Today, the internet is abuzz with talk of last night’s political debate. So here I am to weigh in.
Oh. Umm. Actually, nobody will read this because the debate I’m talking about does not involve a super-rich reality TV star with hair more unbelievable than a photograph of Sasquatch. But hey! It’s an opportunity to increase your cultural literacy and learn about politics north of the border. Since you probably don’t want to listen to 2 hours of Canadian stuffed shirts heckling each other on C-Span, I’m making things easy by providing a quick synopsis of The Great Canadian Leadership Debate.
Is the Canadian government running a deficit? Or do we have a balanced budget? Is the economy booming, or is it in recession? Is this the Worst. Job market. Ever. Or the best? And is it possible for a politician to actually answer a question when it is put to him directly? In the economics section of the debate, we learn that none of the leadership candidates agree on a single basic economic fact. These are the policies:
Harper: We will continue to not tax large corporations while cooking the books to create the illusion of a balanced budget.
Trudeau: I’m not going to tell you what any of my policies will be, but they’ll be way better than Harper’s. Especially for the middle class.
Mulcair: I always wanted to be Robin Hood when I grew up.
May: Like all of the other parties, we will run a deficit. Unlike the other parties we won’t lie about it and will spend it on sensible things.
Note: sometimes the NDP and the Green party come dangerously close to agreeing on the precise amount of public money that Harper has pissed away.
Pipelines. Are they good or evil? Do they make money or cost Canadian’s jobs? Is this a moot point since the pipelines are on indefinite hiatus until the Americans elect a Republican? As the leaders debate about the environment, we learn that the bottom line for everyone but May is the Canadian economy (though Mulcair wants it to be a green economy) and that Trudeau has three kids which means obviously he is squishy and you should like him.
Harper: The government after mine will clean up the mess.
Trudeau: The provinces will enact environmental legislation for which I will take the credit.
Mulcair: I’m the only one here who has actually managed to pass environmental legislation that nobody disagrees with. Not even the Indians.
May: Most policies screw the environment in favour of the economy, or the economy in favour of the environment. Somehow Stephen Harper manages to do both at the same time.
Note: at some point May suggests that one of Harpers “clean” “natural” energy sources is fracking. Should look into that.
Our Democratic Institutions
Is it time for Canada to get rid of our old first-past-the-post electoral system? Is there something that we can do to restore civility in Parliament? And while we’re at it, is the Senate still kicking around? Weren’t we going to do something about that like…every election for the last 20 years? In this part of the debate, we learned that the Liberal party may in fact have a policy on electoral reform and that they are so excited to present it to the world that their leader deliberately redirected the debate to the dead-horse of Quebec Separatism to avoid having to tell anyone what it is.
Harper: Now that I’ve stacked the Senate the way I like it, I promise not to change it anymore.
Trudeau: We should not say different things in French and English. I avoid this by saying nothing nothing at all.
Mulcair: The Senators are a bunch of antiquated government stooges. Let’s get rid of them and spend their salaries on childcare.
May: Canadians have a reputation for playing nice and working together. Can we get back to that?
Note: Harper says Ontario already voted in a referendum to defeat electoral reform – suggesting that therefore Canadians don’t want it. I was a member of the Citizen’s Assembly that was assembled to formulate a new electoral system, and I can exclusively reveal that the reason it failed was that it was so badly publicized that most people didn’t even know there was a referendum until they got to the polls.
Foreign Policy and Domestic Security
It’s a well-known fact that Canada’s role in international affairs is to be the lapdog of other powers. So who should we serve? The US? The UN? NATO? It’s hard to say, but we’re pretty sure that everyone except Harper agrees that the Conservative security Bill C-51 basically allows the government to infringe the rights of Canadians without actually preventing terorrism. Justin Trudeau did vote for it, sure, but that was only so he could change it when he got into office (because that’s how policy works, right?)
Harper: If you’re scared of terrorists and you like war, I’m your only option.
Trudeau: Harper is afraid of terrorists. The NDP is afraid of the secret police. Only the Liberals will give you both!
Mulcair: Letting the UN decide when we go to war is better than letting POTUS decide when we go to war. The NDP will repeal Bill C-51.
May: When it comes right down to it, I really think that bombing foreigners and spying on Canadians isn’t nice.
Note: in Canada, even Conservatives feel the need to justify bombing Middle Eastern countries by claiming that they’re protecting Muslims.
Harper: In the unlikely event that y’all are crazy enough to vote me in again, you can count on more of the same.
Trudeau: Mr. Harper’s election propaganda about me is mean and silly. So is Mr. Harper. I love Canada. More than Mr. Harper. Better is better, so you’d better vote for me.
Mulcair: I’m an NDP leader who has actually had experience in government! I promise more and better change.
May: We have ideas about lots of issues that the other parties aren’t even talking about. Read our stuff. We’re not a bunch of tree hugging weirdos. All I am saying is give Green a chance.
Harper: Sir Humphrey has prepared my statistics and Malcolm has taught me my lines.
Trudeau: I will stick to long established Liberal tradition. Say nothing in the debate, change nothing while in power. However, if you compare me to Steven Harper you will see that I clearly have much better hair.
Mulcair: I’m so sane and reasonable that it’s very difficult to parody me. Which of course means that I will probably not get very far in politics.
May: I am a human being that you could actually relate to. Also, a woman. In spite of these manifest political liabilities, I hope to be able to hold on to my seat.
Picture credit: Chris Selmys