (more on that in a minute) splitting the anti-Harper vote, the man is particularly hard to unseat through voter efforts. His passing of the Fair Elections Act, and more specifically, the strategic timing of passing this unconstitutional Act, will only make it harder. There are already constitutional and Charter of Rights challenges lining up against the Act, but of course those are legal matters and won’t get resolved until after the election’s over. So we’re already conducting an election under the influence of what will probably turn out to be illegal laws… though the Harper Government is fond of couching these things one inside another, like rose petals, so that an illegal law can’t be repealed until a blanket law legalizing the illegal law is also found to be unconstitutional — but that law was probably legalized by a third law buried in the back of an omnibus bill somewhere.

Unraveling the tangle of these nested laws is like the maddeningly slow opening of a matryoshka doll–an exercise in frustration for a Supreme Court that is, in many cases, the last legislative line of defense against Harper, and for that reason an institution for which he reserves his basest and most utter contempt. Judicial independence–the ability of legal professionals to notice just how obviously he breaks the law–is one of the last barriers in Canada to Stephen Harper’s absolute power. For this reason, as hundreds of lawyers and law professors have observed, he’s hellbent on destroying judicial independence wherever he can. His compulsion to slap a mandatory minimum jail sentence on every crime he can, turning Canada into a prison state that directly benefits his friends in the prison-construction industry, is just one more facet of his desire to strip away judges’ powers to judge, turning them into glorified prisoner-transfer processors for the almighty Harper Government. Thankfully, many of these mandatory minimums are getting quashed by the Supreme Court as the expensive, socially damaging, life-ruining, crime-worsening, empty gestures of grandstanding they really are… all the more reason, of course, for King Steve to despise the courts and the judges for continuing to stand in the way of his iron-fisted rule.

Thankfully, unfair elections are not the only recourse we have to jettison a foul leader. But the others haven’t worked out so well for us either. In 2008, when a mutinous vote of non-confidence from Parliament itself threatened to show him the door, Stephen Harper escaped getting thrown out by proroguing government, effectively shutting down and dissolving the parliamentary session that would have ended him. An imprecise but rough equivalent would have been if Richard Nixon, facing certain impeachment and removal from office at the hands of the U.S. Senate, rather than resigning with an appropriate level of shame, decided to send all his enemies home for the summer instead of himself.

Today, Harper is pushing for a fourth term, which will alarm people in countries like the United States which impose two-term limits on their leaders to keep these kind of generation-long dictatorial dynasties from happening. Given the layout of voter ridings in Canada, a fourth term is exactly what’s going to happen unless there’s a monumental groundswell of opposition to Stephen Harper–which, thankfully, there is. But his ejection from Parliament still remains very much in doubt.

Just before calling this election, the Harper Government rammed through (against the consent of most Canadians) something called the Fair Elections ActThere is nothing at all fair about this act, which is generally aimed at making it easier for Stephen Harper’s supporters to vote, and harder for his enemies to vote. After a number of “criminal irregularities” in the last election, Harper seems to realize that the only difference between illegal voter suppression and legal voter suppression is that you have to force the right legislative changes first.

In theory, because Canada is a British Commonwealth country, we are “on paper” a monarchy. The venerable Queen Elizabeth II of the UK is our actual sovereign, and she (again, “on paper”) has the power to overrule all of this nonsense. She could have refused to enact the (Un)Fair Elections Act. She could have refused to save Harper’s skin by denying him the right to prorogue Parliament. She could, and perhaps should, exercise Royal Prerogative at any point to remove him from power and decide to prosecute him for high treason for the damage he’s done to this country (all criminal prosecutors in Canada are actually “Crown” prosecutors, standing in for–you guessed it–Her Majesty). But the fundamental problem with this is that the Queen’s power in Canada is actually administered through a “viceregal” called the Governor-General who performs her Constitutional functions for her.

Canada’s present Governor-General was selected by a search committee convened and led by–you guessed it–Stephen Harper. You can see where this is going.

Some countries in the world are divided over whether to decriminalize and/or legalize marijuana. Stephen Harper has decided with the Fair Elections Act that the best crime to rush toward legalizing was any form of voter suppression that disproportionately targets immigrants, exiles, the homeless, the poor, the First Nations (Native Canadians), academics and university students, and anyone else who is likely to stand against Harper’s re-election. Once again, this is highly unconstutional and is not going to be worth the paper it’s printed on when we can get it before the Supreme Court, who continue to stand up to Harper’s bullying. But the calculated timing of the Act means that it takes effect for the upcoming election, and the courts will never get to a verdict quashing it before the election takes place.

In short, removal of Harper through the constitutional failsafes put in place to deal with people like him is going to be much harder in practice than it was supposed to be. Likewise, voting him out of power is going to be much harder than it ought to be. The gerrymandering of Canada’s first-past-the-post voting system favours Harper initially, even without the voter suppression and electoral fraud that defined and tainted the last Conservative victory so severely that the OSCE is sending an international team of monitors to watch the federal campaign for for any funny business.

Even with the usual Harper-Government funny business suppressed, even with Canada’s environmental scientists being brave enough to decide that writing a protest song is more important than keeping their jobs, a majority of people voting against Stephen Harper is not actually going to be enough to oust him. Compare that in your mind with your definition of democracy for a moment, and then we’ll move on.

Lesson 3: The Alternatives

One of the fundamental reasons that a votership almost completely opposed to Stephen Harper continues to fail at ousting him has to do with the makeup of Canada’s political parties. Unlike the United States, which is largely governed by a two-party system (Republicans and Democrats) with a negligible presence from the occasional third-party quack, Canada’s multi-party system supports a number of different alternatives to the Harper Government. These cover a wide political spectrum on a number of issues, and that’s part of the problem. While the plutocrats, the corrupt, the fearful, and anyone dumb enough to be bought by slick taxpayer-funded commercials, are united behind Stephen Harper, reasonably cogent Canadians across a broad political spectrum, from sane left-wingers to sane right-wingers, are thoroughly divided among the other options.

A brief rundown of the key party leaders in the current election might include any of these guys, whom you’ve probably never heard of if you’re not from Canada:

  • Tom Mulcair of the New Democratic Party – a socially leftist party, traditionally a bit more socialist than the U.S. Democrats. They are not out-and-out Communists in spite of how the McCarthyist rhetoric of the Harper government tries to brand them, but they’re the kind of party whose agenda is benefitted rather than attacked by Pete Seeger-esque protest songs. They’re historically renowned for being financially liberal (read: spendthrifts), but the new leader seems to be floating a more austere budget, leading to a party that’s curiously economically conservative for a social left-wing.
    Mulcair himself has served for the last four years as the Leader of the Opposition, a sort of cross-examiner and critic of the ruling government in the House. This is a particularly powerless role under a majority government, as Stephen Harper’s massive dictatorial voting bloc ignores all criticism and sober voices reason, and does whatever it wants anyway. But by pointing out to everyone else watching just how insane Harper’s government policy is, Mulcair has built himself a reputation as an intelligent, take-no-BS kind of guy who demands accountability. Unfortunately, he’s also built up the reputation of an angry and negative guy, given that most of his airtime has been focused on calling out the Harper Government on its bullshit. This is exactly how riled up a critic of this government should be — but “Angry Tom,” as some Canadians call him, is a hard sell to many nice cuddly Canadians, who admire his tenacity in the role of a passionate Opposition critic, but are prone to want a positive, friendly leader who comes off as less of a bulldog. If Mulcair has such a sweet side, it’s not going to get much airtime while his primary job responsibility as Opposition Leader is holding the Prime Minister to account.
  • Justin Trudeau of the Liberal Party – the Liberals are a “centrist” party that leans a little left in theory, but is increasingly skewed to the right by all the intelligent Conservatives who are abandoning Stephen Harper in droves and looking for a respectably small-c conservative ship to jump to. This year, despite leaning a little more rightward under their weight (though not nearly to the extent of, say, U.S. Republicans), Trudeau is floating a very liberal economic plan. He plans to run a government deficit for several years to “spend us into the growth” that has stagnated under Harper, and to repair some of the damage that Harper has done. This seems pretty sound; but to countries who regularly run big government deficits (the U.S., for instance, has only had 6 years of annual surplus budgets since 1960), it’s hard to explain just what a hard sell it is to Canadians, who are very uncomfortable with the idea of deliberately spending more than we can afford, at least as  a nation.
    Trudeau is also the son of Pierre Trudeau, the particularly successful (if controversial) Prime Minister of Canada throughout the 1970s. The senior Trudeau was a bit of a womanizer–though less extensively and dishonestly than, say, his close political parallel Bill Clinton–and as a result, Trudeau the Younger (who is insanely good-looking and looks much younger than his Kennedy-esque 43 years) has to fend off continual criticisms that he’s a pretty-boy lacking in substance, a wealthy scion of a former leader born with a silver spoon, and worst of all, “just not ready” or too young for the job. Of all the candidates, Trudeau is the one who’s most frequently subjected to ad homimem attacks, which have managed to keep his rising star in check.
  • Elizabeth May of the Green Party, a plucky and uniquely Canadian candidate who campaigns aggressively for the Prime Minister’s seat despite leading a tiny party that wins, year after year, only one of Canada’s 300+ electoral seats–hers–and that one by a reliable landslide. Elizabeth May is an absolute one-woman dynamo, and calling her “plucky” (or worse, “feisty”) is reductive labeling that doesn’t do her justice. She’s extraordinarily well-spoken and is–like Mulcair–an excellent critic of the way Canada’s gone off the rails. Her talent for tearing apart political doubletalk is unprecedented, which means that all the parties generally steer clear of her.
    Harper likes to stay unaccountable, and relies on the sexism of his power base to silence her and shut her out. The other two front-runners, Mulcair and Trudeau, are locked in a dead heat with each other and can’t afford her punching obvious holes in their platforms, so both of them seem determined not to engage with her while campaigning. She’s frequently barred from election debates, usually on the nonsensical grounds of how “minor” her party is. When our most recent debate on the economy excluded her, she basically settled in on Twitter and live-tweeted the Green Party’s responses… and essentially won the debate via Internet. This pretty much sums up her spirit. Her party hasn’t got a chance of winning the election, but she’s going to win her seat again, and go on being one of the most important voices in our government even though she never gets any of the power. There’s something uniquely Canadian about that, and even Canadians who don’t care for the Green platform at all have an enormous respect for May.
  • Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Québécois, a culturally important party that again provides an important function despite winning very few federal seats these days. Rooted in French-speaking Québec, the Bloc speaks for an important minority of separatist Francophone Canadians, mostly living in the French-speaking province of Québec, some of whom are unhappy with what they perceive as second-class citizenship (Harper’s made this divide worse, of course). This subset of French Canadians are determined to work toward peacefully separating and seceding from Canada, which they see as a predominantly Anglophone country and one whose government doesn’t care much about them.
    They were much more powerful in the 1990s than they are now: ironically, their efforts on behalf of Canada’s Francophones have brought their real cultural, religious, and linguistic concerns to the attention of all Canadians–and in particular to all politicians, who are much more heavily invested in Canada’s bilingual diversity and cultural heritage than they used to be. As more people started working for a more cohesive and egalitarian Canada, though, there were fewer convincing reasons to be a separatist, and fewer moderate Francophones who saw secession as the only solution. Most of the French Candians living in Québec today have thrown their weight behind the New Democrats instead, and see the protection of their culture as something that can be achieved by working with (and in) Canada’s government rather than leaving it.
The latest polls from the Canadian election, pointing toward a very messy and unpredictable three-way tie. Not shown is the polling results for Canadian X-man Wolverine, who would obviously win if he weren't imaginary.
The latest polls from the Canadian election, pointing toward a very messy and unpredictable three-way tie. Not shown is the polling results for Canadian X-man Wolverine, who would obviously win if he weren’t imaginary.

As you can see from all these polling numbers, it’s anybody’s game right now–at least, among the top 3 parties. Trudeau and Mulcair are both very viable alternatives to Harper, and while both of their parties have suffered minor political scandals and questionable lapses in ethics, these things pale next to Stephen Harper’s minions, who have been accused or convicted of everything from drunk driving and wife-beating to election fraud to influence peddling and illegal lobbying to sexually harassing women over the phone to knocking up an underage babysitter. In light of the number and nature of the palpable, indictable crimes of Harper’s own people, the typical scandals that stem from insensitive off-the-cuff comments, inappropriate social media posts, and other gaffes don’t seem to be hurting the NDP or the Liberal party too badly.

The latest NDP scandal, for instance, revolves around a candidate calling one of his opponents a “son of a bitch”–very impolite and un-Canadian of him. But if we call that dirty politics, what do we call Dean Del Mastro, Harper’s appointee to an ethics committee, who’s now serving jail time for cheating during one of Stephen Harper’s past elections?

One problem that Canadians have is that compared to the Harper Gang, anybody seems like a reasonable alternative. Depending on whom you ask, some Canadians may worry about Trudeau lacking experience to wrangle a divided house, or Mulcair lacking the grace to handle delicate matters of foreign policy. We may disagree with the austerity of Mulcair’s budget, or with the recklessness of Trudeau’s. But in all cases, these are good Canadians — people with good hearts — who differ on matters of policy when it comes to doing what’s best for Canada and our global neighbours. They may be misguided about some things and strong on others. But they are basically good people who represent parties of good people. As idealistic as it sounds, that’s every bit as important to Canadians as the minutiae of economic policies that many people here don’t even fully understand.

