It would be hard for me to come up with any interesting material on the latest development out of Toronto. The blogosphere has been home to much weeping and gnashing of teeth for the last 48 hours or so, and in this context it would be difficult for me to say anything new. Besides, if you read my the other dozen posts on this blog, it should be fairly easy to predict how I would feel about a homophobic, xenophobic, car-supremacist mayor-elect who hates civil liberties. Suffice to say: I don’t like him.
Unfortunately, I am not terribly surprised by the way the vote went. Ford was in the lead from the beginning of the mayoral race, and the last minute polls had gave him a substantial advantage over both George Smitherman and Joe Pantalone. He really seemed to have it in the bag from the beginning. I am neither a pollster nor a demographer, and so I am not going to try and speculate on what lead one of the planet’s most multicultural cities to elect a regressive bigot. What I am going to do is observe a very troubling trend in Canadian politics of late. Much like our neighbours south of the border, we have been host to a political discourse which has become less and less rational. The Canadian trend away from sanity is, however, much more baffling than its American counterpart. It is fairly normal for the supporters of a party that is not in power to go a little bit off the rails. It may be a little bit more pronounced lately, but the larger phenomenon that produced the Tea Party is neither new nor an exclusively conservative phenomenon.
What is bizarre is that, in Canada, the insanity appears to be in favour of the incumbent. Rob Ford represents exactly the kind of political discourse that has been dominating the country on a national level for nearly five years now, and yet he was voted in by an avalanche of voters who he had whipped into an incoherent frenzy about city hall spending. The concrete plans he has proposed, such as moving marathons, parades and other such events rom the streets to parks, make no sense at all and clearly come more from populist traffic rage or tax-averson than any kind of logic.
Such patterns of thought are nation-wide. Two years ago, Stephen Harper was able to convince the Canadian public that it was okay for him to unilaterally shut down the government thanks to a total misinterpretation of the Canadian electoral process. In the days leading up to the prorogue, people kept saying “Harper won, the losers should just get over it”, as if saying it loud enough would magically make the parliamentary system disappear. Harper has proposed to dismantle the long-form census and he has the support of people who are more upset about having to anonymously state how many bedrooms are in their house than they are concerned about the government’s ability to make sound policy decisions. Meanwhile, on the left, there is a large body of people who appear to think that their right not to have their feelings hurt trumps freedom of speech.
It seems that, for both sides of the 49th parallel, Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity couldn’t come at a better time. So I’m going. To provide what little Canadian representation I can. Four friends and I are going to undertake a 16 hour road trip to New York starting as soon as I finish work tomorrow, and then take the Huffing Post Sanity Bus to Washington and the rally. I’ve bought a shiny new camera, and will be taking pictures as well as providing twitter updates. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. Stay tuned.