Preston Manning, a founder of the Reform party, once said, “What’s the difference between a politician and a catfish? One is a wide-mouthed, bottom-feeding slime sucker and the other is a fish.”
Lucky me. Having just moved to Saskatoon a little over a year ago I’ll soon have voted in elections at all three levels: Federal, provincial and municipal. As soon as the signs come down from the front lawns for one election the partisans are busy hammering down another bunch. You can often see a lawn with two signs, one for a provincial candidate and one for a mayoralty choice, and probably in some cases a third for a councillor.
Great time for the media. We haven’t been able to turn on the TV for months without a deadly serious face explaining how terrible a disaster it will be if his or her opponent wins. But if you look for the big difference that would make--no matter what level--you wonder why. They all assure us they will help seniors, help young people, help indigenous people, fight the carona virus, do good things for the environment and solve unemployment. The major differences will be about how the services will be paid for, how soon, and who will do the paying. (Guess who?)
I’ve often written about how unappreciative some people are about our privilege to vote. Each member of the whining/bitching crowd seems to think that if all his personal wishes are not met by the election results the whole system is a disgrace. He seems unaware that other people don’t have the same wishes as he, and if they get much of what they want this time, he may have better luck next time. No party or leader can please everyone.
Perhaps the complainers should look at the world in the thousands of years before elections existed. In every century up to about 200 or so years ago there either were no elections or, where there were, only the well-propertied--wealthier, that is--were allowed to vote. The common people were left out. I don’t know of any place on earth, before the most recent two centuries, where the wealthiest and most powerful families didn’t control the laws, the courts, the economy, the military and more. While the common people, generally very poor, had no voice whatever.
Say what you like about the things that are wrong about Canadian elections: Campaigns cost so much that contributions from the rich are needed. Candidates make promises that too often don’t pan out. Too much name-calling, too many personal attacks on opponents. But at the end of the day the government depends for its existence on the voting decisions of those who exercise that right.
In the earliest elections in what is now Canada so many people were illiterate that ballots would be useless. Each man (no women yet voting) had to state his choice aloud to the polling officials. As a result many were paid to vote for a candidate. Others were threatened by thugs with dire physical harm if they didn’t pick the guy who hired the thugs. Fights often broke out at the polls. All of which, I guess, was at least entertaining in a time when there were no TV comedians to poke fun at politicians. Anyway, the adoption of the secret ballot in Canada in the 1870s put an end to that fun.
Today’s comedians love election campaigns. Where can you better find the good, the bad, the ironies of human nature? All humour is based on the imperfections of that strange creature the human being.
Unlike so many folks I know who are died-in the-wool, lifetime members of their particular parties, I’ve voted for all three major federal parties and at least three provincial ones. My first political loyalty is to my country, not to any party. Situations change and policies must change to match. And here’s something to think about. Often when a party has been in power for two or more full terms, say eight or ten years, that’s when a certain arrogance creeps in, a notion that they’re the only ones wise enough to run the place and shouldn’t be interrupted. And this is the time when a trace or more of corruption sometimes appears. That has determined my voting choice more than once.