Wednesday, September 1, 2010

 

GAUZE BAGS PLEASE! WE'RE CANADIAN. THANK YOU.

I'm from New Brunswick. Back in my generation the drink of choice in the Maritimes was King Cole Tea (in gauze teabags), the finest Orange Pekoe imported from India since 1867 by Barbour Foods of Sussex. They still do! - I digress, relax, eventually this will make sense.

September usually brings a certain rejuvenating sense of well-being following the summer's hiatus. Except of course in Canadian politics where we've enjoyed / or suffered (depending on one's point of view) a minority Federal Government since January of 2006. Thus, the anticipated return of the Parliamentary session in just a couple of weeks means the usual litany of accusations, threats and bombastic intent to force, call, trigger, slip-into another unwanted national election.

So just this week both major national leaders, Liberal Mchael Ignatieff; and Conservative Prime-Minister Stephen Harper have traded barbs and pre-election rhetoric. In Baddeck, Cape Breton, Ignatieff described the Tories as..."the toughest and most ruthless machine in Canadian politics." - Last year to the same audience (the Liberal caucus) in Sudbury he'd advised: "Mr. Harper your time is up!." Same old, same old - Kinda reminds me of the 3 decades old cereal commercial: "Give it to Mikey, He'll eat anything."

As for Mr. Harper this September's mantra is all about "majority government." Fresh from his Northern Territories "wave the flag" tour, he's been telling anyone still listening that there is a stark choice to be made: "A stable majority Conservative government - or a coalition of Liberals, New Democrats and the Separatist Bloc Quebecois." Implying: Canada, the choice is yours - Vote for me!

Journalists and political commentators tell us the party leaders are "framing the ballot question." Sounds to me as if the "frame" is becoming frayed around the edges; but nevertheless the picture is in increasingly sharper focus:
- Party leaders rather than National leadership;
- Dogma ignoring issues;
- Division instead of unity;
- Victory over substance and vision;
- Popularity polls over the nation's welfare.

It is very Canadian of us to take a back seat on most issues to the lead of our southern neighbours in the United-States. Politics is no different, and we have been witnessing for 8 years or less what apporter partisan polarization and a disaffected, disenfranchised middle-class. Broadcaster Glenn Beck, ex-Governor Sarah Palin, and their Tea Party supporters being just a most recent manifestation:



Which begs the question (posed at least once recently in a newspaper headline) - "Is The Tea Party Canada-Bound?" -

Throughout modern history, protest movements have formed, existed and subsequently vanished. In the United States they've fueled Presidential candidacies from the Right by Ross Peroe; and the Left, Ralph Nader. On Canadian soil, Preston Manning's book "The New Canada" (1982), begat the Reform Party created in 1987; precursor to Mr.Harper's Alliance coalition with the Progressive-Conservatives. There have been similar manifestations on provincial territory including the current Wildrose Alliance Party in Alberta; the Action Democratique Quebecois (ADQ); and in the election now underway down east, the People's Alliance of New Brunswick.

The cautionary tale for Canada's Parliamentarians is the dangerous emergence of resentment against political elitism and what the Americans call "big" government. The former Premier of British-Columbia, William Vander Zalm, who spearheads the anti-HST movement in his own province now describes the effort this way: "When we started this whole campaign against the HST, it was just the HST. Now it has grown into a whole issue of democracy, people are saying that we don't have democracy, we elect dictatorships."

An embryonic "Tea Party Movement of Canada" has already formed on the media savvy Face Book Internet site. Still in its infancy and with just 1,400 signed-up members it's hardly a threat to mainstream politics and probably hardly worth notice nor mention. After all there are still considerable political differences between Canada and the United-States. However, while some anger and frustration may dissolve into much ho-hum apathy; in some other circles the basis of a Tea Party-like protest movement is the same on either side of the international border.

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