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If you are a glutton for punishment, a partisan political-file, or if you had nothing better to do on Monday evening, you may have recently enjoyed the only English language debate running up to the Canadian Federal Election. As Rex Murphy assessed:

“From the perspective of simple utility, how [the debate] assisted voters to make up their minds, Monday night’s exhibition — the so-called debate — was a waste of time…

Throw in the presence of five — five — moderators and what you have is a jumble of crosstalk, interruption, pre-fab bullet points offered as spontaneous eloquence, and two hours of tangled posturing. Eleven people can’t “debate” anything. As everyone tried to grasp their few seconds of camera time, it triggered the image, frequently seen on television, of Japanese commuters being jammed by guards into already over-stuffed subway cars. Furthermore, they weren’t on stage to debate — it was far more a competition to see who could rhetorically wound one or another of the competitors than an effort to deal in any way comprehensively with the major issues of the election. This tactic [is] elegantly summarized in Bruce Carson’s The Morning Brief:

Leaders who came with pre-planned attacks or ‘drive-by smears’ ready to unload,” is actually the essence, the core dynamic, of these encounters.

Sickening and Shameful

Early in this election cycle Andrew Coyne noted:

“Elections are defining moments for a nation: in deciding what it stands for, it also decides who and what it is. In the present election the issue on which we are being asked, most directly, to decide where we stand is Quebec’s Bill 21: the provincial law banning public servants “in positions of authority” from wearing religious symbols on the job…

That this is actually happening, in 2019, in a province of Canada — members of religious minorities being driven from their jobs, and for no reason other than their religion — is sickening, and shameful. That shame is not reserved to Premier Francois Legault or his CAQ government, the people responsible for designing and implementing this disgraceful exercise in segregation, this manifestly cruel attempt to cleanse the province’s schools and courts of religious minorities. It is no less shaming to the rest of us, everywhere across Canada, so long as we permit it to continue.”

I am perplexed that the national political leaders (excluding of course – the separatist, Mr. Blanchet) are wary to go near this contentious issue. It took Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi to call out the guise of neutral secularism for what it is: terrifying. (See his interview in “It’s Terrifying” – or read his article, “There is something more threatening than Trudeau’s blackface.”).

But the reality of politics in Canada is as Marco Vigliotti writes:

“As if it needed any repeating: Canada’s second most populous province is a major battleground in this year’s vote, with the fate of almost all the major parties tied to their performances here…”

There appears to be a national open-secret desire to rationalize this Bill 21. On the CBC’s website for example there is “an explanation of Quebec’s ‘new’ nationalism, with its familiar appeals to fears of immigration and multiculturalism, as being based not on crude prejudice or majoritarian intolerance, but ‘on a holistic conception of Quebec society that prioritizes the historical experience of francophones.’”

Thus with machinations brought on by the uneven distribution of Canada’s population and seats in the House of Commons, comes the seeping advent of soft fascism, unchecked because of the mathematics of the Canadian political reality. Who can say anything against Bill 21 without sacrificing votes, and today getting elected is more important than providing justice.

Then there was that Debate

It is Andrew Coyne who put it best when he wrote:

“… the election of 2019 will go down as the most miserable, dishonest, venomous, pandering and altogether trivial exercise in multi-partisan misdirection since the last one.

I don’t think this is really contestable. The platforms the parties have seen fit to put on public display — those of them that have deigned to present a platform — range from the absurdly unambitious (free museum passes, anyone?) micro-baubles of the Liberals and Conservatives to the utopian free-for-alls of the NDP and the Greens.

If the latter may be discounted as the fantasies of the unelectable, the former are scarcely to be taken more seriously, such is the record of broken promises of both parties once in office — of which the most damning evidence is surely the Liberals’ trumpeting of a book by two dozen academics, published shortly before the election, that found they kept roughly half of their promises from 2015. As defences of integrity go, “what about all the promises that weren’t broken” is not among the more convincing.”

The Credibility Gap

But more disturbing by far is the increasing incredulousness we have about politicians. This should be alarming on its own, but in this era of “election-as-sport” we must endure every excruciating period of this eye-poking, ear-popping contest.

“That credibility gap… may explain why the parties have been less concerned with telling Canadians what they would do in power than with making up stories about what their opponents would do…

Or never mind the future. The parties seem unable to tell the truth even about the recent past.

What is more striking about this election is what is not being discussed than what is; the number and importance of the issues on which the parties have literally nothing to say quite dwarfs the number on which they have chosen to emphasize their comparatively minor differences.”

For more of Andrew Coyne’s article go to: “What is more striking about this election is what is not being discussed than what is.”

Are you ready to Vote?

We have a duty to vote, even if we have to hold our noses (again). But more, we have a duty to pray for and be engaged in advocating for justice with our elected officials irrespective of the party to which they belong.

Stay tuned for next week’s post: “In Time for the Canadian Federal Election.”

To learn more about what it means to be politically engaged without being partisanly biased, go to “Political but not partisan.”