I’ve been a little grumpy lately, actually more than grumpy. I’ve been really grumpy, which is about as dangerous as I get. This election has been a little wearing.
I should say, more accurately, the idea of the election has been wearing. In truth, I’ve pretty much ignored it. I couldn’t stand it. This is not easy for a political junky, and so last night I stayed up for all of it.
It is 2:08 in the morning and I’ve been sitting in front of the television set since voting five hours ago. With the exception of hockey games, that is more TV than I’ve watched at one time in a decade.
It was good TV. For the first time in my life, it seemed like Peter Mansbridge had a sense of humour. It was fun to see Rick Mercer and Don Cherry put the whole madness in perspective.
This country does have its own mysterious way of going about its business. Happily, we can still laugh at ourselves.
If I didn’t violently disagree with Stephen Harper’s vision for this country (and I won’t bore you with all that again), I have to admit that for a man who wanted to put a fence around Alberta a few years ago, he sounded down right interested in Canada. And yes, his French is better than mine, which I left on the streets of east-end Montreal a very long time ago. He spoke a lot of French in Alberta, which is, well, impressive. Reminds me of Nixon going to China.
I must say I remain bewildered by Paul Martin, the respected finance minister who threw it all away in less than two years as prime minister and yet exited with dignity and decisiveness of a kind unseen from the day he arrived at 24 Sussex Drive. I can only assume it was his wife who put her foot down and said “We are going to Florida now” because that quick, honourable, selfless decision is at variance with his track record. Behind every politician is a spouse who one day says “I’ve had enough.”
It was pleasing to see Monsieur Duceppe spin his way past his disappointing result, no doubt annoyed with the Chretien Liberals who, when not passing favours around, it is said, helped the Tories slip into town under the cover of darkness. The reality is that it is no accident this country has been pre-occupied with Quebec for 30 years. They have always been smart enough to deal themselves into confederation in direct proportion to how much they want out.
This latest dance with Stephen Harper is no different.
If a Quebecer is not to be prime minister, then the next best thing is a prime minister from Calgary who speaks French and wants a weaker federal government . These folks are smart.
Strategic voting has never been a Northern Ontario skill. To be fair, Toronto hasn’t been very good at it either, even when they dominate the winning party. They just look too prosperous to deserve much more than a soccer stadium, whether they support the party in power or the party out of power.
It is Toronto that has the most nostalgic commitment to the idea of Canada built on holiday trips to the Rockies, or Northern Ontario or the East Coast. The rest of us actually have to make a living out here.
It was a bitter campaign, and yet within five hours it got civil, at least for a moment. All the leaders spoke well and for a minute you could ignore the fractious parliament of yesterday, the low-life negative tone of the campaign and the inevitable nonsense to come.
Politics is the art of the possible.
In this campaign, everyone got something they could live with. The Tories finally got to drive the bus, but with a cast iron governor on their speed. The Liberals got relief from their good but incompetent leader, the NDP got enough seats to be important but not decisive, and the Bloc still bestrides Quebec but with just a little less omnipotence.
And Canadians, well, we did the best with what was on offer. We calmed Stephen, we got rid of Paul, we gave a slap on the back to Jack and we put Gilles on notice.
It could have been a lot worse.
Michael Atkins is the president of Northern Ontario Business. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.