Friday, May 10, 2002
Left, right, or indifferent - THE COMMENTARY
By Joseph Planta
VANCOUVER -- Last week the story making the rounds was that of the ‘lamentable’ number of Canadians that knew not of the political meanings of left and right. My own schooling on the subject, I’ll admit was lacklustre. I remember a Socials class a while back where the Reform Party was deemed of the left. So it’s fairly obvious my schooling on political leanings came from other sources than that of the public education system.
The Compass poll, conducted for Southam and Global TV, doesn’t really surprise me. If Canadians truly voted on ideological lines the left (namely the NDP) would flourish during elections. The Liberal Party of Canada’s success come election time comes from a convenient adherence to the middle, as the left and right individually appear (conveniently, again) rather extreme. Most of those in my age group (18-24) know not of the left or the right. That’s not really their fault, but also that of the system. Apathy in politics has set in. Doctrine has been sacrificed for talking points and one’s glib factor. Elections in Canada have regrettably been reduced to pissing matches: How much dirt can we shovel on our opponent so as to scare the voter into selecting us. Warren Kinsella, the backroom blackguard of the Grits, called it ‘Kicking Ass’, which is also the title of a book he wrote on the very subject.
Not knowing your left from your right is ignorance at its finest. The recent stories of Jean Marie Le Pen and Pim Fortuyn didn’t describe these two as right or hard right politicians as much as they were dubbed ‘racist’ or ‘xenophobic’. The November 2000 election in the States, was more about Gush and Bore, rather than Bush of the right, and Gore of the left. If you watch Crossfire on CNN, one may remember the left and right as where James Carville and Tucker Carlson sit. Then again I doubt a good portion, more than 32% of us, watch Crossfire in the first place.
Is it really pitiful that a good half of the country’s populous can’t tell the difference between left and right in Canadian politics? Canadians are lucky I guess to have a fractured right and an equally fractured left. This prevents us from taking a stand when things really matter. The Liberals have been successful in the 20th Century hanging on to power 70% of the time, stealing policy planks from both, whilst vilifying either as too extreme or too moderate; too harsh or too flighty. The federal Liberals have been good at getting elected standing for nothing but the status quo.
In British Columbia, we’re faced with the greatest of paradoxes. Many, and I’m talking mainly Lower Mainlanders in Vancouver, will vote Liberal provincially but Alliance federally. Even more likely, most will vote Liberal federally and provincially and then bellyache about the course of the current provincial government. You’ll have to admit the former, rather than the latter is the more consistent considering the political nature of this part of the country. See, Campbell to get elected, became a Liberal, rather than actually being a liberal (he’s a conservative like Harris, Klein, and yes, Brian Mulroney). The capital and small ‘l’ distinctions have become blurred, thus that’s why so many are ignorant in the country.
The distinctions of left and right in this country have also been meaningless to a degree. The Liberals are sometimes left and sometimes right. I guess when in pursuit of the throes of power, they’ll say and do anything. But to have 18% of Canadians saying the Canadian Alliance is to the left of the NDP, then that’s just appalling. It’s utterly embarrassing to not know what’s left and what’s right. It should be basic common knowledge, just like knowing the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
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