It is the campaign of our lives. A choice between moving forward or succumbing to the forces of darkness. It will allow us to choose our future and the kind of country we want to be. It is… zzzzzzzz.
Uh. What? OK. I’m awake. And yes folks, it’s the Canadian federal election. Which one? Could be any of them. Like the parties who have developed a revolting fondness for sending me “important” press releases on unimaginably trivial matters, the candidates invariably tell us this election is the big one, the crucial decision, the single moment of choice that will define us and our nation down through the ages. And six months later you struggle to remember what they campaigned on and, surprisingly often, who they even were because in Canada our often colourless candidates are bickering ferociously over tiny differences.
They bombard you with hair-raisers like “Scheer Promises Deep Cuts, and Reveals his Plan to Hide Them During the Election” or “Another Trudeau Liberal celebrates murderous dictator Castro” and warn of an express ticket to the Handmaid’s Tale or a climate apocalypse. But Canadian politics is bland and timid and as a result it matters very little who wins.
The partial exception this time is the People’s Party of Canada, an upstart splinter from the Conservatives that favours dramatic economic liberalization and transgresses against orthodoxy on matters like immigration. And they’re at about 3 percent in the polls.
In a typical piece of pre-election blither, the PM said at an Aug. 22 fundraiser that “[w]hile Conservatives want to go backward with cuts to vital services that families rely on, Liberals are focused on moving forward with our positive plan to invest in the middle class.” Shortly after, in classic modernist political style, the Conservatives had a press conference and put out a press release to announce an ad: “Today, the Conservative Party of Canada released new television ads in both official languages featuring its campaign slogan – It’s time for you to get ahead.” I’d say it’s time for you to get back, frankly.
Take spending… please. The Canadian federal government now burns through something like $320 billion a year on a vast array of programs from giants like socialized medicine, subsidized post-secondary education, retirement security, and infrastructure all the way down to handouts to specific firms that get named in an endless stream of smugly pandering press releases. Which are currently signed by the federal Liberals, but poured out in the same profusion under the federal Conservatives from 2006 to 2015. And there’s no serious difference on what comes next.
Canada has had an extremely restrictive legislative framework for health care since the pseudo-sacred Canada Health Act was passed in 1984, putting the provinces in a straitjacket despite the Constitution clearly declaring health a provincial matter. Among other things, we prohibit the purchase of private insurance for services that are available publicly and forbid doctors from working in both the private and public systems. It is more restrictive than you’ll find anywhere except perhaps Cuba and North Korea. Yet nobody in the Liberal, Conservative, NDP, or Green parties is challenging it, except to suggest it’s not big, expensive, or restrictive enough.
By the same token, we have a hugely inefficient quota system in key areas of agriculture, including dairy. And the current Conservative leader owes his narrow victory in his party’s leadership race to the votes of “instant Tory” dairy farmers who showed up, put him over the top against his libertarian rival Maxime Bernier, who then left to found the PPC which, alone among the national parties, doesn’t love the current system or promise to make it more restrictive if they could only think of a way.
From Taxes to Foreign Policy to Abortion
What then of taxes? Again, the left-leaning incumbent party utters dark warnings about tax cuts for the rich (“Conservatives will cut taxes for the wealthy, while cutting services for everyone else” shrieked a Sept. 6 Liberal press release) and the semi-socialist NDP and orthodox leftist Green Party seem to want higher taxes. But all are pledged to such massive levels of spending that they can’t afford to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. And none want to tackle the hoorah’s nest of preferences and loopholes that makes our tax code a multi-volume horror thousands of pages long. Instead, the Conservatives complain about the few loopholes the Liberals did close, and promise to open new ones. So we’ll continue to have high, unfair, complex taxes no matter who you elect. But not higher ones.
As for deficits, the Tories thundered against them in 2006 then ran a massive $50 billion one after the 2008 recession. The Liberals in 2015 promised a few small ones and then a balanced budget, then ran massive ones that continue to this day. And the NDP and Greens mumble about maybe eventually getting rid of deficits, unless they don’t.
On foreign policy, everyone thinks Canada’s sunny ways can dispel conflict if we just show up with a smile. And the Tories also talk about rebuilding the military, but last time they held office, they drove defence spending down to under 1 percent of GDP to keep funding the big vote-buying social programs. So there are no real differences there, even where there is rhetorical sound and fury.
On social policy, which is basically code for abortion, the Liberals are so for it they won’t let anyone in their caucus who’s pro-life. Ditto the NDP. And the Greens, who smarmily promised not to whip votes on the subject because they’d boot out those wretches long before that point. Meanwhile the Conservatives, whose leader is an observant Catholic, as our Liberal PM claims also to be, is running in drab rhetorical circles assuring anyone who’ll listen that he’d never “reopen” those yucky questions like abortion, euthanasia, no-fault divorce, gay marriage, etc. So again, there’s nothing to see there. (Including that virtually alone in the world we have no restrictions at all.)
What about climate change? Oh yeah. They’re all going to stop it. Just with feeble half-measures that won’t hurt you in the wallet.
To a remarkable extent, you could pull out various planks from the parties’ platforms in the 2019 Canadian election, mix them up, repaint them, and nobody would notice. Not even the candidates, who could almost read each other’s speeches verbatim with the targets of the jabs changed.
Now let the excitement begin.
John Robson is a documentary filmmaker, National Post columnist, contributing editor to the Dorchester Review, commentator-at-large with News Talk Radio 580 CFRA in Ottawa, and executive director of the Climate Discussion Nexus. His most recent documentary is “The Environment: A True Story.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.