Sunday, December 20, 2009

Politics


They sell the above poster at a little shop on Sparks Street here in Ottawa. It's popular among the poli sci students that make up a sizable portion of the sizable student population in the Nation's Capital. More specifically, it's popular with those calling themselves "conservatives". It gives them conservative street cred. Provides a link between themselves and the proud history of conservative politics in Canada... or so they tell themselves. Anyone who actually knows anything of John A. Macdonald and the history of Canada knows how farcical it is for these regionalists, these free traders, these self-hating Canadians, to conjure up the image of Canada's first Prime Minister as a symbol for their cause.

Yet, up until the summer of 2004 I counted myself among them. In 2004 I was a student in the public affairs department at Carleton University. I had recently signed up to help out my local CPC candidate in the federal election. I told myself that the Conservatives under Stephen Harper were fighting for the real Canada, that we were fighting to remove the Liberals and their perverted view of the country from power so that we could bring the country back to its roots. I was stupid. I had fallen prey to the non-stop rage of conservative commentators. I regularly listened in on Ottawa blow hard Lowell Green and his daily prophecies of doom if the corrupt Liberals were allowed to stay in power. I wrung my hands when confronted with spittle flecking Albertans, willing to do anything to make our hard done by Western brothers and sisters fall in love with Canada again. I was a true believer. However, all it took to bring me back from the edge was a bad joke.

I was out canvassing with some other campaign workers on a lovely Saturday. We were in a pretty affluent neighbourhood and were walking from house to house. We came upon a home that had recently had its lawn sprayed. The grass on the property was bright green and of uniform length. On the other side of the sidewalk, the city's property, the grass was brown and weeds stood out along the curb. One of the door knockers giggled a bit to himself and waddled up to share what he just came up with. He stood on the private property and said "Private" and then shuffled over to the municipally owned land and said "Socialism". The other 3 campaign workers burst into loud, sustained laughter. It was, one would assume, the funniest thing they had ever heard. I looked at them in horror, the realization of who it was I had thrown my lot in with dawning on me for the first time. These people were insane.

The next couple weeks just reinforced that conclusion. I liked the candidate, he was a nice guy and undeniably bright. He was disgusted with adscam and was doing his part to kick the bastards out. But just about every low-level worker was nuts. They were angry all the time. They were angry at everything. Most importantly, and disturbingly, they seemed to despise Canada. They revered the United States. Spoke longingly of low taxes, easily accessibly guns, low paid teachers, and strict immigration rules. I realized I was with the bad guys.

I hung in there until the end of the election (I still liked the candidate and still thought the Liberals needed a time out), but afterwards distanced myself from the party and the Carleton conservative organization. I was disillusioned and in a political no mans land. Frankly, I stopped knowing what to believe.

Then two things happened. First, I met the professor that made my university career worth while. He was a young political science professor. He was the most passionate lecturer I had encountered in the 4 years I had been at Carleton. I took three of his courses and looked forward to them every week. He assigned McClung, Lord Durham, Grant, Frye, and, most importantly, Canada's Founding Debates. He taught me what conservatism actually meant, what being Canadian actually meant. By the time I had finished my degree he had helped firm up my political beliefs. I was a conservative, but I was not a Conservative.

My second formative experience was my time in Europe. After university I moved to Ireland and operated a youth hostel. It was the perfect job for a year abroad, providing ample time for me to jet around Europe and see the sites. I learned what government could be. I learned that with a little imagination and the support of the populace, government could accomplish things that private enterprise could not, or, did rarely. I came back to Canada with a respect for our European roots and how much better this country would be if we only embraced them.

Since stumbling upon the blogosphere I have become more committed to this vision of Canada. Old style tories like Sir Francis, middle of the road folks like Red Tory, and even far left commentators like the intelligent Dr. Dawg, have all contributed to my understanding of politics and this country. I can't hope to write as intelligently or eloquently as bloggers such as these, but hopefully I can get my points across somewhat intelligibly.

So that's where I'm coming from. I hope I can provide something a bit different to the Canadian blogging community.