As some of you may have noticed there is an election about the land. It is an important election. I have managed what, for me, is the unthinkable. I have ignored it. No bets. No polls. No debates. No web sites. No battles.
Nothing, except the collateral damage from newscasts and newspapers who seem to feel it deserves reporting.
I am utterly despondent about the unending mediocrity and incompetence of Paul Martin and Stephen Harper. I suppose it could be worse but I cannot imagine it. I remember the hate for Pierre Trudeau over bilingualism and his national energy program. I remember the utter
disgust with Mulroney for corruption and the GST. We all remember Monsieur Chretien, his painful leave-taking, imperial style and obvious willingness to tolerate suspect practices in his government and personal investments. I remember as a young person the bitterness of the Diefenbaker-Pearson Years and of course the brief interregnums of Joe Clark and John Turner.
But with the exception of John Diefenbaker, all these leaders had a belief in Canada and something to offer that they believed would make it a better place. All of them can point to at least something that made a mark.
Paul Martin doesn’t believe in anything. He is prepared to be passionate about anything he is forced to do. Stephen Harper doesn’t believe in Canada and is spending most of his time trying to avoid himself. He forgets his disgust for spending, unemployment insurance, for regional economic development programs, the CBC and public health care. His hypocrisy is as breathtaking as Martin’s obsequiousness.
What these guys say in this election doesn’t really matter. We know who they are. The election campaign is nothing more than a battle to plant a question. The question is what are we asking ourselves as we walk into the ballot box. Are we asking questions about Stephen Harper and what he will do to dismantle our country or are we asking questions about Paul Martin and his inability to stand for anything?
If we are thinking about Paul Martin on our way to the ballot box we will vote for Stephen Harper. If we are thinking about Stephen Harper on our way to the ballot box we will vote for Paul Martin.
I don’t know who is worse; Paul Martin, who will give away the country because he hasn’t got the guts to say no, or Stephen Harper, who will give away the country because he honestly believes it is the right thing to do.
Stephen Harper, whose electoral strength is in Alberta for God’s sake talks about fixing what he calls the federal fiscal imbalance with a national government that is still more than $500 billion in debt. Ask him about Alberta’s fiscal imbalance and he threatens (at least in his old life) western separation.
Paul Martin asks indignantly who will speak for Canada when Stephen Harper offers Quebec standing in international affairs, forgetting he has already decided to do the same thing.
This is our reality.
We face another referendum in Quebec within the mandate of the next government and we will have the balance of power in our federal government held by the Bloc Quebecois.
This is called a perfect storm.
This is Canada.
The Tories are back dancing with separatists (remember our Environment Minister Lucien Bouchard?), the Liberals are marginalized and the NDP, God bless them, are going to get dealt out of this round by the Bloc’s stunning power in Quebec.
We are in need of a miracle or a coup d’état.
I’m not sure we have enough material to mount the latter as it is all in Afghanistan and we have no planes to bring it home.
Can you imagine the insecure, pouting, Stephen Harper trying to cope with the country’s future hanging in the balance? Can you contemplate the ineffectual, laughable rhetoric of Paul Martin in the same circumstance?
One of our problems is that Jean Chretien cleaned up federal politics. When political parties were funded by money-grubbing companies and unions looking to buy favours (everyone from drug companies to military hardware providers), they split their donations 60/40 (depending on who was in power) and you could have a meeting of minds and dump party leaders. Now that the parties are dining out on public financing, the real power in the party game is the head of direct marketing who wouldn’t know a coup from a shoe.
I have no advice.
Happy New Year.
Michael Atkins is president of Northern Ontario Business. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .