Friday, February 8, 2008


Though winter is far from out the door, the election season seems just around the corner.

Already, the signs are jammed into the cushy lawns of Vancouver Quadra for the March 17 byelection caused by local MP Stephen Owen’s decision to move on to a more relaxing job at the University of B.C. And almost daily, Prime Minister Stephen Harper threatens to exploit political rifts over Canada’s role in Afghanistan and roll the dice on a federal vote.

Civic contests arrive in mid-November. Then, a provincial election is slated for May 12 of next year. And there’s not much we can do about it. Under the Constitution Act, the date has been fixed.

But what do you want from the political leaders you elect? Management or inspiration? Experience or hope?

In the United States, Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton sees the position of president as that of a CEO who must “manage and run the bureaucracy.” Rival Barack Obama’s vision is a world apart.

In the classic call-and-answer style of the rural churches of the southern U.S., Obama is drawing new and old voters alike with his rallying call: “Yes, we can!” In debate, he is often shaky and thin on detail (which is exactly where Clinton shines).

But put Obama in front of an echoing crowd, and the Martin Luther King within him rises to the surface. I confess the man had me in tears.

On the Republican side, in a stirring clash between character and cunning, John McCain marches to confirmation, now that slick Mitt Romney, the millionaire Mormon, has suspended his campaign.

Which brings us back to our less-than-colourful election campaigns back home.

Vying to become City of Vancouver mayor are Gregor Robertson, Raymond Louie, David Cadman, Peter Ladner and, of course, Sam Sullivan. Oh, and from his 15 years on the parks board, there’s Allan De Genova. Lord help us.

On the provincial level, I don’t know anybody who would accuse NDP Leader Carole James or Premier Gordon Campbell of the kind of leadership that would encourage you to raise your knickers and wade across the river for the gold.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is one lace less exciting than a pair of rental bowling shoes. And federal Liberal leader Stephane Dion is the guy who walked backwards into the propeller wash of politics.

So, what kind of leaders do we really want? And why can’t we get them?

A friend says that it’s fine to know how to run the shop, but people hunger for more. He argues that Obama is finding his constituency precisely because of that raw emptiness in the collective American gut. And he asks: “Where are the Canadian Obamas?” Where are the men and women of vision? Where are the souls who will awaken our own souls to callings higher than real estate?

The bar has been set so low in recent years, who would want the damn job?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Why is it that the most dynamic politicians (dare I say people in general) almost always hail from south of us? Much of what we profess to hate about Americans is what makes them so much more interesting and compelling than we typically are. And believe me, I can bash Americans with the best of them -- apologies to family in Brooklyn and Kentucky.