Up here in the Great White North this past month we were treated to the ultimate wacky reality-television special: the 2011 Canadian Federal Election! I’m going to try my best to not turn this into a political opinion rant, mostly because I feel like there’s been enough of that in my face over the past couple of months and it’s a body of work that doesn’t need my contribution. I will however say that if our electoral system reflected the way Canadians actually voted we would have ended up with a very different looking parliament than the one we’re stuck with.
For those of you who are not familiar with Canadian politics, it’s really a shame because you are missing out on some choice entertainment. The cast of characters is vibrant, filled with classic heroes and villains, and epic struggles between good and evil. This election was a prime example: on the hero side was Jack Layton, the mustachioed “working man”, champion of the unions, friend of social programs nation-wide, constant under-dog and also-ran, leader of Canada’s “third party”. There was also our gal Elizabeth May, the buck-toothed old-school environmentalist/lone female leader, fighting doggedly to have her Greens recognized as a legitimate party. On the other hand we had Michael Ignatieff (or “Iggy” as he is affectionately known by the haters), leader of one of Canada’s oldest and most successful parties, former Harvard professor (accused of not being “Canadian” enough to run the country), smug deadpan opposition leader who never seemed to actually oppose anything the party in power did. Steven Harper, Conservative Prime Minister and resident megalomaniac, is about as close to a dictator as Canadians will allow him to be, and has cold blue eyes that convey the message “I eat kittens”. And how could we forget Monsieur Gilles Duceppe, leader of the only federal party that exists exclusively in a single province, whose sole purpose is to advocate for the separation of said province from the rest of Canada. Wait a minute….what?
The list goes on. Watching the election results come in on the CBC has always been for me what the Superbowl or Stanley Cup is for most of the non-nerd population. Me and my poli-geek friends gather around the TV, drinks in hand and Party Mix close by, cheering and jeering as the polls close across Canada’s 6 time zones, staying up until the wee hours to see the final results in real time. This year, we celebrated Lay-Ton’s long-awaited rise to Leader of the Official Oppostion and Liz May’s hard-earned spot as a Member of Parliament, gawked at the historic defeat of Iggy’s Liberals and his subsequent resignation as party leader, found the humour in the blatant defeat of Duceppe’s Bloc Quebecois (and his instant straight-up resignation), and felt The Fear over the implications of a definitive Conservative majority: the only Prime Minister whose government has ever been held in contempt of parliament became even more powerful as a result of this forced election. America, we have learned nothing from your mistakes.
But I digress. Having held my breath through much of the Haitian presidential election just a few months prior, I wasn’t looking forward to sitting through another schmemocratic mess. Obviously the problems Canadians face when voting are very different to those faced by Haitian voters, and I can’t even begin to compare the experiences of these two groups. I recognize how lucky we are to have the system we do in Canada, and have it work as well as it does. One of the reasons I’m able to find the entertainment value in Canadian politics is that the outcome of our elections never really seem to have that big of an impact on the way the country is run and the way the majority of us Canadians live our daily lives. That may be a very narrow and selfish view, but I recognize how extremely lucky we are to be able to have that sense of security in our country’s political situation. It’s a rare thing in the better part of this beautiful but messed-up world, and something none of us should take for granted no matter how “bad” things seem.
But just because things are pretty good here doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be working to make them better. A friend of mine recently passed this video along to me, highlighting one of the ways people worked for change before and during the recent revolution in Egypt. It’s interesting and inspiring (my favourite video combination!) and I feel like there are principles in it that can be applied to any situation, particularly if you’re looking to influence political change. I think it’s impossible to live amongst society and remain apolitical, no matter how apathetic you might claim to be, and no matter how much you hate the idea of it you may someday need to fight for your cause. So this one’s dedicated to the haters…check it out below: