11.30.2005

what i'm watching: maple grief

I'm not responsible for the bad pun at the top of this post; blame Jon Stewart. Last night The Daily Show led with - guess what? - the Canadian election. It wasn't all that funny, really. They mostly played to the truism of Americans not knowing anything about Canada - including where it is - and closed with a lame "eh" and "aboot" joke. But it was still fun to see! I actually said, "Hey, we made The Daily Show!" Yes, I said we!

Which brings me to today's milestone: we've been here three months. What a lot has happened. Our lives in New York feel so long ago.

* * * *

On "The National" last night, they recapped the results of a poll of Canadians' top concerns for the election. Health care was number one. Number two, however, surprised both of us: trust.

I just don't get that. When I consider what's important to me in elections, trust doesn't even enter into the picture. On a list of 1 to 10, it's an irrelevant zero. Several people interviewed gave the expected responses: you can't believe anything they say, they'll say anything to get elected, politicians don't honour campaign promises. Yes? And?

Who cares what anyone says? All that matters is what they do. I don't have to trust my elected officials. I don't have to like them. I don't have to approve of their personal lives. I only have to approve of the way they vote, the priorities they advance, the budgets they create. Focusing on intangibles like trust and integrity in a national election seems to me immature and naive. I'm sure I've just offended half of you, but that's not my intention. It's just the way I see it.

"The trust issue" seems not unlike Americans who chose Moron over Kerry because "he's a guy you'd like to have a beer with". That was very big during the 2004 US election. I'll have an Export, and give my friend here a double arsenic with a cyanide chaser...

27 comments:

Lone Primate said...

I don't mean to distract from the topic here, but I wondered if you guys had seen this yet?

http://dontbomb.blogspot.com/

And in particular, this:

http://dontbomb.blogspot.com/2005/11/i-am-canadian.html

Sorry for the graceless segue, LG. :)

L-girl said...

Thanks, LP. I hadn't seen it. And segues be damned. :)

redsock said...

evaluating what various politicans have done during their term is work. most people can't be bothered -- it's much easier to just listen to them and then complain -- or they simply have no time.

and even if someone wants to get to the meat of the campaign, they often have no clue how to begin. who do you trust to tell you the truth about what politicans actually did? none of them is going to tell you "well, i didn't do squat and what i did do made your life worse."

a large part of the blame has to go to the media, which could use its time to discuss issues and results, but is more apt to report on the "horse race" of the campaign (i already see letters complaining about this in the globe and mail), who said what today and what the newest polls report.

James said...

But it was still fun to see! I actually said, "Hey, we made The Daily Show!" Yes, I said we!

You're definitely turning Canadian -- unwarranted excitement at being mentioned on a US TV show is a symptom.

Sort of like the Monty Python "killer sheep" sketch:

Chapman: "That's an odd word, 'wainscotting'. Wainscotting, wainscotting. It sounds like a small Dorset village. Wainscotting."

[Cut to village of Wainscotting, Dorset]

Villager: "We've been mentioned on the telly!"

Who cares what anyone says? All that matters is what they do.

Well, sure, but the problem is that you can't trust them to do what they say they'll do.

More importantly, if politicians are being opportunistic, you can't trust them to continue to do what they've done in the past. And if you can't trust them to be consistent, then you can't vote for them based on their past votes, priorities, or budgets.

"The trust issue" seems not unlike Americans who chose Moron over Kerry because "he's a guy you'd like to have a beer with".

Ah, but that's not "trust". That's chumminess, a particularly naive approach to picking a government representative. "The trust issue", at least as far as I'm concerned, is "I want to know that the guy (and party) I'm voting for will do what I expect of them (based on past performance)."

L-girl said...

You're definitely turning Canadian -- unwarranted excitement at being mentioned on a US TV show is a symptom.

*grin*

"The trust issue", at least as far as I'm concerned, is "I want to know that the guy (and party) I'm voting for will do what I expect of them (based on past performance)."

Put like that, it makes sense and is very valid and important. Perhaps the people on the CBC last night weren't articulating it well.

RobfromAlberta said...

