Saving democracy?

Prime Minister Winston Churchill gives the &qu...

LAST WORD: Saving democracy?

Lexpert, November 2009

By Marzena Czarnecka

Dear Steve, Mike and Jack,

(Oh, and Gilles. Can’t forget Gilles―that could threaten Confederation. Again.)

Thank you for not dragging me to the polls in 2009.

Now, I’m taking a bit of a risk here―2009 isn’t quite over as we go to press, and the sabre-rattling of the fall of 2009 might be repeated again… but one must have hope and faith and optimism to survive, and I have faith―even in you.

Winston Churchill once called democracy “the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” Now, Canadian politics were the last thing on his mind back then, what with World War II taking attention away from MacKenzie King’s conversations with his dog. But if he saw what you boys were doing to democracy in Canada… well, he’d still say it. Still, I think he’d give credit where credit was due, and applaud you for not putting another nail in democracy’s ramshackle coffin it by dragging your exhausted and disillusioned electorate to the polls yet again, in an election that would change nothing and prove nothing.

I can’t tell you how pleased I am you saw the light. I knew―I knew―none of you was a complete idiot. And now I have proof.

By the way, here I go, on record: unabashedly unConservative Albertan though I am, I don’t think Stephen Harper is an idiot. If you need a witness, please consult my Uncle George who, whenever conversation turns to politics, is sure to say, “Harper is an idiot.” To which I invariably respond: “No, he is not. Just because someone has poor to non-existent social skills, an apparently total lack of judgement when it comes to evaluating the competency of key staff, and no sense of what’s appropriate and what’s not at World Summits and what not, does not make that person an idiot.” (It makes him a dork. Check the Free Dictionary or the good old OED for confirmation.)

It goes without saying that if Michael “I’m a Harvard alumnus, har har” Ignatieff is a tenth as clever as he tells us he is, he’s not an idiot either. As for Jack Layton, there’s not much you can fault him with except his politics, and once you concede that a quasi-socialist is capable of thinking, Jack’s got a pretty good record of not being an idiot. Propping up a Tory government―not an easy thing for a socialist to do. Propping up a Tory government in return for budgetary concessions―and keeping us away from the polls!―priceless. Thank you, Jackie.

(I forgot Gilles again. It’s cause I live in Alberta. But look at those eyes! Listen to that voice! Neither dork nor idiot. He wouldn’t wear a fishing vest to a photo op. Indeed, if he were the head of a real national party, this piece might follow a very different thread. As things stand however, my pathological fear of another election is largely his fault, and will remain thus until he manages to fully alienate Quebec. Hope. One must have hope….)

And thank you, Mike and Steve. I knew you could do math―or at least had a close and personal connection with someone who knows how to use a calculator. You’ve done the numbers and you saw there was no electoral scenario out there that would result in something other than another minority Conservative government. You remembered how Quebec, Ontario and Alberta vote no matter what happens, considered how much appeal each of you was likely to have on either of Canada’s coasts―and you made the right decision.

I think Jack in particular deserves kudos, because he probably did stand to gain a bit in Ontario. Maybe. But to the electorate as a whole, NDP’s two-three-or-even-13 seat gains are, let’s face it, almost irrelevant. It’s sort of like the Bloc having 54 or 44 seats in Quebec. It doesn’t really matter that the Bloc has them―the relevant thing is that neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives do.

So―thanks and hugs all around. (Well, except for you, Steve―here’s a limp handshake. Wouldn’t expect more from you than your family does. Plus, I try not to hug dorks.) Now, I don’t want to push it but… umm… could you promise not to take us to the polls in 2010? You know that between the three (four) of you, you’ve compromised on pretty much every key and critical issue to date. You’ve shown your principles are, what’s the word I’m looking for, flexible. Frankly, it’s too late to take a moral stand on anything, for any of you―so skip it, in 2010, as you did in 2009. Wait until an election actually has the potential to change something.

It does happen. Even the Chretien dynasty came to the end, remember? And the right united and didn’t give Paul Martin a chance to establish one. Maybe the Bloc will merge or disintegrate, maybe the Conservatives will split at the seams again―they have a history of doing that―maybe the Liberals will choose a leader capable of getting votes from coast to coast. Miracles do happen. I mean―just look at Steve. Who would have pegged him as the dude to unify anything?

(P.S. Mike, I’m sorry: you do it for me even less than Stephan Dion did, and I don’t think you’ll get to be Prime Minister. Still, surely your Harvard-educated brain knows that the longer you let Steve preside over a wrecked economy and deficit-ridden budgets, the better your chances of unseating him?)

To an election-free 2010.

Marzena Czarnecka is a Calgary-based freelance writer. Her other favourite Churchill quote on democracy is, “The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.”

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