Sunday, October 20, 2019

a news service

The Dooney’s Team Election Complete Guide to the 2004 Canada-Tobago Election

Gee, the campaign’s almost a week old and the Dooney’s vast Election Team/Team Election, the largest assemblage of pundits, reporters, dumpster divers, and chicken entrail readers in the website’s history, has yet to opine on the national decision-making process. True, we’ve just received word that the Dooney’s Election Team/Equipe Fratracide bus—every serious media or mafia outlet, I’m reliably informed, now has an independent campaign bus—is mired in the muskeg of Nunavit, but hey, it’s 5 a.m. Friday morning in Toronto this very moment and…

Admittedly, the media as a whole, not just us, got off to a sluggish start in the electoral slugfest. It was the media, you’ll recall, like bored children on a long car-ride, who spent the last four months moaning, “Are we there yet?”, and pestering, importuning, sleeve-tugging and blackmailing every Canadian politician and still-breathing potential voter in hailing distance to demand the dropping of the writ. And then, clunk, the writ got dropped. And what did the Globe have to say? “Election 2004: Hold your nose” was the headline over Jeffrey Simpson’s out-of-the-chute column; Margaret Wente declared that she’d rather eat glass than think about it.

Just like screaming babies wailing for the pacifier and finally receiving it, still not satisfied. Now, almost a week later, the punditti class has heaved a collective sigh, remembered its generous paycheque, rolled up its sleeves and buckled down to work. “Excitement? I don’t think so,” sighs columnist Rick Salutin in the Globe that’s gathering morning dew on your front stoop. Mr. Simpson at least is asking, “Tory outrage: How much is gas, how much is hot air?” The Star has the latest polling numbers, assuring us that it’s a minority government at best for former and future Prime Minister Paul Martin. That’s because Ontario voters are pissed off at Premier Dalton McGoo raising taxes after he promised not to but had to.

You’re wondering, so what is this election all about? (No, no, you’re not just wondering, So what?) Amazingly, I think there’s actually a relatively simple answer to the question of what this is all about. Although, as old Globe pundito Hugh Winsor observed the other day, “No one in the media has seized on what the Martin campaign hopes to be the ballot question, a choice over what kind of Canada electors want,” that’s it.

Even though it was Paul Martin who first uttered this tired-old-election-theme cliché, What kind of Canada do you want?, it’s Martin who’s partly responsible for obfuscating the obviousness of this obvious question. I just wish Martin would stop pretending the election is about excitement, new ideas, Centrum Silver for geriatrics, and the rest, and simply admit that what he’s offering is some nice same-old-same-old (remember when “same-old-same-old” was a fresh cliché?) moderate social democracy (a.k.a. liberalism), more or less the same stuff we’ve had for the entirety of the last decade. Because if he did admit it, I’d pop up out of my Lazy Boy rocker and say, Hey, or yo dude, or whatever, that’s just exactly what I want.

Of course, Stephen Harper, the leader of the Neo-Conservatives (U.S. Republican Party, Canada branch), is also contributing to the fuzzification by being as reassuringly bland as Cream-o-Wheat, and handing out free Air Mile bonus points to the reporters flying on Bor-Wing, his campaign dirigible. Our Team Dooney’s embedded reporter has already piled up enough points to fly free from Mississauga to Kingston (but why would she wanna go there?).

Look, folks, it’s really simple, as the tire guy says on TV. Work with me. There are three and a half social democratic parties in Canada: the NDP, the Liberals, the Greens, and the ghost of Joe Clark. There is one Neo-Con party. What kind of Canada do you want? I know that my lefty friends like to claim that Martin is a conservative, neo- or otherwise, but it ain’t true.

What the social democrats of all stripes offer is: no war in Iraq, no riots or lynchings (a.k.a. multiculturalism), medicare, low murder rate, gay marriage, pot smoking, urban first-aid, civility, and unofficial honorary membership in the European Union. What more do you want? What the Neo-Cons offer is tax cuts. And as Jeffrey Simpson points out from your front stoop this morning, “The [Neo-Cons] can’t spend more on the military and health, plus hand federal revenues to the cities and enrich the equalization scheme–and cut taxes substantially—without slashing spending somewhere.” The other thing the Neo-Cons offer is ideology—the mind of Stockwell Day is alive and beating the drums somewhere among the dinosaurs that he believes shared the earth with the rest of us a mere 5000 years ago.

The rest is distraction. Scandals, mismanaged programs, blunders? I remember the night that the Sponsorship Scandal erupted. As a loyal citizen, I was watching Pastor Peter Mansbridge (that’s what my favourite TV columnist, the Globe’s John Doyle, calls him) interviewing his CBC panel of experts—pollster Allen Gregg, the nice Quebecois lesbian journalist Chantel Hebert, and a token salamander from the West. It was the wily Gregg, who’s signed more Sponsorship Scandal-type contracts than Chuck Guite has ever handed out, who slyly suggested that the Sponsorship Scandal was relatively small potatoes, and tossed in some free theatre criticism by saying that Auditor General Sheila Fraser, who unearthed the scandal, was something of a “drama queen.” This morning, Simpson observes that the whole thing amounted to less “than $100 million in a federal budget of $180 billion.” The cost of doing business, as long as the nation’s business involves a bit of Quebec cronyism.

Democratic deficits? Yeah, sure. Look, once we get European Union-style proportional representation—within the next decade, surely—we won’t have to worry about Martin running Sheila Copps off the road or leaving ethnic candidates in B.C. weeping in their press conferences after the PM parachutes in his choice.

NDP? Well, Jack Layton is certainly an improvement on the last two NDP leaders whose names, dammit, I can never remember and end up impolitely referring to as McDonut I and McDonut II. Once we have PR coalition government in Canada, I’ll get more excited about the party I’ve been voting for for 30 or 40 years.

Holy tomato paste, Batman! It’s 6 a.m. Toronto-time. Better get this on the web. Everything adequately defuzzified, right? Ain’t no more to it than that. Ok, now take your first sip of morning coffee.

May 28, 2004, 6 a.m. Toronto time, 3 a.m. Vancouver time, noon Berlin time

Post tags:
Stan Persky

Stan Persky

Stan Persky taught philosophy at Capilano University in N. Vancouver, B.C. He received the 2010 B.C. Lieutenant-Governor's Award for Literary Excellence. His most recent books are Reading the 21st Century: Books of the Decade, 2000-2009 (McGill-Queen's, 2011), Post-Communist Stories: About Cities, Politics, Desires (Cormorant, 2014), and Letter from Berlin: Essays 2015-2016 (Dooney's, 2017).

More from Stan Persky: