Oh Canada… How I Cry for Thee…

by Simon Goland, May 4, 2011

Today’s Reflection is about the elections results here in Canada, and my reaction to it.

I really love what The Guardian has to say about our election results, and so am going to quite their opening from an article, titled “Canada’s cold new dawn: Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper is our version of George W Bush, minus the warmth and intellect.”

The article starts with “Canada woke up to an election shock this morning. It was a self-inflicted jolt, and all the more painful for that. After three minority governments in seven years – all following inconclusive, forgettable elections that never gave the Conservatives the solid majority they were sweating for – a man of the hard right named Stephen Harper finally has his win.”

Disbelief, shock, frustration, sadness, and anger – all these are alive within me now. How else does one react to a prime minister who once sneeringly referred to Canada as a typical northern European “welfare state?”

As I am slowly easing out of my emotions and into the reality of what happened here on Monday and what it might mean, thoughts about the impact on our future begin to percolate. What if?

If you are a woman, a minority, or someone whose relationship partner is of the same gender – too bad for you.

If you happen to be an artist, too bad for you too.

If you are an environmentalist and think that Canada could, and should, be a model and a lead of environmental and sustainable practices, while upholding its commitments to past agreements, you might want to look for a different country.

If you believe in alternative medicine and remedies, beginning to look for alternative sources is not too late now.

If you think that war is not the answer and huge spending on more weaponry are not the best way to spend our money on, think again.

If you want your politician to actually speak the truth, tough. Though this one is likely not limited only to Harper.

If you truly believe in the freedom of speech and access to information in a democracy, my condolences.

If you happen to be severely ill and need medical cannabis to ease your pain, learning to live with this pain would be a good idea.

If you believe that Canadian soldiers have no business being in Afghanistan, too bad.

If you think that jail, or a super-jail, is not always the answer to any and every offence, and especially not for a young person, you are out of luck.

If you believe that corporations need to pay more, not less, taxes (or, at least, the same), guess what?!

If you think that having the Evangelist Christian right is at the heart of Harper’s Conservative party might not be such a great thing…

If you believe Canada should maintain its rights to its natural resources, and not sell them out to a variety of multinationals (limiting democratic policy options and enhancing corporate power – which really means enhancing trade at the expense of everything else), you are out of luck.

I am sure there are many more “ifs” of this nature that I am not aware of. In the meantime, I shall stop here.

Perhaps the only solace is that the darkest hour of the night, as they say, is just before dawn; in this case, it will be a 4-year long and dark hour. Enough time for a (to quote TheTyee article “Now What for Canada’s Left?”) very long term fight, a generational fight, rooted in a serious and thoughtful collective examination of where we have been, what we did wrong and what we need to do right. It will be very, very hard as we will be trying to build a vision of a better future, one that can truly inspire and engage people, while conditions are getting dramatically worse and many people suffer the consequences of this election. But there is no other way. Rebuilding a progressive political culture from the ground up is the starting point. The silver lining is that it will be challenging, exciting and invigorating. In other words, something completely different.

Oh Canada… How I Cry for Thee…