The trust issue is a recent development and it comes about from two things. One, of course, is the sponsorship scandal. Canadians are used to dishonesty and periodic influence-peddling scandals, but the kickbacks and money-laundering of Adscam have brought a new level of focus on government corruption. Secondly, there is the persistent issue of a "hidden agenda" on the part of the Conservatives. Social conservatives are perceived to be more influential in the new Conservative party than they were in the old Progressive Conservative party and there is a nagging belief among many centrists that the socons will push to reopen old issues like abortion. It's an unfounded concern in my opinion, but it's out there nonetheless.

L-girl said...

the kickbacks and money-laundering of Adscam have brought a new level of focus on government corruption.

So the responses that surprised me could be more of a momentary (or at least temporary) response to the scandal. That makes sense.

there is a nagging belief among many centrists that the socons will push to reopen old issues like abortion. It's an unfounded concern in my opinion, but it's out there nonetheless.

I was under the impression Harper had said as much...? Maybe I'm wrong and I'm remembering what someone said about him. Since he wants to reopen the SSM marriage debate, it makes sense that abortion would follow.

RobfromAlberta said...

No, Harper has not indicated an interest in reopening the abortion debate, although his predecessor, Stockwell Day, had suggested a national referendum on the issue a few years ago. The last Conservative policy convention put the issue to rest as far as I'm concerned. They took any mention of abortion out of the party platform. I'm really not sure what else they have to do make the point that they don't want to revisit the issue.

L-girl said...

So I guess what I heard was paranoia. There's always a generous supply of that on hand at election time - which I suppose speaks to the lack of trust.

L-girl said...

They took any mention of abortion out of the party platform.

I do remember this. I thought it was cool.

RobfromAlberta said...

I think the party big shots understand that they will never form a government based solely on the support of rural evangelicals. If they ever reopened the debate on abortion or capital punishment, they would lose voters like me in a heartbeat (although I'm not sure who else I would vote for).

Wrye said...

From their point of view, all that matters, Rob, is that you wouldn't vote for them.

I kinda liked Stewart's bit--To see Stewart playing the dumb one to Samantha being the straight man was a neat reversal of the usual roles. Of course, Stewart is in fact pretty familiar with Canadian issues--see his routines he's done at Just for Laughs, for instance--and the bit early in the show where he teed off on Martin and Harper was amusing. What really struck me , though, was the strange disonnance in tone between our politicos and the American setting. Harper wasn't even saying anything strange, but his calm, measured tones just came off really funny and out of place.

No, I think the writers on TDS and the Colbert Report are aware that they're on national TV up here, so I think we can expect more bits if--no, when--something goofy goes down on the campaign trail.

sharonapple said...

Oh Harper and the abortion issue, the party platform has changed, but remember in 2004, when Harper was leading in the polls, that he mentioned that he would consider tabling legislation if he won a second term in office. I remember this distinctly because I was watching the morning news, drinking coffee, and hearing him say this made me choke.
http://www.prochoiceactionnetwork-canada.org/articles/election-chronology.shtml

Wangmo said...

Just jumping in here...
Harper did mention yesterday that he would reopen the issue of gay marriage if elected into office, which does sound like he's probably willing to revisit other policies given the chance.

L-girl said...

Harper did mention yesterday that he would reopen the issue of gay marriage if elected

Right, that's what started this discussion. See above: "Since he wants to reopen the SSM marriage debate, it makes sense that abortion would follow."

RobfromAlberta said...

Let's be clear. He said he would permit a free vote on a private members bill. That's not the same thing as tabling legislation. One of the criticisms the Conservatives have of the Liberals and NDP is that they often don't allow their members to vote freely. When they voted on same-sex marriage, the NDP did not permit any of its members to vote against it. One of them, Bev Desjarlais, did vote against it and not surprisingly, she lost her nomination to run in the upcoming election. The Conservatives are opposed to this practice, so it would be hypocritical of them to deny a free vote on a private members abortion bill. The real test would be if a Harper-led cabinet drafted anti-abortion legislation. Find me a direct quote from Harper saying he would favour that and I might reconsider my vote.

Kyle_From_Ottawa said...

