I remember the last time we did this. I was sitting at a booth at the Kilk with some of my friends from polisci. It had its own TV so we changed from sports to results. Another table did the same and we were pleased with ourselves for a moment. Then we saw the numbers. They were bad. Really bad. We couldn’t decide whether to drink or cry. Our waitress came over at one point in time asking us if we were okay. We said no. She asked if there was anything she could do. We said no. She walked away confused. We stumbled home sad and defeated.
The dream of Jack Layton as prime minister was gone. So was another Liberal leader. So were large chunks of our country that would be removed in the coming months and years.
Then Jack died and everyone in the nation could agree it was a tragedy. He was the kind of decent wonderful person you want in power. The type who actually like people and government and want to make things better. The kind who are doing it for the right reasons. I meet these people at local events. City councilors and mayors mostly. It’s also the vibe you get off Nenshi, Notley and maybe on October 20 Matt Grant and Kent Hehr. People who could be doing other things but feel they need to do this.
We wondered what the NDP would be after Jack. Would they be the same? Could they carry on the legacy? Could they actually win? Tom Mulcair was the new leader. I didn’t know anything about him. He was Quebecois so that made sense. Otherwise he had a reputation for being a bit angry and had been in politics for a good long time. He was the leader and I hoped he would be good enough. Good enough to win. Good enough to stand by and try to convince Canadians of a the essential left wing idea that higher taxes pay for services.
Mulcair had a couple of good programs he could campaign on and hang his hat on. A federal childcare program and the urgent need for a national pharmacare program. The platform included funding for affordable housing and public transit a couple of things the federal government used to feel responsible for. I was sold. These mattered to me and I wanted to see them in my country.
With a three way race Mulcair faced a choice: he could try to take the middle ground out from under Trudeau and avoid discussing taxes or he could stick to his values and hope that Canadians desperate for change would back him. He went for the first one and failed. Canadians wanted more change than he could offer. Weirdly Trudeau seemed more left wing at times. It became hard to tell who was where. Then it became a two way race and here we are.
If the polls hold I will wake up on Tuesday to a much better nicer country than I had on Monday. Harper will have resigned and we can begin undoing his policies. It will be time to move forward. Last time the polls were all over the place and we got the fate I didn’t want. This time if you can predict it a second Trudeau will become prime minister. I hope he will be good. I hope he will keep his promise of electoral reform. We are strategically voting to not have to strategically vote ever again.
In an election where nothing of substance has been said it feels like we are settling for the safe choice once again. Mulcair was not prepared to be bold and Trudeau represents the safe and familiar ground we want to return to. As it usually goes after a Canadian election things could be much much worse but they could also be much much better.
I was reading an article about Vision Zero in Sweden while doing research for an assignment. One sentence sticks out to me.
I must say that I feel very… alone, you know? There’s no one taking care of me.
The remark was made about New York City’s streets but could easily be applied to life in Canada. As a young person who has recently graduated I feel very much alone. When I got sick in the spring and had an expensive prescription I felt very much alone. As a student I feel very much alone. My parents kindly take care of me but not everyone has that option. One day they’ll be alone abandoned by an inadequate pension and I’ll be taking care of them. We rely on families and luck far too much.
Harper has turned us into a country of tax payers and people seeking as many tax breaks as possible rather than citizens looking out for each other who are all in this together.
We want better than that but we’re still afraid to touch higher taxes. Notley won’t go there. Mulcair wouldn’t. It shouldn’t take a man like Jack to make Canadians accept the idea that government can be more ambitious and bigger than the mushy middle ground.