The federal election lost its sex appeal
Considering the Liberals secured a second consecutive four-year stay on the hill over a month ago, it seems slightly protracted to react now. But, we’re stoners. This is on brand.
Frankly, I didn't care about the federal election this year. It’s probably because the federal election didn’t care much about us—the electorate.
I personally think there’s nothing sexier than when someone shows how much they care about you, but Canadian politics in 2019 completely lost that sex appeal.
Think about it.
When the 2015 election kicked off, the Liberals were in third place. But Trudeau fought his way to the front of the pack with a heroically toned “I care about Canadians” combination of centre-left policies, promises of running deficits, and progressive platform points touting feminism, inclusivity, and environmentalism. Arguably, the country had long-since harboured an “anything but Harper” attitude, but here was something better than just “anything”. Trudeau was a white knight—the good guy after the bad breakup—wooing us with whispers of climate action, fairness, and fundamental human rights. Not only was his campaign turning heads, but the man himself was starting to do so as well. This was never more evident than when Vogue dubbed the prime ministerial contender as the “sexiest politician alive” that same year. He ensnared the Canadian populace with “hey girl” memes while talk show hosts gushed about his coiffed hair and dimples. Compared to the angry, overcooked cheese bread in power south of the border, and the nightmare of left-swipes mucking up Brexit, Trudeau was artfully portrayed as the guy men wanted to be and women wanted to vote for—cool, confident, and above the petty squabbling of his campaign counterparts.
And it wasn't all blue eyes and loose ties. His politics were sexy. After his election victory, Trudeau enforced a gender equal cabinet—bringing the ratio of female members to male to 15 to 31, over the dismal 12 to 39 of the previous Conservative administration. He spoke strongly in support of an inquiry into the (then) nearly 1,200 missing and murdered Indigenous women, promising a “total renewal” of the country’s relationship with its aboriginal population. He touted a total legalization of cannabis, in the name of medical research, patient access, fairness, and progression. His strategically photogenic family kissed, nuzzled, and held hands through a campaign so visually compelling it renewed faith in the nuclear family. He was more aggressive than Thomas Mulcair (NDP) and less creepy than Stephen Harper (PC).
In 2015, the pheromones coming from the federal election inspired a nationwide primal urge to vote. This year, it just stunk—enough to put off over 2.5 percent of the last election’s voter turnout.
While that isn't the steepest of drops, the drive to encourage more voter participation this year was stronger than ever as campaign managers used social media to the fullest of its legal capabilities. So, what happened?
Well, where once a politically fresh faced Liberal promised progress, this year both he and most other candidates shied away from difficult social issues—like racial inequality, Indigenous self-governance, fixing the clusterfuck called “legalization”, and healthcare.
As immediate as the first debate it was evident this election was about who could least ruffle the already divided electorate’s feathers, however it didn’t stop them from messing up one another’s.
Armed with a considerably less valiant attitude, our leader in command looked meek, desperate, and a little racist. In his last campaign, Trudeau said he wanted “real change”. This year, it seemed he just didn't want to rock an already hole-ridden and unstable boat. Fully stepping out of his armour, he assumed a role all too familiar—a cautious skeptic. While his approval ratings hit the first decline in late 2016, worsened by the abandonment of electoral reform, he certainly didn't pick up any points here.
Oh, how far the sex god of 2015 has fallen.
Skulking around next to him was a creepy young Harper, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, fear-mongering about Trudeau’s “secret” plans to legalize hard drugs and refusing to take a stance on abortion.
Then there was the promising, and disappointing, leader of the New Democrats Jagmeet Singh, who was tasked with reminding the country there still exists a strong socialist voice, but decided to take a run at the main seat instead of earning seats—a coalition party’s job.
And the peripheral candidates—the Green’s Elizabeth May and the People’s Party of Canada’s Maxime Bernier—jumped in where they could.
Most debates and campaign appearances devolved into bickering about balancing the budget, and who had more jets, or who had more carbon offsets for their jets, or who deserved the title of “hypocrite”. This childish attitude carried right through to the end of the campaign when Trudeau jumped on air during Scheer’s concession speech as they, and Singh, volleyed for airtime.
As far as drug policy goes, Trudeau barely touched on it. After a few jabs from Scheer about legalization being the Pandora’s box of all narcotics, he simply stated he wasn’t considering regulating anything else. And that was that. In one election a party arguably won by creating an entirely new capitalistic arm, and in the next they managed to ignore it all together. At least Scheer admitted, if elected, he wouldn't lop it off entirely.
This year, we also saw the re-emergence of a rogue separatist party and the passing of a blatantly racist bill in Quebec—to which all of the leaders avoided eye contact and, at most, said it “may need intervention”. Nothing was more awkward than watching every leader address Quebec’s secularist ban on religious symbols while sharing a stage with a Sikh Canadian. Mind you, none of which, Singh included, took a hard and fast stance against overturning Bill 21.
Several times Trudeau justified the pipeline he once promised not to approve by saying it was necessary to fund the country’s gradual move to clean energy, which is the equivalent of saying: "I cheated on you to build trust in our relationship."
With catty moments like Singh accusing Trudeau of “surfing on his privilege” during a French debate and Bernier spouting off about being a “real Canadian” (as opposed to immigrants, despite admitting to the fact that all Canadians are descendants of immigrants), this election was an attempt at reality television at best.
And while this was happening, several blackface scandals and an undisclosed American citizenship barely shook the foundation of either campaign.
Was this the dirtiest campaign Canada has ever seen? Absolutely not. It came nowhere close to low-points of the antisemitic images of David Lewis (the left wing Co-operative Commonwealth Federation’s (CCF) national secretary) in 1945, or the 2011 “Robocall” scandal, or Kim Campbell's Conservatives mocking Jean Chrétien’s facial paralysis in 1993. But it was certainly a dud.
I can’t say I am the most educated about the political process, but I won’t say I’m entirely illiterate either. I keep my eye on several different news sources, I tune into debates (or stream the highlights later), I follow the Twitter accounts of political pundits, and I know party history. For someone like me to grow bored of five weeks of what should be scintillating debate, it had to be bad.
I think it’s time to light some candles and talk electoral reform to me.
P.s. We somehow managed to elect a party that promised to tax Netflix. Not chill.