Canadians have come to the final weekend of what for many has seemed more political maelstrom than federal election campaign. If you have not already voted, the question now arises who you will vote for or, indeed, whether you feel inclined to vote at all.
Feel is a vital word in that sentence. Passion is the primary motivator for people to vote. Passion about a person, a party, or about a particular issue is what gets people to the polls. When the passion is missing, so are Canadian voters.
The pollsters and pundits tell us every vote will count in this election (as if they don’t in every election), particularly with the near resurrection of the Bloc Quebecois from the verge of elimination during the Stephen Harper years and the rise of joint Quebec and Western separatist sentiment not evidenced since the prime ministerial rule of Pierre Trudeau three-and-a-half decades ago.
Four years ago Pierre’s son rode a passionate wave as much directed against the person of Stephen Harper as for the person of Justin Trudeau. The usual stalwarts, passionate about party, formed the base, and Canadians not already passionate about promised electoral reform became passionate about a particular issue after a photo emerged of a three-year-old Kurdish Syrian boy face down on a beach in Turkey.
But what of 2019? What will carry Canadians to the polls beyond any longstanding passion for a political party – whether or not its contemporary rendition bears resemblance to their preferred reminiscences of days long past.
The persons presented for leadership are all flawed; just as you and I are flawed, and so are the candidates vying for election in our ridings. Realistically, however, most people look at the person of a party leader when assessing feelings about where they will mark their X.
There have been some interesting articles about the leaders and choices made to inform your passion.
Mr. Trudeau has modeled his appearance – rolled up sleeves, slackened tie, bomber jacket, closer haircut – on the image of Barack Obama, a foreign leader known for arousing positive emotions according to Canadian pollsters. Most recently, Mr. Obama has been in the news for endorsing his protégé in what turned into a debate about foreign influence in a Canadian election.
Mr. Trudeau wore what was described as a simple funeral suit for the televised debates. This is the kind of only-one-suit many men own to wear for weddings and funerals. His regular campaign bomber-style jacket is actually more like an every-hockey-dad’s-stay-warm-at-the-ice-rink jacket, except with a big red L with maple leaf for a team crest.
It’s important for a man who inherited millions to appear warm-and-fuzzy middle class to garner votes. His world-known socks add a splash of character. (You likely smiled or grimaced at that last sentence. It’s about arousing passion.)
Mr. Scheer dresses like just about every conservative politician and business man for the last fifty years, in a dark (usually blue) two-piece suit, with classic tie. None of the fashion commentators can pinpoint a particular style for the windbreaker he wears during casual-look campaigning. What they agree on is Mr. Scheer’s appearance has a calming factor to it. Some find it boring. Others find it reassuring.
Mr. Scheer actually had a middle class upbringing, took the bus because his family didn’t have a car, and worked his way through university. To counter that image, opponents challenge that both his parents worked at good paying jobs and he has been a Member of Parliament for fifteen years, alleging that to be a disqualifier for understanding the average Canadian.
Jagmeet Singh dresses in custom-tailored business suits, befitting his career as a lawyer and politician, and wears a variety of different coloured modern-style turbans (rather than the classic-style Sikh turban). His wife is a fashion designer, and even his casual clothes are crisp in appearance. Mr. Singh projects a stylish image. His father was a psychiatrist, and Singh attended a private school in the USA, across the border from where his family lived in Windsor.
When you watch campaign videos prepared for the three leaders, you’ll find their style is designed with similar intent. Mr. Trudeau’s videos look Hollywood professional, as if covering the campaign of a celebrity. Mr. Scheer’s videos resemble a kind of everyman whose friends rented a video camera. Mr. Singh’s videos appear to be shot on a smartphone, cool.
If you’re passionate about a policy, rather than a person or a party, you may find the greatest difficulty in how to cast your ballot. Most policy initiatives only partially align with our desires, and are often promoted by a party that holds other policy positions with which we disagree.
If you’re concerned the last fiscal year’s annual interest of $23 billion on a federal debt of $685 billion slightly exceeds the annual deficit, which continues to build the debt, as if we’re using Amex to pay the interest on our VISA and not touching the principal while running up our MasterCard, you likely have a passionate reason to support the Conservatives, the only party with a plan to eliminate the deficit and reduce the debt.
If the cost of medicine is your passionate policy then the NDP’s promise of national pharmacare was drawing your attention, until the Liberal Party leader yesterday announced he would implement fully funded pharmacare. The parliamentary budget officer estimates the federal cost for national pharmacare at over $19 billion per year.
But, if you’re passionate about pharmacare and tackling the debt, who do you vote for? Those are just two of many issues.
Passion about politics, and politicians, prods us to vote one way or the other, or not at all.
Politics, however, is about more than the passion of election season. It is a blend of power and public service. Politicians pursue both, with varying degrees of balance between the two. Some are more inclined to the power. Others, more inclined to serve constituents’ needs both today and with an eye toward the future. The questions facing Canadian voters, you and me, are thus twofold.
Who do you feel you can trust to effectively manage the power of government – or for those who move past feelings, who can be trusted?
And the second is like it.
Who do you feel will best serve your interests and those of your neighbours – or, again, for those who move past feelings, who will use political power to serve others rather than themselves?
However you answer, I hope it will be with an X behind the privacy screen at your local polling station. It’s suggested that in various parts of the country up to 1/3 of registered voters are undecided, so the pollsters and pundits could be right in a different way than usual when they say every vote counts in this election.
Whether we agree or disagree on who earned that X or how, let’s not allow politics to undermine our passion for Canada or undercut our desire to be good neighbours come Tuesday morning.