Editorial: Election highlighted our very worst, not our best

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives at Rideau Hall on September 23 for the unveiling of his government’s new Throne Speech. Governor General Julie Payette delivered the hour-long pledge of how the government would address the COVID-19 pandemic as its principal priority. Shutterstock

By now the ballots have been read and the winners and losers of the 44th Parliament have been (mostly) announced. It is entirely possible that the clear winner of this election will still be in doubt, given the huge number of mail-in ballots that will remain to be counted on Tuesday, but this election had a clear loser, an electorate largely robbed of an opportunity to make an informed decision based on policy proposals.

Instead of arguments based in the ideological policy stances of the various parties, the campaign largely focused on personalities and a name-calling agenda that would be more suited to playgrounds dominated by unruly truants. Fiction ruled over facts, spin overshadowed reality—an all-too-normal course of events in recent years.

There are no heroes to be found within this narrative. Each of the major parties (and in truth most of the smaller ones) spent more of their war chests seeking to define their opponents with the blackest of pallets they could muster than in bothering to paint themselves in honour and glory. The clouds of social media have definitively buried any glimmer of sunny ways on any party horizon.

Happily marching along to the dismal cadence issuing forth from each of the national parties’ backrooms, online partisans amplified those attacks to hysterical crescendos—and the losers were the undecided and the considered voter.

This election, and the pandemic in which it took place, have revealed a very ugly (and distressingly sizable) dark underbelly of Canadian society. The mud (and gravel) slung during this campaign has covered the mirror by which we view our nation’s body politic and we have all been diminished by it.

Certainly the ruling Liberals took most of the fire, as is the norm for elections, and it is traditional to dust off the inevitable gaffs of the party in power made over the course of the preceding terms, but the vitriol that has been on display during this most recent election toward all of the parties and their leaders harkens back the very darkest days of 18th Century political shenanigans.

There have always been huge cleavages within our nation, in plain point of fact, it is a true miracle and testament to the good solid sense of our forefathers our nations have managed to hold themselves together in this federation. Grievances are the bread and butter of demagogues and smoke and mirrors the ally of those who would be tyrants.

We must hold our politicians to account for their actions, but unless we can find a way forward in our politics that utilizes at least some lip service to civility and honour, the dream of a nation based in peace, order and good government will be washed away in a sea of excrement masquerading as reasoned comment.

We can do better, but only if we are willing to make the effort to force those who would be our leaders to be better.