Election Chatter |
There’s an old saying that stock market investors are motivated by two things: fear and greed.
Maybe voters are too. Political strategists have always seemed to think so. We’ve had election after election where candidates have tried to use fear to motivate voters: fear of the Americans, fear of saloons, fear of Quebecers, fear of free trade, fear of soldiers with guns in the streets of Canadian cities.
And greed has always been in play: social programs, tax cuts, free daycare, cash for kids’ hockey gear. Our fear quotient seems quite low. So is our selling price — most of the time.
This election will be about fear. Last fall a couple of screwball wannabe jihadists without the wherewithal to travel to failed states in the Middle East and North Africa attacked and killed two Canadian soldiers. Now every shawarma cook and cab driver with an Arabic lilt to his voice is a suspect.
The government just built a billion-dollar electronic spy headquarters in the east end of town, and they’re going to use it. And if you think the spooks are going to be zeroing in on the cellphone calls and Skype chats only of guys named Mohammed and Abdul, think again. There will always be “enemies” of Canadian government policies — people such as environmentalists, First Nations advocates, trade union- ists, mouthy college students, and Quebec separatists.
Remember how much the Mulroney and Chrétien governments spent tracking and prosecuting our fringe neoNazis in the 1980s and 1990s? Multiply that by hundreds, because there is just enough “terrorism” by self-anointed “Islamic” spree killers to instill fear in Canadians.
There are two sides in the Great Fear Game. On the right, you have Stephen Harper, a man creepy and scary enough before he went from economist-inchief to wartime leader. On the left, you have the NDP. There are enough pacifists in that party to prevent it from supporting any foreign war.
And in the middle, like grains of wheat between two millstones, are the Liberals. They’re scared enough of something to support the government’s anti-terror laws (sort of). But their fear centres on organizations with names such as Ipsos, Pollara, and Harris, not ISIS.
Meanwhile, Harper wants to make us even more American by locking up some criminals for life. Sure, the crime rate’s down. My generation of crooks, the tail end of the baby boom, are either dead or in jail or have gone straight. But we’re really not talking about crime here. Just like the word “terrorism,” “crime” is a code word — a dog whistle for folks in the hinterland who don’t like, um, “new Canadians.”
Greed is also at play. Perhaps “greed” is too strong a word in a country that has lost so much industry, bet the farm on oil, and now just survives on a housing bubble that must eventually burst. It really isn’t greedy of someone to want a job or want to keep the job they have. Everyone will promise jobs, but of course, no one can deliver.
So instead, we’ll get income splitting, which is great for me but will cost you money. Giving me a couple of thousand dollars a year has to cost someone, and I doubt it will be the Royal Bank or Bell Canada. If the polls start looking really bad, we might see the revival of fantastically popu- lar Tory spending/tax break programs like the Home Renovation Tax Credit.
That one’s a dandy. Renters driving trucks and cleaning schools get to subsidize home improvements in Hintonburg.
We may get some great national economic strategy. Maybe we’ll have a serious dialogue about national security, the value of community and, God forbid, “root causes.” But if that happens, it will likely be by mistake.
As the great Kim Campbell was once misquoted as saying, elections are no time to discuss serious issues. Politicians and media jumped all over that, as though it was heresy. But they really believe, in their hearts, that it’s the truth.