The amount of reasonable choice in Canadian politics may lead us to an unreasonable result. If the people desperate for an alternative to Stephen Harper are split among too many alternatives, they’ll divide the vote so strongly that the man no one wants may find himself back on the throne of his own making.

Graphic courtesy of montrealsimon.blogspot.ca: the King in the North?
Graphic courtesy of montrealsimon.blogspot.ca: the King in the North?

Summary: Why should I care, and what can I do?

As a non-Canadian, why does any of this matter to you, really? Unless you have a major thing for maple syrup, or live in a war-torn nation where the peacekeepers we used to send would be more helpful than the war-minded soldiers we send now, why should the outcome of this election matter to you?

For the most part, it probably doesn’t. The scientists in your country are not muzzled by government order for discovering inconvenient truths. Your tax dollars are not being spent on $16 glasses of orange juice by Stephen Harper’s personally-appointed ministers. You are not being rapidly turned from a nation of the most beloved travelers in the world to a nation of hated isolationists hellbent on destroying the Earth’s climate for the gain of its own oil barons, as this powerful attack ad (crowdfunded by our desperate public citizens rather than any one party) strongly suggests we’ve become:

But if you have any dog in this fight at all, it’s probably that one. Canada is a “small” country in a lot of ways, but with a population less than the state of California, we shepherd a biomass of undeveloped land as large as the continental United States. Most of us live within 100 miles of the U.S. border, in a very “culturally American” belt where we we sound the same, drive the same vehicles, watch the same TV shows. But north of that line lies a vast wilderness teeming with life, a land that is absolutely essential to the survival of everyone on the planet.

And Stephen Harper is destroying it.

One of these images is Middle-Earth's land of Mordor. One is the Boreal Forest of Alberta, Stephen Harper's home province, after he's done sucking and fracking the oil out of it.
One of these images is Middle-Earth’s land of Mordor. One is the Canadian Boreal Forest, the single largest intact forest on Earth, after Stephen Harper’s friends are done dredging and sucking and fracking the oil out of it.

This is going to affect you, sooner or later. If you live downstream or downwind of us, it’s going to be sooner. Every barrel of oil — a barrel that retails on the world market for about $44 right now — extracted from Canada’s tar sands requires, on average, the tearing up of four tons of our natural landscape. It’s insane math that only works on a gargantuan scale, and that’s exactly what’s happening.

You know that Keystone pipeline that we keep come aggressively peddling at your door? The one that makes Obama shift uncomfortably in his seat and change the subject? This is the sludge it’ll be carrying.

To give you a sense of scale we’re talking about: Before Stephen Harper, Canada was home to 2.5 million environmentally protected lakes and rivers. Now, we are hope to 159. Imagine having $25,000 cash in your hand. Stephen Harper comes along and leaves you with not enough pocket change to buy a cup of coffee at your local Starbucks. That’s what happened to the protection of our environment under him. And our environment, unprotected, is something that can be ground up and turned into cash. But it can only be done by people with millions upon millions of dollars in tools. And in order to afford those tools, you have to destroy a lot of it indeed.

Stephen Harper’s record on climate change is the worst record in the entire developed world. The specifics of this are something I’m going to leave up to you to Google. Consider what I’ve written here an appetizer. Consider what you find to be the main course. You’ll have to decide for yourself if that’s enough to make you care — but it seems that while your country is behaving and conforming to global climate-change remedies like the Kyoto Protocol, Canada has snubbed the whole thing, walked away from it, and accelerated our destruction of the very climate that your country (and 190 others) are making real and cooperative efforts to protect.

That should make you resent us. it makes us resent us.

Now…what can you do about it?

For starters, you can give Canadians a voice. Our scientists are extremely limited in what we’re allowed to say about all this. Many are not allowed to report even to international journals without their work being sanitized. You can conduct your own work, or liaise with those who are brave enough to feed you information in secret. We are trashing your planet. Don’t let us get away with it just because Canada’s far away. Nothing’s far away anymore.

