I recently read an EKOS poll showing that since the turn of this century the number of Canadians who identified themselves as middle class dropped from 67 per cent to 46 per cent.
A fomenting frustration has been roiling and growing into anger ever since. While my friend and esteemed colleague Hugh Mackenzie may think this anger is a result of an entitled Liberal majority and an arrogant Prime Minister, it would seem that Canadians have been feeling dissatisfied since well before the most recent election.
Whether this anger is a result of an unreasonably sunny outlook by previous generations or a reasonably gloomy one by this generation is hard to tell. As an interesting aside, I remember my mother always telling us that we were middle class even though by any standards past or future we were decidedly not. Mom may have been an anomaly of her time or perhaps all poor people who at least had a roof over their heads and food on the table ascribed to that view. At any rate, we are ticked off and feeling hard done by now. In some ways it doesn’t even matter if it’s true because we’ll act – and vote – as though it is.
The same EKOS poll that said we feel we’re losing in the upward mobility stakes also found growing pessimism and increased levels of racism, xenophobia and a desire to protect the interests of native inhabitants – I’m not talking First Nations – against those of recent or future immigrants. We are closing in rather than opening up. Canadians also believe that most of the wealth that has accumulated is in the hands of the one per cent at the top. But, the 99 per cent seem to be embracing wealthy candidates like Trump and O’Leary for leadership, which seems like the very definition of illogical.
So – the sunny ways Liberal government notwithstanding – are we destined to see a Kevin O’Leary become the Conservative leader based on the thought that only O’Leary can beat Trudeau? Might we see a “cutting off your nose to spite your face” scenario like the one that transpired to the south of us?
The other Conservative candidates – and there are a boatload of them – are mostly unknown outside their home province/region and sometimes not even then. Lots of them are just plain terrible thanks to their instinct to try to appeal to the lowest common denominator in us; hopefully they don’t stand a chance.
But there are Conservative candidates who are promoting new economic ideas that have merit and those who are defending certain principles not generally endorsed by their party. Maxime Bernier has a prime ministerial demeanour, and he espouses policies that will attract centrist voters. Chris Alexander’s platform may appeal to immigrants who often appreciate economic stability and financial sense, not to mention his forward thinking on immigration itself. Lisa Raitt is likeable and has an incredible back story along with a solid ministerial record that make her an excellent candidate.
I still have faith in this country based on the government that we elected a little more than a year ago and the wave of optimism that followed it. But when election time rolls around again and if a truly progressive conservative has been chosen to lead the Conservative Party and then wins the election, I’d accept and even welcome a new perspective. I could not accept Kevin O’Leary and I shudder at the very idea that we might go down that dark path.
Following any understanding I have of the conservative philosophy, O’Leary isn’t even very conservative except on the financial side. He’s hardly ever in Canada and he’s contemptuous of other candidates and people in general. And he’s a reality TV figure. Scarily, he sounds a lot like a lighter version of a certain American presidential candidate who went on to win the whole enchilada precisely because he was seen as being outside the mainstream. It begged the question state-side and it begs it now of why a political party would pander to someone who seems contemptuous of them and their party?
The idea that government should be run like an efficient business is a popular one with some conservative types and it’s often quoted as a good reason for business people like O’Leary to run for office. But that idea betrays a basic understanding of the roles of the private and public sector.
Efficiency in the private sector means a profit is being made and that’s not what governments can or should do. The fact is that not everything that makes a profit has social value and conversely not everything that has social value makes a profit. Sports, pornography and drug sales make tons of profit but have little in the way of social value, while libraries, parks and public schools make no profit but have high social value.
O’Leary also paints himself as a tough guy who can manhandle the likes of a self-proclaimed feminist like Justin Trudeau. Conservatives who are swayed by a tough-talking adult who tweets like a teenage bully or think that they will somehow counter Trudeau’s celebrity with a celeb of their own need to look southward, think for a moment and then stop it.
Like a few other candidates who aren’t as well known, O’Leary is also pandering in a very cynical way to people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has left them behind and nobody cares about them. They’re desperate for change. We must empathize and look for solutions for all Canadians so everyone feels that they have hope for the future. Kevin O’Leary doesn’t have an empathetic bone in his body so don’t look to him for help.
I am not so cynical that I think conservatism and populism go hand in hand. But if the latter isn’t strongly challenged by Conservatives and O’Leary isn’t shown the door, I’m not sure what will be left of the party of Sir John A. Macdonald and John Diefenbaker.
Following a career in the hospitality sector and the acquisition of a law and justice degree in her 50s, Dale embarked on a writing career armed with the fanciful idea that a living could be made as a freelancer. To her own great surprise she was right. The proof lies in hundreds of published works on almost any topic but favourites include travel, humour & satire, feature writing, environment, politics and entrepreneurship. Having re-invented herself half a dozen times, Dale doesn’t rule anything out. Her time is divided equally between Muskoka and Tampa Bay with Jim, her husband of 8 years and partner of 32 years. Two grown ‘kids’ and their spouses receive double doses of love and attention when she’s at home.
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