Putting things into perspective

So, the General Election is just around the corner on May 2 and the Canadian national parties have been doing the rounds religiously for the last few weeks trying to twist our arm into voting for them. Hm, that would be fine if I could actually vote considering I'm an Irish citizen, as I think I may know more about Canadian politics than the Canadians themselves!!

The thing that gets me here that differs to home is the attack ads that have featured front and centre during the campaign battle. If you've never seen them before then you're in for a treat! They're vitriolic, they don't hold any punches and, for the most part, they appear wholly libelous and without much substance. We don't have any of that in Ireland as Irish politics seems to be much more about sweeping things under the carpet and maintaining an air of ignorant bliss in the face of any crisis, but Canadian politics has gone blazing down the US route for tit-for-tat name-calling.

I was surprised that the normally reserved and dignified Maple syrup-lovin' Canucks would lower themselves to such base political tactics but I hear it's all the Conservatives’ fault (isn't it always?!) The ruling party's ads make current Prime Minister Stephen Harper out to be the perfect family man who’s just doing his best to look out for Canada with the message, “We’re all in this together.”

cutaways to cute children and images of the Canadian flag. I know his government isn’t perfect and I’m not pretending to be an expert on Canadian politics (you intellectual blogging types will no doubt see through my fa├žade as you see through these ads!) But, I must say, from a European perspective where everything’s really reached rock bottom and the global financial crisis has destroyed us and our piggy banks, the Harper government must have done something right to avoid all that, right?! I’m completely non-partisan but, looking at it from the outside in, the country as a whole is not doing too badly.

On the other hand, while the ad above paints Stephen Harper out to be a prince among thieves, his other ads - of which there are many - take direct aim at opposition leaders such as questioning Michael Ignatieff’s patriotic attachment to Canada which seems a low blow really, accusing Jack Layton of being blinded by political ambition (em, isn't every top politician blinded by political ambition...isn't that what made them become a politician in the first place?!), and suggesting that Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe is too much of a Montrealer…leaving us wondering why our leaders have to go down this path in the first place?

As for the Liberals, their ads are equally attacking as usually happens with those in opposition. As can be expected, they focus on accountability and transparency in the wake of a slew of scandals to hit the Conservative government, rather than telling us what they actually do.

The NDP ads feature leader Jack Layton talking directly to you, the voter at home, about…old people. Okay, so I like old people and I don’t want to sound like some ungrateful baby boomer, but what’s in it for me?! You may get my vote in thirty years’ time when my as-yet-unborn children refuse to let me live in their basement and I need some rights, but it doesn’t really help a twenty-something year old like me right now. Believe me, we need your charter pointed out in black and white, with no reading between the lines. All we want is the truth!

As for the poor Greens who weren’t even allowed a podium on which to debate recently (the only woman leader…hm, coincidence or not?), the ad itself doesn’t tell us much either other than they don’t like attack ads. An attack on attack ads? I hear ya guys but I still don’t know why I should vote for you, other than you’re good for the environment…

Apparently, as far as the media goes anyway, attack ads actually work as demonstrated by the Tories. However, I've never seen such propaganda and mud-slinging in my life. Don’t get me wrong, politicians in Europe are just as Machiavellian and there are smear campaigns everywhere, just not on our TV screens! But I guess if everyone’s doing it then the only way to retaliate is to sling some mud back. Playground tactics anyone??

However, credit where credit's due - one thing that can be taken from all this is how, no matter how blinded by political ambition they become, our Canadian politicians are still modest enough to know that hockey takes precedent over politics every time. Each of the parties finally agreed on something recently and rescheduled their French-language debate to avoid a conflict with a Montreal Canadiens’ playoff game. It’s nice to see they’re not so far above their stations that they think politics could trump the national sport any day.

Only in Canada, eh?!

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