Sometimes I get the feeling certain Canadian political journalists don’t actually live in
. Instead, it seems they live in a faraway place I call Sillyland. Canada
I imagine it as a nice little country that has only one ironclad law: Anyone who lives there must write columns on Canadian politics that make absolutely no sense.
And in my mind, the Queen of Sillyland must be Ottawa Citizen columnist Susan Riley.
I say that because she recently came out with a column that was silly in the extreme.
First off, her column pointed out that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a war-mongering, environment-destroying, big corporation-loving, right-wing zealot.
Of course, there is nothing new about this.
Open just about any newspaper to the editorial pages on any day of the week and you will see the exact same comments.
But what sets this column apart is who Riley blames for what she thinks is
’s sorry political state. Canada
Why did supposedly left-leaning Canadians elect as Prime Minster a man who the media keeps telling us is a cross between Genghis Khan, Darth Vader and Benito Mussolini?
And how does Harper continue to stay atop the polls no matter how much he angers Margaret Atwood and David Suzuki?
Well, Riley doesn’t fault the media. As she puts it, “the media aren't to blame. We hector from the sidelines (guilty!), or, more usefully, uncover hypocrisies and small scandals.”
Nor does the problem rest with the Liberals or NDP. Writes Riley: “Opposition MPs - notably Bob Rae, Charlie Angus,
May; but others, too - advance persuasive arguments, based on evidence, de-bunking Conservative crime policy, and other initiatives.” Elizabeth
So who is at fault for keeping Harper in power?
Well, according to Riley, the real villain is you. Yes that’s right, you and all other Canadians are to blame for Harper’s puzzling success.
The problem is rampant apathy, or as she puts it: “Many have given up - in cynicism or despair. They turn their back on politics, don't bother to vote, even imagine it is fashionable to remain aloof. They claim all politicians are the same, but they aren't. They claim it doesn't matter which party holds power, but it does.”
Translation: Canadians are stupid.
According to Riley if we were smarter we would have elected a Coalition government made up of arrogant Liberals, wacky socialists and
To bolster her case she also quotes NDP leadership contender Nathan Cullen who says the Tories are purposely cultivating public indifference.
"It is a deliberate strategy to turn people off," says Cullen. "He either bores people to death, or uses wedge politics. People don't see themselves in the conversation."
This from a man who is part of a leadership campaign that’s so dull it even makes Harper seem charismatic by comparison.
Of course, there is an alternative theory that Riley doesn’t even bother to mention: Maybe, just maybe, Canadians elected the Conservatives to a majority and continue to support them in the polls because perhaps they actually support the government’s policies.
OK that might be too radical and heretical a notion for Riley to accept.
So how about this idea: If Canadians are as apathetic as Riley maintains, then perhaps it’s because the NDP and Liberals are not offering voters much in the way of a credible alternative to Harper. I mean just because Riley finds Liberal and NDP arguments “persuasive” doesn’t mean voters should as well.
Yet what makes Riley’s column truly and unforgivably silly is the part where she writes: “If Occupiers had simply voted en masse in May, we wouldn't have a majority Conservative government today.”
How does Riley know this? Is she some sort of mystical pollster who can predict hypothetical election results?
Plus, how many Canadian Occupiers were there: 5,000, 10,000, 50,000?
I am no statistician but considering the size of the total voting population, the Occupiers are a drop in the bucket, especially since they are scattered across the country.
So it’s extremely doubtful Occupiers voting “en masse” would have changed last year’s election outcome to any significant degree.
And given that the Occupy Movement lacked a single coherent message, who would they have voted for anyway: the Libertarian Party, the NDP, the Greens, the Marxist-Trotskyite-Anarchist Party?
It just doesn’t make sense.
But then I shouldn’t be too hard on Riley. After all, her column will likely win a Pulitzer Prize in Sillyland.