..and I’m gonna enjoy it while it lasts.
I was recently approached by someone who wanted to know if I had any interest in getting more involved in a political party. It doesn’t matter who approached me or which party they were representing. Recovering politicians get this all the time. (I think that’s in large part because so many politicians who get out — or especially, are thrown out — can’t seem to stay out. They run again at the first opportunity, and it doesn’t seem to matter what they’re running for as long as there’s an election or by-election to run in.)
When I would get one of these requests while I was still working. I’d just say, “Well, y’know, I’m back on the air with the talk show and I have to be careful not to get too partisan, yada yada..” and that would be that. And in case you think that excuse was just a big steaming pile of horse droppings, the beauty of being a talk show host as opposed to a pure journalist is that I could show my political leanings — but I still had to be divorced enough from day-to-day party politics that I could criticize my side when it did something stupid just as I would criticize the other side. Because in politics, stupid is a level playing field.
Anyway, I no longer have that get-out-of-jail-free card to fall back on. So this time, the request got me thinking. And I realized that I have reached a personal happy place which makes me of little practical, hands-on use to any political party. These days, I just can’t work up much passion for politics.
True enough, I can still get ticked off watching what’s left of the Harper Conservatives accusing Justin Trudeau and Sophie Gregoire of using taxpayer money to allegedly pay for two (two!) nannies for their kids. The budget to run the Prime Ministerial household — any Prime Ministerial household — includes provision for six paid staff. The Prime Ministerial family of the day has some discretion to determine the duties of those paid staff. Stephen Harper had six staff paid for with public money when he was Prime Minister and for all I know (or care) maybe he designated one of them as Keeper of the Prime Ministerial Cats. Justin Trudeau has six paid staff. Which should be the end of the story. Except it isn’t. Because there’s a nasty, dirty undertone to this criticism. Note that they’re not going after Trudeau and Gregoire for the number of cooks, maids, or household managers on staff. They’re going after the nannies. The implication is that if you need child care, you must be a neglectful parent.
This is Tea Party stuff.
Am I disillusioned? Far from it. Actually, I’m satisfied.
I’m satisfied that we have an NDP government in Alberta, a Liberal government federally and — with Monday’s election of Dwight Ball’s Liberals in Newfoundland and Labrador — there is now not a single government anywhere in this nation with the word “Conservative” in its name.
Yes, I know the Saskatchewan Party is really Conservative and the BC Liberals aren’t really Liberals, but my point remains: from sea to sea to sea, the Conservative brand has been banished, sent to the woodshed, exiled to the wilderness to atone for the crimes and misdeeds perpetrated in Conservatism’s name. Stephen Harper is alleged to have said in 2006, “You won’t recognize Canada when I’m through with it.” Whether or not he ever actually said that, it’s clear that the people have had quite enough of his devious attempts at remaking the nation in his image.
So yes, I’m satisfied at these turns of events — satisfied enough that I’m prepared to coast for awhile and let our new governments have a chance to prove themselves — or not. Time will tell.
I make no secret of trumpeting my joy that Harper is gone, although that’s tempered by the continued presence of henchmen like Jason Kenney, Tony Clement, Lisa Raitt and Rona Ambrose. Listening to any incumbent Conservative talk about how things have changed now that the Control-Freak-in-Chief is gone, how they feel free to speak their minds or to support things (like inquiries into missing and murdered Aboriginal women) that they used to deride is a bit rich. It reminds me of the scene in The Wizard of Oz where the castle guards, having watched Dorothy melt the Wicked Witch of the West, bow down and cry out in unison, “Hail Dorothy!” They make like they’ve been prisoners of the Wicked Witch all along, when in reality they’re just sizing up which side their bread is buttered on.
That said, I am a forgiving man. Every political party needs to spend time in the wilderness — not as long as, say, the Alberta Liberals (94 years!), but four years at minimum and probably better eight. Every political party that loses power does so because it has lost its way, and needs to remain out of power long enough to get to the point of owning that truth. Only then can the party rediscover its vision and values and reconnect with the voters.
Some parties are incapable of ever getting it right again (see Alberta Liberals) and it remains to be seen whether the Progressive Conservatives in Alberta can stage an eventual comeback. But there’s no doubt the federal Conservatives will. Much as I think the Conservative Party of Canada needs a good colon-cleansing before that can happen, they will come back at the appropriate time, just as the federal Liberals did following their long decline post-Adscam.
In the meantime, the Notley New Democrats and the Trudeau Liberals will screw a lot of things up just like every government of every political stripe before them. And when they screw up enough, the voters will throw them out and deservedly so.
For now though, I’m inclined to cut our new governments some slack and to suggest to the recent losers that they try to raise the tone and intellectual content of their opposition. ‘Cuz what you Conservatives are doing right now just sounds like sour grapes.