I'm not trustful of the conservatives, but I seriously doubt Harper would want to reopen either the abortion or SSM debates. He has to throw a bone to the rural conservatives, but even if some bizarre twist happened and the Conservatives win a majority in the next election, it would be suicidal to reopen either of these emotion-ladden debates. They both appeared because of court decisions. They're the kind of thing a politician wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole unless absolutely forced to. Thus the "he'd allow a free vote on a private memeber's" bill thing. It sounds like he's listening, without having to actually commit to it.

RobfromAlberta said...

Exactly right, the Conservatives are on pretty shaky ground. Harper would rather gnaw off his arm than open up a debate on a hot-button issue like abortion. In the case of SSM, that may still be up in the air. After all, he brought it up on Day 1 of the campaign. If he then goes on to win the election, he may interpret that as a mandate to revisit the SSM debate. However, even if he does win, it will be with a minority (and probably a slim one). It's definitely not a scenario that is likely to encourage reopening controversial legislation.

L-girl said...

Thus the "he'd allow a free vote on a private memeber's" bill thing. It sounds like he's listening, without having to actually commit to it.

This makes sense. I see exactly what you mean.

Speaking of Harper gnawing off his arm, Allan and I were amazed that when a reporter threw him an easy softball - "Do you love Canada?" - Mr Harper swung and missed: "Canada's a great country...". Which he said with very little enthusiasm.

Come on boy, you're a politician, the answer is: I LOVE MY COUNTRY. We were frankly shocked. It seemed a total lack of political savvy.

RobfromAlberta said...

Yeah, he didn't handle it well, but to be honest, it was a bizarre question to ask in a Canadian election. I don't think I've ever heard a reporter ask a politician that question in my whole life. Patriotism is not an issue in Canadian politics the way it is in the US. It probably caught him off guard.

L-girl said...

Yeah, imagine what it sounded like to our ears, from a country where people are regularly accused of being unpatriotic, and politicians are expected to declare their patriotism constantly.

sharonapple said...

Allowing a back bencher to present legislation is a sneaky way of going around their official stand of not wanting abortion legislation, while at the same time maintaining their appeal to the groups that would like abortion regulated and same-sex marriage struck down. The Conservative party is the only political party in Canada (all the others, including the Bloc, are progressive) that could do this, so they get this support almost by default. ... Rob, I'd feel more comfortable with Harper if he said that he wouldn't be willing to touch either same-sex or the abortion issue.

As for allowing a free vote, the Liberals allowed party members to vote according to their wishes on same-sex marriage -- cabinet leaders were not granted this freedom. With the NDP, they're a progressive party -- they couldn't vote against it and maintain their platform in a way.

RobfromAlberta said...

Rob, I'd feel more comfortable with Harper if he said that he wouldn't be willing to touch either same-sex or the abortion issue.

I would too.

James said...

Just saw the Daily Show clip. Not too bad, but he definitely coulda done a lot more with the "party that abuses its power is being held accountable and being forced to pay a political price" instead of the eh/aboot joke.

L-girl said...

he definitely coulda done a lot more with the "party that abuses its power is being held accountable and being forced to pay a political price" instead of the eh/aboot joke.

Exactly what we thought. :) We were waiting for the obvious US non-parallel, or for Stewart to give one of his "huh?? what's that, never heard of such a thing" looks. Kinda lame.

James said...

It was such an obvious setup, I was wondernig if things got cut for time.

Lone Primate said...

The real test would be if a Harper-led cabinet drafted anti-abortion legislation. Find me a direct quote from Harper saying he would favour that and I might reconsider my vote.

I don't think this is a fair point, though. It's fine to say he never "said" he'd table legislation, but then what's the point of holding a vote in the first place? If he holds the vote and it passes and he does nothing, then obviously he's betrayed the expectations of the people who got him there and whose mandate he represents. If he holds the vote and it passes and he suddenly uses this to hammer us with the notwithstanding clause (which has never been used federally and sets a horrible precedent), then that's something about which he had an onus to be forthright with the country. Right now he's trying to have it both ways... the vote means nothing, the vote means everything.