NONE OF THE ABOVE WINS AGAIN. That’s no surprise to my friend Tom, the carpenter. He told me that’s who he wanted to vote for. But, since he couldn’t vote for None of the Above, he didn’t vote at all. But, 17.8 million of us did vote. It turns out Tom’s choice was ours too.
There was no decisive victory on October 21 because there was nothing decisive on offer—not even from the Greens who are not yet part of the tired old way of doing politics in Canada. There was no sense of urgency anywhere. No great vision or call to do something brave and necessary. No “ask not what your country can do for you” moment.
It was all Kabuki theatre: all stylized and predictable. Everyone played their assigned parts—Trudeau even provided some outlandish makeup—and the end was anything but a climax.
Not so bad
None of this should be taken as bad news. A truly revolutionary breakthrough would have been exciting—but not necessarily unifying. So, steady as she goes is not so bad—especially given the troubling and tumultuous state of affairs other great democracies now find themselves wallowing in—and, given our particular history.
Minority governments have been good for us. They reinforce our native desire to co-operate, rather than tear each other to bits. They make us take a timeout and play nice together, rather than skulk off to nurse invented wounds behind barriers of rigid ideology.
Plus, minority governments often deliver the goods. They gave us many great things: including Medicare and our maple leaf flag. Along with the Canada Pension Plan, Canada Student Loans and Petro-Canada, our own oil company.
Easy does it
Minority governments, by definition, have to tread softly. They need to advance policies that have an automatic appeal to the greatest number. Thus, unless the Liberals have a death wish, we are likely to be presented with things like universal dental care, or pharmacare, or childcare, or increases to Canada Pension Plan benefits. All parties doing their damnedest to prove they are something other than None of the Above.
They all know “going green” is the best way to do that right now. But, even the Greens aren’t too sure about how exactly to manage it. What is needed is something that will fire the imagination of an entire generation—as Kennedy did for Americans with his “We choose to go to the moon” speech in 1962—without causing hysterical and obdurate resistance from those too old or too rich to care or listen.
It can be done. Greta Thunberg and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders with their Green New Deal are showing how. They have already captured the hearts and minds of millions. They will capture more.
History tells us: “Nothing can resist an idea whose time has come.” That idea now is a green idea. The first one of our political parties to genuinely absorb and embrace that reality will move themselves out of the None of the Above category.
The irresistible pressure of looming climate catastrophe and a minority government situation may well tempt some party to try for the green ring, force an election and give us a chance to actually have something to vote for other than None of the Above. We can only hope.