|A Group of Canadians Watching the Leaders Debate|
Same as it ever was . . .
(Once In A Lifetime, The Talking Heads)
It's a moody Manitoba mornin'
Nothing's really happening, it never does (Moody Manitoba Morning, The Bells)
Having lived all my life in Canada, I am struck by the boring sameness of life in the Great White North. Yes, there are some interesting places to visit and some interesting people to get to know, but, all in all, living here is like watching the snow melt.
I think it has something to do with the geography. In a travel brochure you might see some appealing photos of Quebec City, Peggy's Cove, Niagara Falls and the Rocky Mountains, but what the brochures fail to mention is the vast distances separating our sights of interest and how excruciatingly boring it is to traverse those spaces of the big empty.
I know. I come from the prairies. Living in Winnipeg was cool, but ask anyone what it is like to drive in or out of Winnipeg on the Trans Canada Highway. The greatest danger comes from the fact that the land is incredibly flat and the road is incredibly straight. It is so boring that people fall asleep at the wheel while driving, leading, of course, to tragic consequences.
A couple of years ago, I decided to drive from Ottawa to Winnipeg and traversed our largest province, Ontario. Let me tell you, the Canadian Shield is interesting for about fifteen minutes of the two full days of seeing nothing but rocks and lakes and trees and the occasional Tim Horton's, Canada's favorite coffee and doughnut shop. So boring that my two sons sucked me into an argument when leaving Thunder Bay about whether Terry Fox is a Canadian hero just to yank my chain in order to break up the monotony.
I can also attest that driving from Winnipeg northward to Thompson, Manitoba, and along Quebec's Lower North Shore are as boring if not more so than driving across Ontario. Some would argue that the most boring drive is from Montreal to Toronto. It's difficult to decide. To do so would involve an extremely boring conversation I would rather avoid.
Regardless, if people are to survive and prosper, they need to be genetically endowed to be able endure long periods of time where nothing much happens and to fill those days, weeks, months, and years, with mind-numbing routines in order to pass the time. Life in Canada is about exciting as paying down a 25 year mortgage.
My father, on the other hand, lived through some remarkable times. He grew up during the Depression; went off to fight in the Second World War; played professional football; brought up two kids that saw a man walking on the moon.
The only iconic moment that comes to mind thinking about the last fifty years in Canada was Paul Henderson scoring the winning goal with the time running out in the final game of the Canada-Russia Summit Series in 1972. Not a lot has happened since. Like what? The Charter, NAFTA, Justin Bieber? That's about it. History is what happens outside of Canada.
Which brings me to Canada's current General Election, which will go down in history as one of the longest and most boring electoral campaigns ever held, as about exciting as driving across Ontario.
In fact, Canada's present social contract has been in place for more than 40 years. All we do is tinker at the periphery. Raise or lower taxes slightly. Add on an additional social program here and there. Nothing that would rock the boat. Steady as she goes.
It appears that we are either incapable or not really wanting to make any institutional changes. We have a hereditary monarch as our head of state; an appointed corrupt upper house that cannot be reformed in any meaningful way; and an antiquated voting method that distorts electoral results. Yeah, but life is good, especially if you happen to be from British or French stock.
Case in point. Holding what will most likely the only televised debate between the leaders of Canada's major political parties more than two months before the day of the election. Not that many people watched it, and most of those who did will forget about it.
Apparently, the biggest event that will mark the campaign is when Statistics Canada publishes the latest data concerning Canada's economic growth. After five straight months of miniscule contractions of the GDP, one more makes it official: we are in a RECESSION. Oh my god! Run for the hills!
Unless you work in the oil and gas sector, you won't feel a thing except paying less for gasoline when you fill up. For those who do work in the oil and gas producing provinces, you could vote against the governing party, but then again we all know that the Conservatives do not control the price of a barrel of oil, and eventually either the Americans or the Saudis or both will come to their senses and curtail their production levels in order for the price of oil to rise, and with it Canada's GDP.
All in all, it comes down to which leader can do the least harm. Four more years of the same, or four years of someone brand new that is trying to convince us that there are no big plans in the works? These are the choices?
In any case, whoever forms the next government will probably not have a majority of seats in Parliament. Nothing new there, four out of the last five governments have had less than 50% of the seats.
Stay tuned. Given how the first-past-the-post voting system does not work very well with multi-party elections, I am sure that the results will be something of a surprise, but nothing that would motivate Canadians to make any significant changes to our political system
After all, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Let's keep on chugging along with what we got, and thank God we are not living in Greece or Afghanistan or in Central America, places where you can't sit patiently and watch the snow melt.