You can give Canadians an artistic voice, too. Slashing funding to the arts is one more way of quelling critical thinking and dissent here, and Stephen Harper’s been liberal with anything, it’s his use of the budgetary knife where arts are concerned. Our literary magazines and journals are finding it harder and harder to keep the lights on. Our beloved national broadcaster, the non-partisan artistic champion and journalistic giant, the CBC, has been dropped into dirty hands of Harper’s own choosing. He’s destroying our largest public platform nearly as fast as he’s destroying our postal service. Organizations from the smallest community group to the biggest unions are rewarded for toeing the party line and punished for contradicting it. A lot of us are coming south with our manuscripts and our work — everything from political nonfiction to poetry, from allegorical spec-fiction about the state of things to the horror stories that only seem like speculative fiction until you find out they’re true. Publish or hire a Canadian. It makes a difference. (And with the loonie trading at 76 US cents, we work cheap!)

Contact your government representatives or your own World/Global reporters, and voice your concerns about the Harper Government. They don’t have to play ball with him. We are trying our darnedest to be rid of him. You will hear that Canadians want this pipeline. It’s a lie. We don’t. We don’t want to pollute your country with Athabasca tar, and believe me, you don’t want to let us. Similarly, if we actually win this election (a win = anyone else), our incumbent is going to need a lot of help to undo the damage that’s been done at home and abroad over the last ten years. Let your VIPs know that Canada’s on the path to healing and needs to make amends. When this dark era finally passes, tell those who consider dealing with this Canada at present to be unethical that things have changed.

Do a little research on the ethical, environmental, constitutional, and human rights problems in Stephen Harper’s Canada. Because we’re a developed country of white people who carry cell phones, a popular assumption among other developed nations of white people with cell phones is that we’re in no danger of the kind of anti-scientific human rights problems that plague “developing” places, places that are easier to think of as “othered” places, like Iran, or Somalia, or North Korea, or Afghanistan. Those are very different places, but the problems that govern the use and abuse of power there are not problems to which we are immune here. Be informed, and don’t buy the propaganda–even mine. Learn more and decide for yourself just what’s going on and how bad it is.

Carry the knowledge you find forward. Let people know, from the outside, what’s happening here. We don’t traditionally like attention on the world stage; but we like the comfort of knowing that others around the world are seeing what’s happening here. Wherever you live, be it the US, the UK, or Uganda, we are part of a shared global community. If you care about Syrian refugees, you should care very much about the Canadian election. We are a big, welcoming, developed country, founded by immigrants and a welcome home of cultural diversity. There is one man standing between Canada and the refugees we would love to welcome. I bet you can guess who.

Above all, remember that we — Canadians, I mean — are still the same people we’ve always been, irrespective of who sits on the Maple Throne:

  • We still play hockey well, and we play it like gentlemen rather than thugs.
  • We do the maple syrup thing, and name our towns adorably goofy things like “Moose Jaw” and “Medicine Hat.”
  • We still make, and drink, some of the best craft beer in the world.
  • We’re really sorry about Bieber. But the U.S. gave us Kanye so it kind of works out.
  • We take care of ourselves and each other.
  • We come to your help when asked.
  • We share what we have, even when it isn’t much.
  • We love our country, and our land, and the people who live on it, whether they’ve lived there for 10,000 years, or 400, or 5.
  • We are good neighbours, even if we spell “neighbours” funny, and better friends.

We are at heart a kind people and a nice people. And we are hurting right now. We just don’t know what to do with the aggressive, belligerent, standoffish, isolationist, bullying stance our little king has forced us into on the international stage. The only thing I can think to say to the rest of the world in response to this era of madness, the only thing that feels right to say, is perhaps a welcome sign that deep down, beneath the dictatorial rule and the destruction of our environment, beneath the waxy makeup and beyond the advertising, in our beating syrupy hearts, Canadians haven’t changed:

We’re sorry.


3 thoughts on “Understanding the Canadian 2015 Federal Election: a slightly partisan primer for non-Canadians (especially Americans)

  1. I live in the UK and I’ve heard of Rob Ford, but I thought he was the only anomaly, so when I found out he was removed from office I thought your troubles were over. It sounds like things are getting pretty ridiculous over there and I really hope the majority can see sense and fix this during the next election. Good luck, Canada. You deserve better.

    PS: Nothing wrong with that spelling of “neighbours” 😉

    1. Thanks for your support — it means a lot! Most of all I hope the international community knows that as long as as this fellow’s in power, we’re not to be trusted as a nation… but at the same time, no matter what you hear about us on the world stage, the individuals who live here are still the good kind people we’ve always been, no matter what nonsense our country gets up to.

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