The longest federal election in modern Canadian history has come to end. At the beginning of this election, Harper and his Conservatives called for a 78-day election hoping that voter fatigue would allow the incumbent party to return to power.
At the same time they hoped the public would forget about the Senate scandals and Mike Duffy’s ongoing trial. Engineered tactics like these, including redistricting and voter cards with the wrong information, are at heart undemocratic in nature and are part of the Tory election toolkit borrowed from their Republican counterparts south of the border.
Ensuring that it is difficult for certain segments of the population to vote, speaks to a fear of democracy and of losing power rather than facing a truly democratic election.
At the same time, in the last three weeks, the tone of the election changed when Stephen Harper raised the issue of the niqab and his “old-stock Canadians.” Invoking fear and racism as a strategy to draw attention away from a poor dollar, a weak economy and high unemployment is something we all should condemn.
As a visible minority, I found these tactics not only distasteful but disheartening. Thankfully, Thomas Mulcair, the leader of the NDP called Harper out on these practises, letting him know that such racist sentiments tell more about Harper and his party rather than the Canadian public.
While the campaign began as a 3-way race with competing visions of governance, the Tory attack ads throughout the campaign (like the ads about Trudeau’s lack of experience and his hair) made it about personalities rather than policies.
Harper and the Tories appealed to base instincts and fears arguing that Harper was the only person who could keep Canada “safe” while the Liberals gambled on the appeal of Justin Trudeau’s family name. As a wealthy white male who was raised in the rarified and privileged world of federal politics Trudeau knows very little about the average Canadian.
At the beginning of the campaign the Liberal party was no longer the “natural governing party” it was throughout most of the twentieth-century, but a third party barely holding onto to its seats in parliament. Pundits called the gamble on Justin Trudeau a desperate act from a desperate party.
But Trudeau’s campaign showed not just the power of his name but how political expectations change over time. Like his father before him, Justin benefited from a politics of hope championed by politicians south of the border, John F. Kennedy before Trudeau the father, and Barack Obama before Trudeau the son. In both instances expectations in the social climate, fostered by the cruel politics of the right in both countries, changed allowing politicians to tap into a social zeitgeist focused on hope rather than fear.
Like a political family south of the border, Justin Trudeau shares with Hilary Clinton the appeal of his family name; however unlike Hilary, who proved her political mettle as a senator and secretary of state, Justin has to date not cut his political teeth. Since becoming leader of the Liberal Party, Trudeau’s performance in parliament has been at best unimpressive. It is important to remember he voted with the Tory government on Bill C-51.
With Trudeau’s landslide win on election night the power in Ottawa shifts once again from one privileged white male to another. We return the Liberal party to power, like we have done for a century, bouncing between Liberal and Conservative. This is disheartening for those of us who are not part of these political games. At the same time, the process makes those of us who do not share similar backgrounds, those of us who were not raised in the halls of power feel even more disenfranchised from federal politics. What we have witnessed in this election is a return to the dynastic politics which previously existed in Upper Canada with the Family Compact. Politics is always about change, Harper and his 9-year reign needed to go. But is replacing one form of cronyism with a politics based on family names the best thing for our country? It certainly didn’t help south of the border with the family Bush.
While we have ousted Harper little will change in the corridors of power. Liberal or Tory means little difference at the end of the day. Instead of change for the better, we will continue to see more of the same type of politics and governance.
I hope going to the polls that we all cast our vote based on the performance and policies of our preferred candidates and not on the games and tactics used by politicians. In the end only time will tell.