Canadians, collectively discontent

This year’s federal election left me confused. On the campaign trail, most leaders seemed deaf to the greater issues, opting to sling insults at their opponents rather than providing solutions to Canadians’ biggest concerns. When the results were in, voters showed that, no matter how progressive we may appear on the international stage, we aren’t really all that interested in seeing significant political change.

Since Justin Trudeau was elected in 2015, Canadians have rallied and marched to fight for an array of causes: for stronger action against climate change, to support and uphold the rights of women, to shed light on missing and murdered Indigenous women, and to stand with immigrants and people of colour in the face of discrimination. Canadians (some who chose to sport yellow vests) also argued that free speech was deteriorating, that our government was too slow in moving forward with a national pipeline project, that carbon taxes were unfair and unnecessary, and that Canada ought to tighten up its immigration policies and close the border to asylum seekers. We saw support for an (albeit non-binding) motion to condemn Islamophobia and racism, but we also saw the rise of alt-right groups such as Soldiers of Odin, the Northern Guard, and the Proud Boys. There was vocal condemnation of the orange sociopath in charge of our neighbour to the south, but we also saw praise (and then, as predicted, disappointment) expressed towards provincial leaders who chose to emulate his ideas.

I’m sure you see the picture I’m trying to paint here. It’s been a very divisive four years, with social media and bad journalism simply reinforcing that feeling of division. I’m of the mind that Canadians are a little more nuanced than we appear to be—that we’re not just a bunch of “lefts” and “rights”—but unfortunately our electoral system is not set up in a way to reflect that diversity.

As divided as Canada has felt, I also can’t recall a time in my short lifespan that Canadians have been so eager to gather in groups and speak up for what they believe in. Given all this action, I expected to see much more of our collective discontentment addressed by the federal party leaders who stepped up to the plate. Party platforms felt half-assed, with no tangible solutions or ideas being presented for any of the major issues that had Canadians marching in the streets.

Without any shiny objects offered to Canadians by any party, this year’s election felt downright rudderless. Let’s consider the results of the 2015 election. The Liberal party had clear objectives (or an excess of lofty promises depending on how you look at them) that had voters fired up: legal weed. Proportional representation. Gender parity. So-called “real” reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. Most of these commitments fell to the wayside, so what compelled Canadians to give Justin Trudeau and his party a second chance, especially after controversy took the wheel?

From his double-blackface scandal to his disastrous conduct with Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould around the SNC Lavalin case, not to mention his party’s decision to uphold a Harper-era lawsuit against Indigenous children, and spend millions of taxpayer dollars on a pipeline [takes breath], I was convinced that voters would see to it that Trudeau would be removed from office. Unfortunately, the most likely alternative was Conservative party leader Andrew Scheer, who boasted exactly zero personality, a disconnected party with no discernable platform, and a face that I liken to the spawn of the devil himself. A pendulum-swing to the right could have been reality if the Conservative party leader wasn’t such a piece of wet cardboard.

Given Scheer’s notable lack of leadership skills and the Liberal’s blunder-filled recent history, I naively entertained the idea that the NDP might have a chance. After all, with Doug Ford and Jason Kenney cutting budgets and wreaking havoc on social services in Ontario and Alberta, perhaps voters in those provinces might lean to the opposite end of the spectrum. However you stand on left-leaning parties, you had to give it to Jagmeet Singh: he led a smart campaign and struck me as the most authentic of the five party leaders by far. When racist Canadians were wilfully ignorant of his background, he did what he could to level with them, removing his turban and discussing its significance in the media. Let’s get this straight: Singh absolutely did not owe any of that to (white) Canadians. Despite a strong platform that addressed many of the issues that have arisen over the last four years, I think many voters were simply not ready to see a brown prime minister. So many Canadians opted to vote strategically to avoid a Conservative majority that we’ve ended up with more of the same.

On the Green Party and the horribly named People’s Party, I won’t say much. The Green’s proposed drug policy—decriminalizing drugs, only to recriminalize them if and when the overdose crisis ended—prompted my gag reflex. So did the mere existence of Maxime Bernier’s sad attempt at a political party. Hatred does not a political platform make, my dude.

While I hoped to see much more discussion on drug policy, I didn’t anticipate cannabis being a pertinent issue this time around. Legalization is too new to be an election issue, and until problems associated with it become more contentious among the greater population, politicians will likely keep quiet about it. I hope that in the meantime our elected officials can make improvements to prevent the floundering of a very young industry, but I’m not crossing my fingers.

All in all, it was an underwhelming election that makes me wonder how seriously the federal government takes our griping.