Not whining but drowning

I tend to agree with the general tone of this Rick Salutin column

Suck it up, Canada: What are we – shoppers or citizens? A portion of each, I suppose. But it’s fatal to confuse the roles, as seems to be happening with all the whinging and whining over “another” election that “nobody” wants.

If public aversion to an election is noting more than a mulish objection to the tiny obligation it imposes on us all — to pay attention for a little while — then yes: suck it up. Democracy is our job.

But I suspect the prospect of a fourth election in five years may excite a different kind of concern: namely, that this is dilatory, destabilizing, a waste of the political class’s time as much as ours. I don’t mean any of that bilge the Tories are putting out, that somehow the recovery would suddenly grind to a halt if MPs were ever called away from their desks, as if the only thing propping the economy up was their own heroic efforts. But the constant threat of an election, punctuated every year or two by the reality, plainly makes for short-sighted and erratic government.

If there were real issues at stake, real divisions between the parties, real prospect of an election changing much of anything — in short, a real reason to go to the polls, that would be one thing. But so far there is little reason to believe any of these obtain. In which case, why bother?

And, as we saw last time, increasing numbers of potential voters are answering: why, indeed?

UPDATE: Will the public take it out on Ignatieff, or whoever is judged responsible for causing the election? Maybe. They haven’t tended to in the past. But the more futile, inconsequential elections we have, the greater the frustration may grow.

I don’t think the mere triggering of an election would invite the voters’ wrath. But they do tend to slap down leaders who appear too overtly power-hungry.* It hurt Harper last time, and it might hurt Iggy now: if he can’t come up with a convincing rationale for the election — a plausible lie, that is, since power hunger is always the reason for any election call —  voters will draw the appropriate conclusion: that he’s an unconvincing liar. As a rule, voters prefer convincing liars.


*I’m not sure whether it’s actual power hunger the voters object to, or just the appearance of it. The public’s attitude to political ambition may be like that of the cop on the beat: Do what you must, just don’t do it in front of me.

UPPERDATE: All of this is hypothetical, of course, since there isn’t going to be an election.

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