In Our Words: Dissecting a strange federal election cycle

Alright – the campaign is over and the votes have been, for the most part at least, counted. Let’s pick apart the bones.

First off, to all political parties who still do this – stop calling people’s homes. I don’t think I talked to anyone who appreciated getting a call, on their own time, from someone running for office. I kept a list of which parties called me at home and when I cast my vote, that list played a big part in who I didn’t vote for.

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If you’re going to get in touch with people, actually show up in person. Go to events. Door knock. That doesn’t just go for our regional candidates, either – leaders should arrive. All three of the main candidates for Prime Minister made shortstops in Manitoba, but none of them bothered to venture outside the Perimeter. We’re a chronically underestimated chunk of a chronically underestimated province. Even a small appearance would have gone a long way.

Also, if you’re a candidate and you’re coming to town, tell people you’re going to do it. At least three times during this election, candidates (who shall remain unnamed) visited Flin Flon or the greater area and never bothered to notify either local officials or the media. I get it – social media is supposed to be better than old-fashioned, stuffy newspapers and radio, right? After all, it’s free, isn’t it?

Let me tell you something. When it comes to advertising, you get what you pay for. Not everybody reads a newspaper, but when your Facebook page only has a few hundred likes and nobody local follows your Twitter account, you should probably buy an ad. If you’re running for office, what’s worse than throwing a party and having no one show up.

One of the most fun portions of the night was seeing the People’s Party of Canada, that perverse Maxime Bernier fever dream, crash and burn. Just as the party wanted, the people’s power was truly felt – in telling the party to go away.

However, the biggest thing I want to hammer home is a reality check. People I know who are deeply invested in politics have been more polarized that I’ve ever seen them.

This was not the most important election in Canadian history. Sorry. Not even close.

Candidates have said that for each of the last three election cycles and they were wrong each time. Canadian elections have determined whether or not we would go to war, whether we would remain a nation or rejoin Great Britain, whether we would build a railroad to the west and who would receive the right to vote. Those are far more important, historically, than a tax on gas.

It wasn’t the nastiest, either. Elections in the early days of the Confederacy used to end in constant cases of voter fraud and wholesale buying of votes. In 1917, Robert Borden and the Conservative-Unionist party printed posters accusing opponent Wilfrid Laurier of being sympathetic to the Kaiser – right in the middle of World War I, which killed more than 60,000 Canadians. That cheap shot was enough to get Borden elected, although when the war ended, he stepped down just in time to see his party squashed by William Lyon Mackenzie King’s Liberals.

Back in 1993, Kim Campbell used still pictures of Jean Chretien (who as you may recall, suffered from an illness that paralyzed a good portion of his face) in an attack ad on his appearance. That ad played a part in Campbell’s Progressive Conservatives going from 156 seats before the writ was dropped to a whopping two – one of the worst political bellyflops in Canadian history.

Canada did not elect a dictator Monday night. Canada elected the same guy we had for the last four years. Northern Manitoba elected the same person we’ve elected for over a decade. In all likelihood, your life isn’t going to change in any appreciable way – and if anyone tells you it will, you should probably question their motives. It’s ironic to me that the people who call others “snowflakes” are the ones who most personify the term.

With that history lesson finished, let’s move to my final point – voter apathy.

When I wrote this column, voter turnout numbers weren’t yet available. Anecdotally, however, I know plenty of folks who stayed home on election day (although some did that because they, like me, voted well ahead of time and dodged the crowds.)

This sentence, or some form of it, was said quite a lot – “I didn’t vote because none of the parties are worth voting for.”

Aww. Isn’t that just precious? Look at this person, thinking they’re too good, too pure, for something that is, you know, the fundamental basis of our democratic society. Go you.

You’ve seemed to forget one of the key lessons of growing up – sometimes, your best decision is the least bad choice.

If you had to choose between eating Brussels sprouts and having your heart cut out in an Aztec human sacrifice, you can’t just say, “I don’t want to do either, they’re both bad.”

There are shades of grey here. Clearly, some options are worse than others.

Just shut up and eat the sprouts.

This election cycle was about as normal as normal can get. For Flin Flon, everything is status quo and that’s not awful. Take a breath, count to three and get on with your life.

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