Despite this Canadian election being one of the longest in history very little of substance has been discussed. Mostly it’s been rhetoric and tax credit announcements. Rarely are any of the very important issues and choices being faced by our country discussed or mentioned.
It’s also an election that potentially mark the end of a fluid and shifting period in Canadian politics. Ever since Jean Chretien stepped down Canadian politics has been in flux. The Liberals are no longer the natural ruling party of Canada and make never again come close to that title. The NDP are soaring and filling in the space left by the Liberals. The Conservatives have been in power for almost a decade. If Stephen Harper loses it will mean a renewal of left-wing politics in Canada. If he wins it will mean a decidedly right-wing turn to a more American style of politics. If the NDP win this will probably be the last first past the post election held in Canada.
On October 19th we will be deciding what direction Canada’s government follows. Some might say it’s one election but it is an important one. The longer the Conservatives rule the more entrenched their way of government becomes. Path dependency is a powerful force.
We are at a moment where change could easily come. Or not. Regardless we should be talking about what form that change should take. Do we want a Conservative Canada with lots of tax breaks and a shrinking government or do we want higher taxes and more services? Do we want to invest in public transit, research, science and alternative energy or do we want to become an oil and gas superpower?
Finally an issue has come along that sums up Harper’s government and the choice faced by Canadians. Lots of chances have been made to our immigration system. There have been changes in oaths and lessons. They have also made it much harder for refugees to get into Canada. Instead, they want high value wealthy educated immigrants. Our government has turned its back on the refugee crisis pretending it is a European issue. If the body of a toddler had belonged to someone with relatives in the UK or Sweden we could very well still be pretending that it is not our problem. Instead it was the body of a boy who should’ve been safe and thriving with his aunt in BC. He should’ve been a Canadian but instead he’s dead. It makes you wonder what kind of country we have and want to have.
As Sasha Nagy argues in the Huffington Post:
For years, I’ve heard Stephen Harper describe Canadians in monetary terms. We are taxpayers, not citizens. I resent that Libertarian ethos equating lower taxes with increased liberty, as if nothing more is owed to your country than the bare minimum.
What is the cost of denying the poor over the rich? My dad came with nothing and became a successful surgeon. That’s a healthy rate of return right there Mr. Harper. Pays taxes too.
Would he have been given that chance under the Harper government or would he have been lying dead on a beach? I think it’s a fair question.
If we abandon the idea that the government needs to treat everyone equally and that the poor matter then what kind of country do we become? This is a debate about refugees. It also about bigger questions in our society. The ones that our politicians should be talking about whether they want to or not.