it Just. Got. Interesting.

there is something new in the air. i havent seen it since my university days with good old 10713 sporting multiple lawn signs. canadians are caring about politics... our OWN politics! stephen harper's poorly timed revelation of his character has precipitated an unprecedented occurance, and i am not talking about the governor general being called on to wield her suddenly not so symbolic power. i am referring to people venting on facebook walls and in the streets, in the hospital and on the phone. i repeat: canadians are caring about politics!

it is interesting to see the lines people draw when pushed. my (poorly founded and possibly untrue) feeling has been that americans are more likely to go the way of the politically one sided mildly naive party faithful... 3rd generation rah rah republican or hard core democrat being the standard characters, overshadowed only by the truly apathetic.

canadians on the other hand love to be slightly unimpressed with our own choices for a leader. ie. "i really believe in the green initiatives put forward by dion and the liberal party, i just wish that he was a stronger leader." or "i trust harper and believe that his economic background and firm leadership will get us through this crisis, i just wish he didn't bear a very slight resemblance to a fish."

this time seems different. granted i have a very small N for my straw poll but our current struggle between the proverbial rock and its attendant hard place is throwing some sparks! having a lot of western contacts i have heard some "axis of evil" comments, and of course this concept is being heavily fueled by rhetoric from the calgary business players and the offices of the big C Conservatives. i have also witnessed some pretty heavy unilateral condemnation from the those of the small p progressive ilk, including at least one use of the term "douche bag", a pejorative so distasteful that i hesititate to include it on our blog, and do so only to illustrate the depth of feeling being generated in the last few days.

possibly the majority contingent however, are those who are equally unimpressed with all parties. and not just mildly unimpressed but actually frustrated, or dare i say it... angry. this strikes to the heart of what i am noticing; what i am trying to communicate. it is as if the worldwide recession and sudden power crisis has cranked up the rheostat on the canadian political conciousness. the partisans are becoming more passionate, and those who are ambivalent are becoming vehemently ambivalent, if you will forgive the oxymoronic dialectic.

i suppose i am not quite there. perhaps my personal outlook could be characterized as a reversal of this zeitgheist. i identify myself as comprehensively and moderately optimistic. the good thing about this viewpoint is that i can watch the show with interest and not experience the anxiety or rage of the partisan. i suppose it helps that we have no savings to see dwindle away.

the fate of our country's leadership may soon rest on the decision of michaelle jean, a haitan born french canadian former professor and CBC reporter who was APPOINTED to a largely symbolic position of great constitutional power with the unspoken assumption that she was not to actually USE this power, but merely to smooth the way, and host and network and dialogue and represent... all in a very nonthreatening manner. now she may be called upon to chart the course of our country.

in one scenario, stephen harper could prevail upon her to let him postpone parliament, effectively hamstringing the opposition by removing both their momentum and their ability to enact legislation. this probably wouldnt be so bad.

stephen harper is a smart guy. a lot of people have wondered why he spoke clearly of the need to inject money into the economy in times of recession and then failed to do so immediately. he must see the disconnect. my suspicion is that harper is aware that the fate of our nation rests more in the hands of obama and the hong kong investors than it does in any particular stimulus package he can provide. if the US economy can be stabilized and begin to limp towards growth then the canadian economy will follow without the necessity of bankrupting parliament. on the flip side, if the US economy absolutely tanks out over the next few years, then no amount of governmental economic stimulation can save us from a full blown recession cycle. his decision to push any hard plans back until obama's in power certainly looks bad, but maybe it's not that stupid.

which brings us to my next point. harper's decision to use this crisis for a bit o' politickin was just that... stupid. despite his intelligence and ability in policy he just doesn't seem to get people. his previous assertion that the worldwide financial meltdown was a great opportunity for canadians to make a bit of money in the stock market spoke to this same lack of awareness.

this is why our prime minister's giant miscalculation did not surprise me. i remember stephen harper's rants as editor of "The Bulldog" in the 90s, a conservative newsletter that my dad used to get. back then he was mean, in a cocky new york times meets the alberta report sort of way (if you are not from the west, you may not be aware of this now defunct partisan rhetoric mill - beloved by small business, quad and gun owners alike). his editorials were full of snide jibes and gross superlatives. since appearing on the national scene, stevie has worked hard to polish his image as a statesman, but underneath the family man spin apparently he is still the same old jackass.

