Thoughts on culture, education, and having been a Canadian in the US
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The Elections Are Upon Us

As expected, today Stephen Harper asked the Governor General to dismiss Canada’s parliament and has called a snap election for October 14. Sadly, this means the 100 students I’m taking to Ottawa one week later will miss out on seeing Question Period and meeting with MPs, both of which are typically the highlights of our students’ experience in Ottawa. (It’s true! Canadians, stop shaking your heads now)

What will be adding a great deal to our trip and to my courses this semester is the rare chance to see the electoral process in action in both countries at the same time. What a great opportunity for the students to compare and contrast the two systems, the media’s role in the elections, and, of course, the choices of leaders that are being presented to both countries. Canadians have, or so it seems from my vantage point just south of the border, been swept up by Obama’s campaign and were they voting for President, he would win in a landslide. It wouldn’t be remotely close.

On the surface, the Canadian leaders we have to choose from are much less dynamic than those Americans have this time around. As Rick Mercer wrote, way back on “Super Tuesday,”

And speaking of Hillary, when it comes to casting, we can’t touch them. Here we are, we think of ourselves as this progressive, diverse nation and yet there’s big bad backwards America and who’s running for the big job? A woman, a black man, a Libertarian, a Mormon with big hair, and some dude who was in a bamboo cage in Vietnam for five-and-a-half years. Meanwhile in Canada, we’re gearing up for yet another race between a pudgy white guy and a skinny white guy and some other white guy. Which may go a long way to explain the other big difference between Canada and USA politics these days: in America in this race, young people are engaged. In Canada – they’re choosing none of the above.

As Mercer himself pointed out in this weekend’s Globe and Mail, though, I think there’s still enough drama in this campaign to keep most Canadians more interested in their own state of affairs than in what will happen in November in the US. For one thing, and you can be sure that Stephen Harper factored this in his decision, the limit to the length of campaigns in Canada means that Canadians will have already voted and chosen their next government weeks before the election in the US. Seeing our neighbours to the south choose Obama could well have had an impact on how Canadians would vote.

For those of us who follow politics more closely than we do any sport, elections are like the World Cup, or the Stanley Cup Playoffs (note that the NHL takes longer to decide on its champion than Canada does its next government). They’re also a gold mine for comedians, television networks, and, of course, bloggers. Although I’m trying to keep my head down more than usual this semester to finish my book, there will be days like today where I can’t resist passing on links like this one and this fabulous clip from John Stewart regarding Sarah Palin and the gender card.

For those of you who haven’t been following Canadian politics of late, the Harper government casually announced over the last couple of weeks that they were eliminating $40 million in culture funding, some of which went to support Canadian artists touring abroad. I’m sure the Conservatives thought that most Canadians might not notice or if they did that it certainly wouldn’t be much of an election issue. In fact, many Canadians have reacted strongly against these cuts and this could well turn out to be a major election issue in Canada. I have a feeling that most governments worry more about ticking off big business and or senior citizens than they do artists and people who watch Canadian films or have season’s tickets to the symphony. This clip which has surfaced on YouTube might make governments think twice in the future about angering filmmakers in particular….

September 7, 2008   No Comments