The Three-Coast Post
Fire up the Carnival, Canada

In a recent class of Canadian Literature at SFU, our professor divided us into groups and asked us to come up with a one-word answer to the question: “What does it mean to be Canadian?” The sound of eyeballs rolling was eclipsed only by our silence, as each group struggled to find the right adjective to correctly represent our complete lack of interest in the task. That question has been posed since the Plains of Abraham incident way back when, and clearly we would have rather been given the task of explaining the theory of relativity.

“Apathetic,” was one answer. “Boring,” was another. “Hockey,” “Peacekeepers,” and “The Beachcombers” were the rest. It was kind of sad, but this was what a bunch of third and fourth year English majors came up with. Does this country have a complex about enthusiasm? Are we really a boring country?

In his 2002 comedy show, Live on Broadway, Robin Williams referred to Canada as, “a loft apartment over a really great party.” Seriously?

An Ipsos-Reid poll in April of 2008 found that as a people, eight in ten Canadians feel that we are “too reserved” when it comes to debating important issues. Our apathy seems quite apparent in that poll; however, I can bet anyone a box of Timbits that 99% of us feel that Canada is the best country in the world to live in. So why don’t we care more about how it runs?

My theory about our apathy stems from a lack of political stimulation of the saucy kind. Canadian politics is boring. Sure, we have mudslinging, but not the juicy, gossipy, career crushing dirt that they have down in that really great party below us. Remember the last federal election? Yeah, I don’t either. I do vaguely remember one of the bigger controversies surrounding it, and it was regarding Harper’s sweater-vest. Come on, people, that’s all we’ve got? Harper’s hair and fashion sense, along with Big Iggy’s border-hopping.

What we need are scandals of the American kind. We need adultery and toe-tapping-in-the-men’s-room at Winnipeg International. We need MPs fathering illegitimate children while their spouses battle cancer. We need a good prairie girl to step up and become our Monica Lewinsky. That is the kind of stuff that gets people fired up.

In order to curb apathy, this country needs to let the people know that our politicians are faulty and need our forgiveness for some filthy, yet curiously fantastic indiscretion. That is what gets people excited to vote and take sides. That is what spurs public debate. Tiger Woods went from a Teflon champion to a deposed husband in less than a week. Love him or hate him, everyone had an opinion of his actions, and no one can argue with the fact that he will be the best professional golfer to play his sport in a generation.

Let’s see some human sides to our elected officials, that way we can judge their work against their character. In his most recent interview with Peter Mansbridge, Prime Minister Harper was so noncommittal and boring... I’m betting that the production crew was sourcing amphetamines during the edit.   

We elect our politicians based on how much their values represent ours, and then we completely cease any interest in evaluating that representation. This cynicism is bred from our apathy, which stems from the utter boredom our political system emanates. Has anyone checked the ratings for the ever-compelling political broadcast channel CPAC lately? 

The Americans have their red states and blue states. They have Fox News, CNN, MSNBC and Jon Stewart to make fun of every outlet. The very fact that these partisan networks are as powerful as they are speaks loads about their ratings. Americans care about their politics – they just put a Republican in Ted Kennedy’s senate seat, for crying out loud!

As constituents, we need to start getting the truth from our politicians by getting the media to ask the real tough questions: Do you inhale? Do you swallow? When was the last time you defiled a fall vegetable wearing a ball gag while handcuffed at the ankles to the door of a portapotty while someone in a pink bear costume pinches your nipples with rusty mouse traps?  

Politicians need to know what celebrities have known for years: scandals can make you big, popular and powerful. Just ask the cast of the Beachcombers.

// Paul Garbini

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