So, in case you live outside of Canada and don’t have Canadians on your Facebook, we just elected our version of JFK Junior to lead our country.
We’re really happy.
The funny thing is, even people who didn’t vote for him are happy. Like me (of course, no one in Canada directly votes for a certain prime minister, but I have already I ranted about Canada’s broken electoral system and our split-left years ago during our last election).
Why am I so thrilled even though I don’t vote liberal? Let me explain…
Canada has four left wing parties.
It used to have two right wing parties. The financial right, called the Progressive Conservatives, and the Reform/Alliance (they kept changing their name. Once it temporarily had the initials C.R.A.P. which was pretty great) who were the socially conservative types – you know, zionist Christians, homophobic, all that good stuff. Basically racist, sexist, homphobic bigots.
Then the two parties merged, dropped the “progressive” from the name and just became the Conservative Party.
The leader was one of the extreme-right Christians, a man who once called same sex marriage “vile and disgusting”. With the right wing vote merged, he was promptly elected into power and has squatted there ever since, despite receiving only a third of the popular vote (for more on how that is possible, read my post about the broken electoral system).
Over the past 9 years, Stephen Harper has committed a long list of atrocities. Some of his decisions were minor things like using our taxes to pay for his personal stylist, or bizarre things like trying to rename our entire government featuring his own name – “The Harper Government” as if Canada was a corporation and he was our chief shareholder, and blocking the press from speaking to him.
But some stuff was truly awful – things like refusing to reveal details of their budget to the rest of the members of parliament until the whole system actually shut down and he was judged to be held in contempt of Canada’s government. And then, in the re-election after he was deemed to be in contempt, the Conservatives called a bunch of people and told them that their polling location had changed, which turned out to be a lie concocted to stop left wing voters from voting.
Personally, I think the most bizarre awful thing he did was get rid of science in Canada.
The scientists who still had jobs were forbidden to talk to the media about anything with without express permission, and even then they often had to have a government watchdog present.
I could go on and on. Harper made a lot of enemies in the past ten years, from our aboriginal population, scientists, environmentalists, libertarians, media personnel, the Senate, the courts, the auditor general, the ethics commissioner… anyway, it’s a long list.
…Harper’s fans will tell you that he lowered taxes for a lot of people. This is true.
That is about the only good thing that you can say about him, and it really comes down to whether you think that your personal finances are more important than the environment, the economy, the quality of life of our aboriginal peoples, the quality of life of our veterans, our personal rights and freedoms, helping refugees escape their war torn countries, or Canada’s international reputation.
Ultimately, his greatest crime was being un-Canadian.
Canadians define themselves a certain way. The biggest way is in NOT being American.
But Harper’s way was very American.
He turned our nation of peacekeepers into a nation of war mongers. He bought fighter jets, joined America’s coalition, and went into Iraq. Never mind that we were right to refuse to join the coalition originally, because America’s useless war on Iraq basically fed the rise of ISIL.
He cut our taxes, but then he cut our social programs.
He flat out refused to form a committee to try and find a way to help aboriginal women, who get murdered and go missing at an astoundingly high rate compared to the national average.
And when this election rolled around, he decided to take a page out of Trump’s book and try playing the racism card. That’s right. He tried to win the election by being racist. He actually hired a guy who specialises in racist rhetoric.
He used coded language in debates, referring to “old stock Canadians,” a term which really means WASPs who have lived in Canada for generations, and which understandably angers people like the aboriginal peoples, Chinese-Canadians who have been here since the 1800s, and so on.
Canada… didn’t react well to that, as a whole.
20% of Canadians count as visible minorities, and in places like Vancouver, they should actually be renamed visible majorities.
Furthermore, most Canadians don’t want to be considered racists. We are supposed to be a place of refuge. We took in fleeing American slaves. We didn’t treat them very well at all, but of course that’s been buried under the rug, along with the horrible racism with which we still treat our native peoples, but that’s not the point. The point is that Canadians like to think of themselves as Not Americans, which also means Not Racists (yes, we still are, but again, that’s not the point).
In fact, Canada has prided itself on being a “salad bowl” compared to America’s “melting pot”. We think of ourselves as a place where very different people can live together in harmony and mutual respect.
And do you know who started that Multicultural identity?
The same Prime Minister who is still well remembered for his Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as his snappy comebacks.
Now his son was running for Prime Minister, and Harper chose to fight him by being the exact opposite of his father.
Not a great strategy.
Meanwhile, Justin Trudeau had literally grown up with Canadian politics. He knew what Canadians wanted. And while his party’s promises were vague, Trudeau offered us the Canada that we remembered.
While Harper launched vicious attack ads against Trudeau, making fun of his youth (he’s 43, so it’s not like he’s a teenager, but whatever) and his pretty-boy image, Trudeau kept it classy.
Compare this Conservative attack ad to Trudeau’s Liberal ad.
Trudeau was using what he had learned from his father. He explained it a long time ago, when he gave his father’s eulogy.
And while Harper hand-picked the press who spoke to him and limited their questions, Trudeau didn’t mind being asked tough questions.
And so it came down to this – whose values did Canada like more? Did we prefer Harper’s cold logic, his ruthless attempt to buy votes using fear and hatred? Or did we prefer someone who preached tolerance and hope, and who defended our right to question his decisions?
Well, Canada’s voter turnout was the highest it has been in decades. We not only voted out the man who had violated everything Canada had previously stood for, we voted in Pierre Trudeau’s son with a surprise majority government.
Maybe he is just a pretty boy.
Maybe Harper was right, and maybe he doesn’t know how to run the economy. His father racked up Canada’s debt and Trudeau has openly said that he plans to do the same, to try and kick start some jobs and improve life for our citizens.
Maybe he doesn’t have what it takes.
But I will say this: He DOES know what Canada wants to see. He is a consummate politician, born and raised. He is the kissing-babies, public gestures kind of politician, instead of the closed-doors, culture-of-fear tyrant type.
And if Trudeau knows what Canada wants to see, my hope is that he’ll give it to us.
At the very least, he can bring us back from the right, back to centre.
He hasn’t even been sworn in yet, but he’s already making changes.
One of the first things he did was hold a press conference in the National Press Gallery, a room that hasn’t been used since Harper took office.
People are freaking out about him vowing to pull out of Iraq, but after all, Canada never wanted to be in Iraq in the first place. Canada wants to help refugees, to take people in and protect them, not bomb the bad guys.
Canada will still help against ISIL. But we’ll do it in a more Canadian way.
That’s what we’re really excited about. We don’t know if all of our scientists will get their jobs back, or if our taxes will be raised, or if aboriginals will get better treatment, or if the recession will get better or worse.
But we have hope. That is what he sold us, and that’s what he keeps giving us.
Hope that Canada is coming back, and a country that we can be proud of again.