A Cape Breton view of why Canada's election went off the rails
One man put it this way. “We voted strategically last time and, with 32 Liberal seats in Atlantic Canada we did not get a single cabinet minister, and our communities are the same as they ever were. I’m done with strategic voting.”
I took this to be true because I heard it over and over again. One lady put it this way: “I fear Scheer and distrust Trudeau. I’m thinking of voting Green.” Not surprisingly, we thought the Greens had a real chance, and the early polls supported that idea. Fresh out of the gate, we were running at about 18 per cent, well ahead of the NDP and within shooting range of the Conservatives who were stuck at 26 per cent. It seemed like a miracle might occur. Even the weather was co-operating. Hurricane Dorion had belted the hell out of the island. Eighty per cent of Nova Scotians had been without power for many days. The need to do something was clear because Cape Breton is on the front line of climate heating.
Then came the craziness of brown face. An opéra bouffe of racialized panic swept through the media like a wild fire with the Liberal leader apologizing for dressing up as Aladdin at a high school fundraiser. Jagmeet Singh came galloping out of political obscurity to ride the opera triumphantly past the shamed Trudeau. Scheer initially jumped on the bandwagon, then seemed confused about what to do. Green numbers stopped increasing. People seemed to have forgotten that ocean heating was a problem.
At the door, people were still clear, they wanted change but they became more cautious about saying how that change might manifest itself. The atmosphere was changing. One man said, tight-lipped, “We’ve made our decision, but we’ve decided not to say what it is.”
The local public debates mirrored the national. They simplified. There was no coherent, connecting thread for where Canada might go. It was as if each of us was playing a kind of political Santa Claus. My gift box was the Greens’ proposal for a Guaranteed Basic Annual Income; the NDP wrapped their gifts in Pharmacare. The Liberals rained presents, the newest being two billion trees, and the Conservatives played Grinch and promised to take away the gifts the others were offering. The idea that the election should be about a made-in-Canada vision for our shared future did not surface. We were all locked in our gift boxes.
No doubt I and the Greens must share part of the blame. The Green platform was the boldest plan for moving the nation towards a more compassionate society and a balanced environment, but it never got out of the gift box.