The leaders of Canadian national parties have altogether too much power over their parties. In my opinion, they should be in parliament at the discretion of their caucus, not vice versa. However, let’s work with what we’ve got, because sure as snow in winter the electoral system isn’t going to change in the next few months.
First of all, there’s not much difference among the parties’ platforms, at least so far. The NDP are no more true socialist than the PCs are truly conservative. The Liberals overlap both of them as they strive to occupy the vote-rich centre.
Elizabeth (why isn’t she named April?) May is the leader I respect most. I don’t agree with all that she says and does, but that’s fine with me, and I suspect with her as well. She gives every indication of listening to people, as opposed to the politicians who keep telling us what they think we think. She deserves to have some company in the House.
Steven Harper is the leader I respect least. He’s deceptive, even beyond the low-level mendaciousness he shares with most politicians that allows them to promise during elections and forget when in power. He doesn’t want us to realize that for him it’s all about power. Power to control, to manipulate, to re-order Canada into some bizarre fantasy of what he thinks it and we should be. Like Nixon, he behaves as if anyone who disagrees with him is an enemy, particularly scientists, environmentalists, feminists and even supreme court judges. He demands and gets total loyalty from his followers, who speak the party line like the communist robots who used to quote from Chairman Mao’s little red book.
Harper divides to conquer. He sets up divisions among people who used to rub cheerfully along together. He digs ditches, blows up bridges, sets us against each other. He unfailingly stokes law’n’order paranoia, getting his stooges to say things like, “If you’re not with us you’re with the pornographers.” He has undermined parliament with omnibus bills that conceal what should be debated in the House, and uses parliamentary committees to stifle healthy disagreement that could improve legislation. He de-funds research. He won’t meet with the provinces. He propagandizes shamelessly.
I think he’s right about Israel, but it’s not a saving grace, only a mitigating factor in my growing disgust for where he’s taken Canada during his years in power. I used to accept him as a necessary evil substitute for the Liberals’ sloppy thinking and shabby ethics. There was a time when I approved his firm leadership of the fractious, discordant Conservatives. I now am horrified that no matter how much power he wields, he still wants more.
Then we have the Crown Prince, the Dauphin, aka Trudeau: The Next Generation. Let’s deal with with the illusion that politicians are better if they’re bred for it. Yes, the Roosevelt family were remarkable, and so were William Pitt and his son William Pitt the younger. But before we go any further, think about the Bush family. And consider the state of mind of any party that is willing to put dynasty ahead of, well, everything. Trudeau fils is a nice guy, very handsome, not a bad boxer, but where his dad’s flamboyant arrogance was founded on some fairly serious intellectual training and pretensions, Justin’s career so far is the stuff of public relations and minor social advocacy. He fumbled the question of sexual misbehaviour by members of his caucus, neither clarifying the situation nor sending it to be dealt with objectively in a court of law. He says that nomination meetings should be open, but only so long as they are “green lighted” first, which reminds me of an Ayatollah vetting the candidates list. All in all, not promising. Oh yes, and he doesn’t want to form a coalition with the NDP, which doesn’t matter because they quite possibly won’t need it.
And so we come to Tom Mulcair, easily the best of the bunch in the House. Logical, persistent, sometimes an angry gnome, more often a voice of reason. He’s moved his party into the centre, but more by expanding the tent than by abandoning hallowed NDP ground. He has relentlessly exposed the irrationalities, inconsistencies and suspicious irregularities in the functioning of the Prime Minister’s Office. He has a wealth of experience in politics, and knows how parliament should work. He shows compassion for the unfortunate and talks much less drivel about the “middle class.” He does not obsess on Quebec, but rather understands what a substantial and growing number of Quebecers share with the rest of Canada. This encourages me to think that he also understands the benefits of Canadian diversity rather than seeking to create wedge issues that divide us. I have hope that he might move Canada toward having an immigration policy that no longer seeks to bring in new Canadians who are persuaded to vote for the party that was in power when they arrived. I see a possibility for a return to compassion that is conspicuously absent from the politics of either Harper or Trudeau.
If like me you’re not a true believer in any person or party, an election is a least-worst decision. After more than half a century of following Canadian politics, I think we could do a lot worse than an NDP government with Mulcair in the driver’s seat.