I paid attention to the recent election back home in Canada, obviously, but I was perhaps less interested in it than I might’ve been, had I had any skin in the game, as they say. This is not because I am in any way disinterested in what happens in my country, but rather because I was no longer able to vote.
Let me explain. I have not lived in Canada permanently, for some time. I am an ex-pat. I go home for three weeks at a time twice a year. This does not qualify as residency and therefore I am not allowed to vote. Which is a shame because I would’ve liked to have voted in the election. When it’s possible, I have always voted. I voted for the first time when I was 19 years of age, and I have done every time there was an election afterwards and I was living in Canada.
When I first moved over here to the UK, I still voted. I remember The Mom handing me my ballot once at Christmas time and driving me to the advance polls, and I also remember having to explain to people back in the UK that the advance polls were open so long and so early because half of Canada (an estimate but not far off I should think) goes down to Florida or parts further south each winter, so they have to give the Snowbirds enough time to get their ballots cast.
I was, as you might imagine, slightly disgruntled about this. Actually, I was properly pissed off. Though I live in the UK and the idiotic things David Cameron and his little friend George do impact me on a day to day basis, I do not feel British. Even my British friends tell me that I couldn’t pass as one of them. It’s not just the accent, it’s my muchness. I am Canadian. Probably maple syrup flows in my veins.
However, I was still paying attention to things because I think Stephen Harper did some very very bad things as Prime Minister (the latest stunt with the niqab certainly rates highly as one of the more ridiculous things he’s done) and I wanted him gone.
Whenever I’m at home, at some point, talk will turn to politics. Which is interesting, and even more so now because I watch the news in the UK. That’s the BBC or Channel 4 and the main difference between those programmes and the American shows The Mom watches (mostly CNN) is that in Britatin nobody gets too worked up about things. Well, they get worked up, but not into a proper frothy lather the way CNN does at the drop of a hat. And of course there’s the inherent bias in news reporting. CNN likes to talk about all the people trying to ruin American, and they like to do it at full volume. News over here, that I watch and read, isn’t so shouty, and it’s obviously more Europe-focused. L’il Sis and Crazy D watch the Canadian news. Mostly the CBC I think. Which is not so shouty either.
So when talk turns to politics, The Mom often finds herself in the minority opinion. And a vigorous debate around our kitchen table quickly turns into a shouting match, which is probably why she told everybody not to talk politics.
Which is a shame I think. For years she tried desperately to get us interested in the news and what was happening in the country. Now we are, and she’s a bit irritated that we’ve all formed different opinions, not that we have them, but rather that we can get quite loud about it.
Anyhow, the funny thing is that I didn’t think anyone else would notice that Canada was having an election. Our politics isn’t really very interesting. I read an article somewhere that talked about the differences in how Americans and Canadians see their governments: in America people think the government is out to get them (given the Snowden leaks, you can see where they’re going with that), and Canadians think their government is a largely administrative thing, a bunch of paper pushers muddling along while everyone else gets on with life.
And Canada’s kind of, in an international context, like the geeky kid who hangs out with her older brothers and sisters, pretending that she’s in their gang when everybody knows she’s not. I just didn’t think there would be much interest in it. But then, the Guardian had a live blog about the election. I swear I thought it was a joke at first. But it wasn’t.
People here keep sending me pictures of Justin Trudeau and freaking out. THIS MAN IS YOUR PRIME MINISTER?? They screech. When I say yes, frequently the reply is: That’s it, we’re moving to Canada. He’s hot and he’s going to legalise marijuana. We’re in.
An American colleague wrote to me the next morning, the first Justin Morning, and congratulated me, saying that Justin had a lot to live up to but that if he was half the man his father was, he’s a damn sight better than Harper.
Personally, I think a box of monkeys would’ve been better than Harper, and that Trudeau is quite a significant improvement but there you are. He does have a lot to live up to.
But I think he can do it. I think he can turn Canada back into the world’s loveable, sort of goofy, kinda cool in a nerdy way, kind of country. A place that’s accepting and open and welcoming. A place that’s diverse and proud of that fact. He said in his victory speech that these were sunny ways, or sunny days, I forget which, but he was talking about things being sunny and happy. He seems like a good, decent man who wants to do the right thing.
How he got roped into governing with that attitude I’ll never know, but I’ll tell you what, regardless of The Mom’s reservations, anything sunny and happy can’t be all bad. Good luck, Justin. Do us all proud.