Another federal election campaign is upon us and so far the winner is, wait for it, irony. And a close second is hypocrisy. The bronze medal might go to lack of transparency but we’ll see, it’s still early.
I mean when the “Honest. Ethical.” Green Party gets caught Photoshopping their leader, Elizabeth May, to make her look even more organic than she already is, that’s at least an 8.5 on the ironic scale, a 7.5 for hypocrisy and a whopping 9.5 on the lack-of-transparency scale.
And then there’s Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. The most “woke” politician on the planet gets caught in the brown face/black face scandal, albeit from 20 years ago, and the world takes notice. It turns out the man who challenges foes and friends alike at the first hint of a politically incorrect accusation, isn’t so, er, lily white himself. In fact he puts it down to white privilege, apologizes again and hopes to move on but not before hitting 9.5 on the irony scale, 9.5 for hypocrisy and 8.5 for lack of transparency.
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer should have gained more from all this but has trouble igniting excitement in a match factory (and there’s still that same-sex marriage thing) and the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh walked a fine line with Trudeau’s embarrassing behaviour fairly well while finally finding a Canadian map with New Brunswick on it.
This new series of embarrassing moments for political leaders follows another — the falling away of local candidates in the first week to 10 days of the campaign. I assume party researchers have the ammunition set to go and shortly after the writ is dropped, the bombs are dropped too. So, before you know it, a candidate is quitting over something he or she tweeted to a neighbour a dozen years ago, or the party is firing a candidate because he or she stood beside someone in a kindergarten class picture (I may be exaggerating slightly but…).
Isn’t technology wonderful? Get ready to stand behind every sarcastic text — with no context available — and if you ever tried to be funny with people you thought were your friends and modern technology was used, well, forget about public life.
I don’t know who can withstand such scrutiny, and it’s not just politicians and celebrities anymore. Thanks to camera phones an incident at the mall parking lot can go viral. And what’s ironic is we don’t demand our politicians be as accountable for what’s going on in Ottawa today as we do about a the controversial essay a candidate wrote back in the 1970s.
I swear, between overwrought political correctness and the technological tendencies for anything controversial, mildly disturbing or unintentionally funny to go viral, it’s a wonder anyone risks saying anything remotely out of the ordinary. Gee, great way to debate the issues and run a democracy, eh?
I remember my wife and I were in Vancouver’s Stanley Park a few years back, shortly after the tragic death of Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver International Airport. A Korean camera crew approached us wanting to know if we would comment on the situation.
I wanted to go on camera and do the Chamber of Commerce bit about how safe and wonderful Canada is and this was an unfortunate incident that will be dealt with by the authorities and for Koreans to keep coming to the True North Strong and Free. And I probably could’ve pulled it off as I’m quasi-articulate but I declined.
It was easier not to, of course — and there was the chicken factor. I might have become a meme in Asia and something would get lost in translation and, perhaps, even go viral. Again, a lost opportunity for the Korean people (now I know how Trump feels, ahem) and for myself due to the mediums involved.
I feel some regret because also, although they didn’t know, a fellow journalist refused to help out another journalist trying to do a man-on-the-street survey when I personally know how painful they really are (try asking strangers on the street in Hope what they think of the latest council dust-up and you get “oh, just passing through” at least 10 times before you find a Hope resident who knows what you’re talking about and is willing to talk). Sorry, guys.
Another thing that’s a tradition is party leaders flying all over the country (yes, even the Green leader) telling us about all of the dollars they’re going to spend once they’re elected. Of course those dollars are ours. We already have a huge debt and deficit, andnone of the stuff they’re promising is likely going to see the light of day anyway.
Meanwhile irony and hypocrisy, who don’t fly anywhere but always seem to be around, are dominating the campaign.
And the loser is, so far, well, us.
Glenn Mitchell is a former editor of the Vernon Morning Star.