I woke up this morning with a bright red pimple above my left eye. Fate, always eager to mess with me, has apparently decided to brand me with a scarlet letter of sorts, outing my voting choice in yesterday’s federal election. I’d consider it a relatively minor prank except that I reside in the blue Conservative heartland surrounded by bastions of now livid Smurfs. Much like Rudolph’s red nose, I suspect this betraying blemish will keep me excluded from my neighbour’s reindeer games for some time.
For the second time this year an election has culminated in a shocking result. The Liberals winning a majority federally may not be as astonishing as the Alberta NDP winning a majority provincially this past spring, but it’s close and certainly no less distasteful for the vast conservative majority here, though a fair number of us radicals are smirking covertly. Equally surprising for me personally is that I have now twice voted for the winning party in an election which is practically unprecedented in my twenty-five year voting career. Equally unsurprising for me personally is that I continue to support losing candidates in my actual riding, both of which remained tightly held by conservative candidates. And finally, equally shamefully for me personally, I voted the way I did for reasons not wholly admirable but nonetheless justifiable in my mind.
Voting is Like Flossing
Election days, especially those of a federal persuasion, are not particularly favourites of mine. Unlike those of you filling my Twitter feed with near orgasmic proclamations of pride in their right to vote or passive-aggressive lectures on how others are dying for the right to vote, not to mention the ridiculous chastisements that if I don’t vote I can’t bitch about government, I view voting as a mostly pointless, reluctant duty. Kind of like flossing.
My reasoning for this attitude is twofold. Firstly, and I discussed this at some length a few weeks ago, I have rarely, if ever, been presented with an option to vote for a party whose platform truly reflected my personal views on most major issues. I tend to be centrist, fiscally conservative (though not in a stereotypically rabid anti-all-tax way) and socially progressive, which inevitably puts me smack dab in the middle of a big empty on the political spectrum. I’m left with two underwhelming choices; don’t vote or pick the lesser evil. Instead I’m using these recent voting occasions to cast my ballot with mischief in mind. It may not be an honourable solution but then again cynicism is the moldy bread and rancid butter of politics. Secondly, and by far most pertinent, is the fact that I live in a suburban Calgary riding which means my vote has all the importance of a mayfly’s longevity secrets.
Rob Ford’s Crack Pipe Could Win in Alberta
If there is one absolute in any federal election it’s that almost all Alberta ridings will vote Conservative. And not just by a small margin, I’m talking massive majorities. Check out the stats I posted if you don’t believe me. A bad year, like this one, ironically, means support drops into the mid-sixties range percentage-wise and that’s with an aged government, unpleasant leader, and competition gelling around a single opposing candidate. The Conservative Party of Canada could run Rob Ford’s crack pipe as a candidate in my riding and it would win with greater than 50% support, and do so on a platform of being tough on drugs. So, yes, my vote is useless. Even if I chose to support the Conservatives, my vote would still be useless unless the difference between 73.89347% and 73.89773% support is of importance, perhaps in a community association election results fundraising gambling initiative.
With my vote neutered from the moment the writ is dropped, my mind is left free of responsibility and behaves accordingly. This election was unique in that the three major parties were almost equally popular nationwide so the battle was tense and ultimate outcome unpredictable. Once again my personal views on issues didn’t align terribly well with any one party so I was left with only one motivating criterion to sway my voting intent; I really, REALLY dislike Stephen Harper. I say that having once thought him to be a fairly decent guy and potentially excellent party leader. This was way back in a simpler time when I was young and letters proposing provincial firewalls and fears of niqabs were yet to sully our political discourse. Compared to then Reform guru, Preston Manning, Harper struck me as an intelligent, reasonable human being who, and this is very important, seemed genuinely interested in doing politics differently.
Harper Perfected Chretien
Doing things differently was already an imperative to me back then as the shine of the evermore dictatorial Jean Chretien was tarnishing faster than my first job at Gulf Canada. Now, as back then, I despise the way politics is practiced. The constant pandering to the worst in humanity, the wedging, the hyperbole, the pitting of regions against one another, the awful partisanship in and out of the House, and the overall contempt for diplomacy and democracy is a pox on society. I refuse to accept that the ends justify the horrid means. When Harper became leader of the Conservatives I wasn’t a bandwagon jumper by any means as there were far too many wackos in the party, but I admit I began to appreciate his willingness to keep those social conservative ideologues quiet and mostly isolated. While the Liberals began the new millennia gleefully vilifying the Conservatives we can’t deny that Stephen Harper didn’t devolve fully into the So-Con ideologue the Liberals wanted us to fear. There were no abortion or capital punishment debates or attempts to legislate them. So, there’s that, but everything else including the pledge to do things differently, went right to hell. In the end, Harper not only didn’t do things differently than Chretien, he took the worst of Chretien and perfected it. The last four years of Conservative majority under Harper’s iron-fisted rule left me disillusioned, embarrassed, and angry. I wanted nothing to do with this Canada or this method of governance.
It was also clear that many of my countrymen and women felt the same though their enthusiastic embrace of the alternatives didn’t resonate with me either. At first the NDP seemed the likely beneficiaries of the ABC (Anyone But Conservative) movement. I’ll be honest, I think Mulcair is alright. I think he’s in the wrong party, but his stand on the Niqab issue which cost him dearly in Quebec, was admirable. His pledge to balance the budget, odd as it was to hear, appealed to me as much as any election promise appeals to me. But I just couldn’t fathom the shockwaves of an NDP government both provincially AND federally to the beleaguered populace of this province. There’s only so much the human brain can endure in a short period of time. Besides, there’s a powerfully dogmatic segment to the NDP support that thinks Mulcair is too centrist and I don’t trust them. How’s that for small-minded politics!
The Liberals, on the other hand, should be my go to party of choice but as I mentioned above they really turned me off with their nasty politics back in the 90s and early 2000s. Then, in this midst of this heated election, they went and promised to run three years of deficits before magically balancing the budget in time for the next election. Of course, this three years of deficit spending followed by an election-ready surplus is exactly what the Conservatives just finished doing. This, apparently, is the new Canadian Way; balanced budgets once every four years. How quaint. This was a deal breaker for me as I have significant misgivings about the fiscal philosophy our society embraces. On the other hand, the Liberals also promised electoral reform, presumably in the form of some kind of proportional representation. As a typically non-Conservative voting citizen in a staunchly conservative riding, this appeals to me greatly. I’d like very much to have to take my vote seriously because it had some meaning.
Niqabs and Hotlines Solidified My Voting Intentions
As the campaign progressed, though, the popularity of the Liberals steadily climbed as the NDP faded dramatically (that Quebec support in the last election was a fluke and Rachel Notley would do well to note that). The Conservatives, recognizing they were in trouble of losing their majority and ultimately their hold on power resorted to tactics that shouldn’t have surprised me in retrospect, but ultimately solidified my vote decision. That anti-Niqab rhetoric and Barbaric Practices Hotline were loathsome displays of fear politics and they shred any last infinitesimal consideration I had for the Conservative party. By this point, I wasn’t just hoping they’d lose power I wanted them to be humiliated, especially that betraying, petulant, pitiless toilet bowl smudge of a leader, Stephen Harper. And there was only one way for that to happen.
So I voted Liberal. I voted Liberal knowing that there could be no greater disgrace for Stephen Harper than to lose to a Trudeau led Liberal Party. I voted for petty, vindictive, shallow reasons and I did so gleefully. My vote made absolutely no difference, but it feels damn good to join in the flogging of a small man whom I’m happy to see the last of. The results, a Liberal majority, may have been a little more than I bargained for; a Liberal minority would have been enough for me, so I may be back here in four years lamenting my choice. Justin Trudeau has promised to do things differently and I recall hearing that mantra before. I’ll be thrilled if he lives up to that promise but I doubt it. There’s something about politics that changes people and never for the better. In the meantime, I’ll just enjoy a few days of dancing on my former MP’s and PM’s political grave. Don’t let the lid hit you as it slams shut!