Letter to the editor 1, Oct. 17, 2019

Why did I bother?

Dear Editor,

With some reluctance, I decided to attend the all-candidates ‘debate’ held last Thursday at the Saint-Lazare Community Centre, organized and hosted by The Journal. (Not surprisingly, the candidate for the Bloc Québécois declined an invitation to attend.)

To think that I gave up a post-season baseball game for that was, to say the least, woefully disappointing. (I know, there was a hockey game that evening, not to mention the second French-language leaders debate, but I’m a big baseball fan.)

The cacophonous exchange was neither enlightening nor inspiring. The constant interruptions, the frequent straying off topic, the tiresome platitudes, and the occasional, scattershot, spurious claim of the cost of this or that program made for a shameful display of what passes for informed political discourse.

Not that it made any difference to me - my mind was made up long ago. That said, it was reassuring to know that my reasons for not supporting one or another party are based on thoughtful reflection about each party’s platform. I say ‘party’ and not ‘candidate’ since, regardless of the hard work of a given MP, the overwhelming majority of electors vote for the party, not the candidate, given that power ultimately resides in the PMO and Cabinet.

In June of 1968, when I was 12 years old, my father woke me at 6:30 one morning to tell me that Robert Kennedy had been shot the night before. I was keenly interested in politics even at that age, and I was devastated at the news. Two months earlier, Pierre Trudeau had become Prime Minister when he assumed leadership of the Liberal Party. Whatever one may have thought of their politics, it cannot be denied that both were men of vision. I believed then, as I do now, that the American dream died with RFK. Likewise, I believe Pierre Trudeau's dream of a “just society” may have been the last vestige of a passionate Canadian politics.

The personal integrity that guided both men, rooted in a commitment to truth and sincerity, and daring to challenge citizens to look beyond their own self-serving interests to a more promising future for their country, is so lacking in the political world today. It goes without saying that our neighbours to the south are currently living through an even more vacuous state of political unreality.

Had I been able to pose a question to our local candidates last Thursday, I would have asked the following: “With every election, we hear from party leaders about what they'll do to make Canadians’ lives better. We even believe that this time, perhaps this time, things will be different. Yet nothing ever really changes. Why should we believe you now? Why should we ever believe you? And if nothing ever changes, why should voters keep putting one of the two main parties in charge when they’ve both proven themselves unworthy of our trust?”

Is it any wonder, then, that Canadians are becoming more apathetic about our democratic process, especially in what passes for democracy in our inequitable, antiquated first-past-the-post system? And we all know that no party in power will ever change the system from which it has benefitted.

Thus did those two hours last Thursday remind me of the inescapable truism: “Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.”

Given our often competing regional differences, including the reality of our ‘two solitudes,’ Canada is an almost politically ungovernable country. But there is a unity of purpose, an undefinable ‘Canadian-ness’ that should help us look past those differences, if only the apparently irreconcilable political polarization did not get in the way.

Oh, and one more thing, though much more mundane. Let us please do away with those annoying, useless election signs. In an age of ever-increasing awareness of how incredibly wasteful we can be, not to mention the multiple sources of information about who our local candidates are, with no excuse for voters being unaware (as if the candidate really matters), it is long past time to ban this visual assault on our senses.

Wayne Saray