Once, as an MP, a retired engineer from Victoria wrote to call me a total butthole. He was a Reformer (that movement evolved into the PP Conservative Party). I was a Progressive Conservative. Richard could not stand my guts, my blogging, my speeches, my namby-pamby centrism or my continued breathing.
So I wrote back. Let’s talk sometime. I’ll call ya.
The next time I was in Victoria, I did. He invited me over to his townhouse where we yakked for two hours. “I never thought you’d respond,” he said, “so I came on strong. Too much, maybe.” We didn’t agree on a whole lot, but it was a good meeting. Write me often and give me your opinions, I said. Just don’t call me an asshole.
He did. It helped. He even sent me words of support. Then I was defeated in an election where Reformers helped wipe PCs off the electoral map. The Libs won, and a decade of their dominance began.
A few years later I reinvented as a financial author and lecturer. I arrived for a gig at the downtown Victoria Convention Centre and found a large crowd milling around the reception area. Full house. A guy was yelling at the organizers because he’d been denied a seat. “But he came over to my house,” I heard. It was Richard. He was in rough shape. They were giving him the bum’s rush.
He got his seat. He got a free book. It broke my heart to sit and chat after the show. The dementia was winning. But the gnarly old guy gave me a hug at the end, walked out, and was gone forever. He had wanted to make me think about his view of the world, and did. Richard’s memory led me to seek election again, and take another seat in the House of Commons.
This small story came back to me as I read the comments on this pathetic blog yesterday. There’s a war happening between left and right, exacerbated by the Trump experience south of the border and the 2024 race for the White House (which is painted white because we toasted the place). The rhetoric is divisive, nasty and personal. The MAGA supporters have taken up their boss’s habit of denigrating opponents with ugly nicknames and personal slurs. Lefties do the same, of course.
So anyone who thinks Poilievre was weird for promoting Bitcoin and supporting anti-vaxers during a pandemic is a Justin-loving shill. When Chrystia got a speeding ticket she was ‘joyriding through Alberta’ and, of course, ‘should be locked up.’ Et cetera. Meanwhile the woke crowd thinks Pierre is a mouthbreathing closet bigot and political opportunist who would say anything to get elected. That includes feeding his conspiracy-addled, WEF-fearing trucker constituency and Bible-thumping, pro-life rural hayseeds.
In the middle, most people are bewildered. What’s fake news or not? Why do people have to choose between extreme political positions? How did fringe groups come to dominate the public agenda? Why is real estate or the central bank now weaponized? In what context is it okay to trash the PM because his wife left? When did we ever get a say on immigration levels or a carbon tax? Why do all the MPs agree with their leaders on all subjects all of the time? How is that possible, and how does that ever lead to compromise?
If everything was okay in Canada we wouldn’t be doubling the public debt every ten years, have 40% of people paying no net tax, prevent average couples from affording average houses or seeing 20% of people unable to find a doctor, while the top tax rate hits 54% yet wealth inequality bolts higher. How will any of that be solved by electing politicians who promise more spending, want to reopen the abortion debate or shut down our main export, oil?
Both Libs and Cons have just had policy conferences and it’s a cinch 99% of Canadians have no idea what their Big Ideas are. Like the Americans, we have devolved into a cult of political personality. Everybody knows the problems – housing, health care, inflation, debt – and yet all we hear are attacks. Personal smears. Angry talk. No listening.
Read the comments posted here over the last 24 hours. The political sickness of the south has infected us. No wonder voter turnout barely breaks 60% now. In 1958 it was 80% and in 1979 still at 76%. As we lose a sense of common purpose, as the mainstream media filters disappear (the largest community newspaper group in Canada today went belly-up) and as we descend into our own inbred social media echo chambers, the chasm grows.
Folks don’t talk to each other now. They yell, lunge and slur. Nothing gets fixed.
Richard taught me long ago that being human is a far greater bond than being right.
About the picture: “Appreciate the blog, Garth,” writes Jacob. “My father has been reading for years and put me onto reading as well a few years back. Thank you for your continued insight and contributions. Provides some level of clarity in this constantly changing market. This is Ahsoka, my sister’s dog. They live in a two bed apartment in Yaletown Vancouver.”
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