The federal election is now into the home stretch, which in previous years would have been referred to as ‘at the starting line’. The Big Three (The Little One, Green Party leader Elizabeth May was no invited) debated the economy on Thursday, and just like everything else in this campaign, nothing was settled. For the first time ever, I didn’t watch an election debate. I know where all the parties stand on the economy, and frankly I don’t really care. Justin Trudeau admits he will run deficits to boost infrastructure; Thomas Mulcair promises a balanced budget, as does Stephen Harper; apparently, we are living in Bizzaro Canada. But really, is the deficit a big issue with Canadians? I don’t think so. The U.S. government deficit is $426 billion; you won’t find one American in million who knows or cares about the deficit. But here, the political parties have made it an issue. In 2013-14, the federal government spent $278 billion, so a shortfall or surplus of a billion or two is pretty small potatoes. But then, most Canadian politics is about small potatoes.
The only other thing to come from the debate was Harper’s peculiar use of the term “old stock Canadians”, a term so unusual nobody has ever heard it before. He was, apparently, referring to Canadians who have been here for a long time, but of course it touched off a predictable furor. Pollster Frank Graves said that Harper’s use of the term “old-stock Canadians” was a deliberate ploy to energize his supporters, a “dog whistle” that only his supporters would hear. On Friday, Harper said his old-stock comment referred to “Canadians who have been the descendants of immigrants for one or more generations.” Only in Canada would someone here for one generation be considered “old stock”. Up till Thursday, I thought old stock was a brand of beer.
One other development on the campaign trail: Wayne Gretzky has come out in support of Harper, calling him an “unreal” prime minister. Can’t argue with that — it’s positively unreal that this guy is prime minister. Clearly, Gretzky’s many years of playing with that cheap Jofa helmet took its toll. Sidenote: Gretzky has lived full-time in the U.S. since 1998, and is not allowed to vote in this election, thanks to Conservative party rule changes. Irony, thy name is Wayne.
While Canadian leaders were having a fairly sober debate on important issues, the Republicans in the U.S. continue their pre-election gong show. Donald Trump’s Flying Circus continues to amaze and appall. No matter how insulting, no matter how juvenile, no matter how un-PC his public utterances are, Trump continues to hold the American chattering classes in thrall. Can this certifiable loon win the Republican nomination, much less the presidency? Again, let me point out that Americans don’t actually go to the polls until November of NEXT YEAR, and the first of the primaries — where actual votes are cast and counted — aren’t until February. I think at some point Trump will grow weary of all the handshaking with the unwashed and unwealthy, and quit the race once he loses one primary. In the meantime, enjoy the show.
Still with politics, the differences between democratic systems were on vivid display this week. While Americans plod through an interminable election cycle (I guarantee you that there are candidates right now planning their 2020 run), and we here in Canada stumble through the longest campaign in recent history, in Australia they’ve switched prime ministers overnight. Arch conservative prime minister, Liberal leader Tony Abbott (yes, the conservative party is the Liberal party — they don’t call the place down under for nothing) was turfed and replaced through a vote of his caucus. Australia is now on its fifth prime minister since 2007, if you count the two terms of one guy who was turfed by this caucus, then got back in after turfing the woman who beat him. I think. It’s all very confusing. The prime ministership of Australia is apparently played like a game of high-stakes musical chairs. Historically, here have been 23 changes of prime minister without an election, six of them through in-house coups.
What would a week be without a police outrage or two. In Houston, the cops handcuffed and arrested a 14-year-old science whiz who brought a homemade clock to school. They thought it was a bomb. He, of course, was black. And a Muslim. And watch how delicately they handle this kid in California when he is charged with — wait for it — jaywalking.
Locally, the Edmonton Journal introduced its new look this week. And in my humble opinion as a life-long newspaper reader and former media type, it’s a dog’s breakfast. Or more accurately, a dog’s breakfast after the dog has had time to digest it. A jumble of unrelated typefaces and fonts. Mammoth pictures standing in place of actual stories. What used to be the arts and entertainment section is now renamed You, and it contains a jumble of entertainment and ‘lifestyle’ stories. The National Post section is eastern Canada-centric, with important world stories reduced to two or three paragraph briefs. The worst new feature is a page called (seriously) Envy. Described as “a look at life well lived”, it’s devoted to stuff rich people are doing or buying. Sorry, but buying diamonds is not a life well lived. Interestingly, a longstanding tradition of the newspaper business — listing the editor of the section on the front page of said section — has apparently been discontinued. That either means there is no longer local input into the story selection, or nobody wants to take the credit.
RIP: Moses Malone, 66, NBA Hall of Famer and three time NBA most valuable player.