this can be seen in his reaction to the coalition... although he certainly did backpedal on the faceslapping vote/funding issue, he has harped on national unity as a blatant fear tactic. he even made the demonstrably false accusation that the coalition leaders refused to be photographed in front of a canadian flag, which was ludicrous, but made a good soundbite for the rallies back home. he has blown quebec separatism into a big issue, despite the fact that HE was the one who put it on the table.

so... canadians are now being confronted with their true prime minister, and most likely they will get to keep him, albeit a partially humbled version.

my moderate optimism applies to the coalition leaders as well. i believe they truly have canadians' best interests at heart, but are currently a bit giddy with power. if they are able to pull it off and make up a new government, the world will not end. the axis of evil will not tear the country asunder. they will most likely navigate a bumpy, inefficient but ultimately reasonable path through the recession. the liberals have a lot of economic experience of their own to call upon and the ndp will be there to look out for the disadvantaged. the conservatives will still act as a powerful check on any excess and the bloc will most likely lay low while quietly playing things slightly to quebec's advantage, just like other parliaments do.

so. a good position to be in, this cautious optimism. from any side it is fun to see canadians caring, and it will be interesting to watch the show, particuarly the gov. general flexing her constitutional muscle. speaking of which, my sister carlynne (who is known far and wide for the constitution of her muscles) is actually currently IN ottawa and is endeavouring to be admitted to the parliamentary proceedings. what an opportunity! get in there carlynne!

in wildly disparate news i have a funny story to share:

yesterday i took niko for a run down the block to a local elementary school. this school has very kindly and quite recently layed down a pea gravel track around its field which makes it an ideal place to run a few laps and minimize the overall impact on your joints. as i ran my first lap around the field, niko began to surge towards a particular area of fence that borders the backyard of a territorial dog. every time we jog by, this dog comes to the gate and barks and snarls madly until i pull niko away. i think that niko enjoys baiting him and thus is always eager to reach the cleared part of the fence (around the gate) where they can interact. i dont know exactly what type of dog it is but it is all black and looks like a pit bull/black lab cross or something close to that. thus it actually looks quite fierce when it is in full blown snarl, and i always try to encourage niko to continue smoothly past rather than tarry and tease. on my first lap i was successful in pulling niko along and as we continued around the field the end of the day school bell rang and the schoolyard began to fill with kids and parents, many of whom know niko by sight and like him. as we continued through the now crowded schoolyard we approached the aforementioned fence again. my back was to the kids, but i bet that there are legends about that particular dog behind that particular fence and i am sure a few eyes were following me to see what would happen.

again we approached the gate and again we were greeted by a viscious barking/snarling fit. however this time as we reached the gate (with the wires already bowed out from previous territorial rushes) the dog slammed into it and it popped open! niko was so surprised that he jumped straight sideways away from the gate and took my legs right out from under me. i was still running, so my momentum continued in a forward direction and i flipped completely over and landed on my left shoulder, rolled onto my hands and knees and jumped up ready to break up a long simmering dog fight. luckily the black dog was just as surprised as we were and merely stood blinking and immobile on the grass. i decided that i had better not try to herd him back into his yard with niko on the leash and quickly changed direction to move away. the other dog placidly began investigating the other side of his own fence. i hope some parent or the owner got out to contain him, as i didnt feel the urge to stick around. there were enough witnesses... that is the type of thing i would love to capture on camera. one day i will have a looprecording headcam for just such an occasion... one day.


Anonymous said...

I am glad that you are an optimist. I don't know a whole lot about politics - but I get tired of hearing that our world as we know it is going to end. Maybe things won't be that bad. Thanks for your view! And thanks for the picture of Niko - he's always good to put a smile on anyones face!

Lowell & Julie said...

I think you missed your calling, Marc. I hear politics calling your name! I can just picture Harper and the other political dudes hovering over your post while they decide what the heck they're going to do with our country.

Aw, cute Niko. I REALLY wish I was one of those kids who got to witness the fun. How old were they? Like grade 2? No matter, I'm sure they all had camera phones and SOMEONE took a picture!

PS- Marcy, if I haven't said it before...I think you're a GREAT writer, and I love reading your stuff:)

Anonymous said...

Hey Marc,

Great commentary. I have been working on cunning little comments related to our political situation so that when a News Team stops me on the streets of Ottawa I can BLOW them away with my intelligence and insight. YOu have offered some great material.

I did not get into parliament today unfortunately!! Alas!! (BUt i went to the National Gallery instead so that as great. A lot more relaxing... )

marcandorkylie said...

thanks for your comments. it looks like stephen dodged this bullet, but he's going to have to work even harder now to get people, even in his own party, onside.

btw julie did you catch the reference in the title? i put it there for you.