A crisis of complacency

In the political world of harsh realities, the electorate gets what it pays for. By renewing Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s mandate, the complacent electorate is settling for a government that is not visionary, inspiring or game-changing.

Throughout this election campaign, scandal after scandal, gaffe after gaffe, Prime Minister Harper’s support remained relatively consistent. Harper played it safe. He hammered the economy at every opportunity and delivered the same mind-numbing stump speech.

The seemingly unflappable Harper was oddly matched with a campaign that shook the roots of Canadian democracy while Canadians went along for the ride. The Conservatives decided that their rallies would be open to diehard party supporters. Anyone with a hint of that dangerous lefty blood would be turned away at the door.

That is no way to have a discussion about the issues in this campaign. Even if we don’t agree, we need to be able to hear each other out without the teleprompters and colourful preaching to the converted.

While there was noticeable outrage at “rally-gate,” while there was outcry at the attempt to disenfranchise student voters at the University of Guelph and while the media paid obligatory attention to the unethical expenditures during the G8 summit, the mighty Harper was shaken but did not fall.

There is a crisis of complacency in Canadian politics. The vast majority of the electorate isn’t inspired or even mildly excited by Stephen Harper and yet almost 40 per cent of Canadians settle on him because while they aren’t throwing confetti in the air, they think he’s done a passable job.

I don’t want to settle for the kid in the class who is barely getting by. I want the kid in the class who is willing to push every single boundary and strive to soar beyond the expectations bestowed upon them.

I reject this notion that we can’t do better. I reject the idea that this country can’t rise up to be a leader in the global challenges that we must combat.

And, I reject the idea that we have to settle in any way for a prime minister who doesn’t make us feel good about ourselves and our country.
It’s time to harness the spark of energy that is igniting on the left. There were Liberals who were genuinely excited by what Michael Ignatieff had to offer.

There were historic numbers of left-wing voters who found in Jack Layton the leader they felt embodied a change from Stephen Harper.

And, just as importantly, there were those who parked their votes with the Green Party, genuinely concerned by the environmental crisis we must face and who were sincerely inspired by what Elizabeth May had to offer.

The work of this election isn’t over. Now that Conservatives have a majority, voters on the left need to have a serious discussion about what unites them instead of divides them. The left needs to think about putting aside the differences that are essentially akin to arguments over dark chocolate or milk chocolate, vanilla or French vanilla ice cream and form a voting coalition in 2015 that retakes the democracy that has been so sadly mismanaged under Harper.

This country can’t afford to settle for the incremental approach that Stephen Harper offers.

Vote-buying tax credits for fitness or children’s arts programs or funds for a mind-numbingly boring and visionless income-splitting program don’t even begin to crack the surface of the change we need right now.

Canadians have settled on a prime minister who has refused to talk about the serious challenges this country faces; who refuses to be frank with the electorate about the severe spending cuts this country will face.

Canadians need to wake up out of their stupor of complacency and tell Ottawa to start taking charge. Whatever Harper does in the next four years, this complacent electorate asked for it.

The fight for a progressive alternative continues today, away from the spotlight of an election campaign.

It’s our duty not to back away and forget about government once the campaign signs are packed away and the leaders’ planes are grounded.
Canadians shouldn’t have to settle for a government whose best selling point is that it has been adequate.

The challenges we face deserve more attention than a stagnant and uninspiring Harper government can give them. And they deserve more than a complacent electorate unwilling to take a gamble on anything else.

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