Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose

October, 2015

MARG! Princess Warrior, a character of writer, actor and comedian Mary Walsh, urged Canadians to vote to defeat the Harper Government. Greg Locke © 2015
MARG! Princess Warrior, a character of writer, actor and comedian Mary Walsh, urged Canadians to vote to defeat the Harper Government. Greg Locke © 2015

Canadians are committing an act of insanity.

Insanity being doing the same thing again and again, and expecting a different result.

On October 19 millions of Canadians are marching to the polls to repeat a time honoured tradition: throw the rascals out! The rascals in this particular situation happened to be the Conservative party who without a doubt deserve to be thrown out.

In its place it is looking more and more like we will substitute the Liberal party, who were the rascals being thrown out a few years ago. Basically every couple of elections we throw the rascals out and replace them with the previous rascals.

The more things change the more they stay the same.

We could try the NDP, of course. And there might be some differences, a few important. But looking at the way that NDP provincial governments have operated over the years, they also tend to turn into the rascals who need to be thrown out at some point.

For the problem, dear Brutus, lies not in our politicians, but in ourselves.

In Canada we like to derisively point a finger at the United States and say “things are so much better here.” And they are in some ways. But after living 35 years in Canada and 25 years in the United States, the differences are a lot more public relations than they are reality.

It’s not as bad as the United States, but basically in Canada we have created a self-perpetuating system that encourages people not to get involved in their own country, to give up, to believe that they can’t make a difference.

Much like the US, it is a system that favours the rich over the poor, whites over everybody else, and corporations over democracy. We might dress it up a little differently, but other than the act of actually voting we really don’t have much control over what happens in the country.

This is compounded by the fact that the people we elect to represent us almost always ended up being co-opted by the system, particularly if they happen to be in government.

Many years ago I was actually involved in the political process. I was the hot young whippersnapper president of the youth wing of the Nova Scotia Liberal party. It was a time after the first fall of Pierre Trudeau and there was lots of talk of reinvigorating the party amongst all us young folks. We all believed the party had lost touch with its roots and we were determined to change it. I had become friends with a Western provincial youth president and I remember long hours talking to him about the kind of things we’d like to see changed.

Several years later, after I had left the party (let’s just say we disagreed on a few things) I ran into him on a street in Ottawa. We talked for about half an hour and in that time I realized that he become one of them. He gotten a job with a federal cabinet minister and was now just repeating all the same things that we used to be so opposed to.

I don’t blame him. It’s hard not to be sucked in. At some point your concern for the good of the country is replaced by your concern for the good of the party.

Hand-in-hand with this is the way the mainstream media treats elections. While the emphasis on the horse race isn’t quite as pronounced as it is in America, it’s still what sells newspapers. Or commercials on TV. And that is all the media really does care about.

Oh journalists may care about more, but their corporate masters don’t. And so the examination and reporting on substantive issues is assigned to obscure pages of a media website, and forgotten about in the rush of reporting of niqabs, how many people turned up for a rally, and the daily mistake.

And finally there is us. A real case of “I have seen the enemy…” The Canadian public is, by and large. like a big slobbering Labrador. We might get annoyed once or twice, and bark a bit, but most of the time you can calm us down by just rubbing our tummies.

We’re moving into a period of history where Canadians will be challenged on several very important fronts: how will we deal with immigration and multiculturalism in the 21st century, what about climate change climate change, are we ready for technology increasingly replacing people, what about our education system, can we afford our health care system, how about how we elect our politicians?

I’m not so sure were ready to deal with this regardless of who wins the election. Most likely we will just sit back, let the Blue Jays distract us, let them rub our tummies, and not do much of anything to repair our broken system … until it’s again time to throw those rascals out!

Copyright Tom Regan 2015

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Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio A former executive director of the Online News Association, he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92.








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