The Canadian Crossroads

So… here we are in 2011, and us Canadians are faced with a dilemma that couldn’t have been foreseen even 3 months ago.

Great swaths of Liberal voters – who had never even thought it possible – are heading to the polls in the early summer heat of May… ready to vote for more Stephen Harper.

How the hell did this happen?

Where did the Liberal party go so wrong that those who had vowed to die fighting the Blue Meanies would willingly put an ‘X’ next to the name of their local Conservative candidate – desperately trying not to vomit while doing so?

In a word? Iggy.

Michael Ignatieff has turned out to be a blunder of almost Biblical proportions… a goddamn Greek tragedy in motion.

You see… the Liberal body of voters (especially the card-carrying party members that attended the last Grit leadership convention) were duped into thinking Iggy was the next Great White Hope – someone who could embody the intellect and flare of great Prime Ministers of times past, and to be more specific, Pierre Trudeau.

On paper, Ignatieff had a lot going for him: international experience, academic fortitude, and lots of time doing public speaking engagements – which are all good ingredients when you want to promote yourself as being the central figure of Canadian politics.

However, the Iggy Experiment has failed.

Despite endless opportunities provided by the Harper Regime, and chances to interact directly with the Canadian people through much ballyhooed Liberal Express road trips, Michael Ignatieff has never come across as anything other than a stiff, awkward presence that seemed more apt to be a university professor than a man who would be king.

Worst of all to the Liberal faithful – and much to the delight of Conservative election engineers – Iggy has settled into a routine filled with arbitrary whining, pompous airbaggery, and snide opportunism… none of which are pleasant to behold and all are contrary to endearing yourself to a Canadian public who are just getting used to more prominent place in the global community after years of mismanagement by previous Harper rosters.

As much as the recent recession sucked for the world’s citizens on the whole, the economic meltdown played exactly to the Conservative’s business acumen: spend yourself out of it wisely (by surging money to public infrastructure projects that both put people to work and took financial stresses off municipalities), and then make Canada a very attractive place to set up your business by lowering corporate taxes to a rate that’s extremely appetizing when compared to other jurisdictions.

Also, the governmental officials that were responsible made sure they kept their hands firmly on the rudder… steering our economy in the opposite direction of many of our G8 neighbors who ended up drowning in boiling red ink.

The final part of the public’s redefinition of Conservative cronies is that Harper & Co. have been much more reactive to the concerns of the electorate: intervening in headline-making business deals like the Potash debacle… enabling Canadians to have more choice in the cellphone market by allowing Wind Mobile to set up shop in spite of questionable ownership… and taking the CRTC on directly over the ‘usage based billing’ decision that would have drastically altered the Canadian internet experience for the worse.

All of these things look very good for Harper & Co. when you string them together… portraying them as people who care about Canadian national identity issues, and what we feel like as citizens that are being raped at every juncture by money-hungry corporations that could honestly not care less about us.

Yes, it’s true that the Conservative Party Of Canada feels entitled to do whatever the hell it likes – regardless of rules, regulations, and political mandates.

If the Harper government doesn’t fall on the 2011 Budget text alone, it definitely will fall on the current Contempt Of Parliament issue that it can not shake… because, honestly, the opposition parties are practically foaming at the mouth in their hurry to throw an election party – even as non-governmental polling suggests that the Conservatives could possibly squeak by into majority-rule territory.

Why Iggy and Layton are so eager to get egg in the face is beyond me.

Well, maybe I can understand Jack Layton’s view: the floundering Liberals could mean a bolstering of NDP seats come the May election since they could position themselves as the least whiny alternative – providing that Layton can shake his socialist image (and it wouldn’t take the greatest Photoshop artist to manipulate Layton’s head back and forth with Lenin’s).

Gilles Duceppe and the Bloc Quebecois never really need a reason to support a federal election as they’re Canada’s more civilized answer to the IRA (minus the bombings of course – at least not in 30 or 40 years) and whose sole function is to break apart federalism at the seams so Quebec can go it’s own way to whatever future they’re deluded into thinking exists.

But… this all rolls back to Iggy.

He’s the one who aches to be the guy standing before the world leaders gathered at the United Nations… to be the Prime Minister who puts the gallery to sleep by finding 1,000 ways to iterate how civilized Canadians are (it’s true – not saying otherwise), and how we disagree with violence and want to give half our clothes to strangers on the streets.

Sure, Iggy, those are all nice things to say about us… and we wish somebody who had actual lectern presence could get up and reaffirm our place in the world… but that’s not and never will be you.

We’ve all had time to watch you flop around, flailing at just about any issue you think you might be able to get some traction on – going on long-winded diatribes about things that, in all honesty, aren’t on the average Canadian citizen’s radar.

In fact, the biggest issue that Michael Ignatieff has been able to attach himself to is the future purchase of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter – which is somewhat an issue due to the $16,000,000,000 – $30,000,000,000 price tag – to replace our 30-year-old batch of CF-18 fighters that are starting to fall out of the sky for no particular reason other than they’re quickly reaching their Best Before dates.

To counter any argument that the Liberals might make on the F-35 purchase program, let me put forward two things:

1. The F-35 Lightning II is the most technologically advanced fighter available to the open market i.e. not limited to purchase by the U.S. military like the F-22 Raptor – and is designed for multiple roles in the combat and patrol missions that our Armed Forces take on (please see current mission over Libya, or semi-frequent intercepts of Russian bombers that test our defenses periodically).

2. The last time the Liberals canceled a military aviation purchase, it took nearly 20 years to find another suitable aircraft: in fact, the replacement of  50-year-old Sea King helicopters aboard our navy ships is still ongoing – leaving Canadian sailor-aviators at the mercy of 700 worn-thin spare parts flying in unison. WE DO NOT HAVE 20 YEARS TO REPLACE THE CF-18.

In the end, the Liberal election platform is going to be based on the notion that we’re sick and tired of paying so much money to the government in taxes when Big Business pays so little.

It would be a good platform in the 80’s or 90’s – maybe even in the 2000’s – but this is more and more a society that deals with information in a point-blank fashion: the internet and other forms of media has made the average Canadian more insightful (you’re reading a blog after all) as to what is working and not working from coast to coast.

And, right now, we’re all very aware of basic facts: our dollar is strong enough to top the mighty U.S. greenback… our banking system is the healthiest among all G8 (maybe even G20) nations… our employers are healthy enough to generate jobs at a rate higher than our southern neighbors… and however cynical it may be by design, our federal government seems to be interested in helping us in the face of Big Business.

Those things are all tangible indications of progress (but not of progressiveness, naturally – they are Conservatives) that has made our lives a bit better when compared to peoples in other countries, and even to ourselves when compared to a few years ago.

I fear that we as Canadians have no other option than to give Harper & Co. another mandate since they are doing what’s in our overall best interests… while overlooking their institutional inclination to be dicks.

The best we can hope for is another minority government that will be held in check by the Opposition – an Opposition that will finally wise up and take care of their Iggy problem after a trouncing.

So… sit back for the next 45 days or so and watch the Conservatives, Liberals, and NDP duke it out over our airwaves in endless TV attack ads and televised debates.

It should at least be entertaining.

Me?

I might actually vote Green… as I can’t stand the local Conservative candidate.