Andrew Ikeman | News Editor
BEFORE I START this week’s column, I would be remiss to not say to the families of the Montreal election night shooting victims, our hearts go out to you.
The shocking shooting—which took place as Pauline Marois, the Premier-elect of Quebec, was taking the stage to deliver her party’s victory speech—came at a time when the crowd was celebrating a win that would resonate in the minds of Canadians, especially Quebecers, for a long time. The win signified an end to the Liberal government in Quebec, who had been in office for almost a decade, and the start of a new separatist government.
Going into the election Quebecers on either side of the issue of sovereignty were feeling angry. Student protesters were angry over the government’s new tuition hikes, and anglophones were angry at the idea of separatists coming into office once again. This election saw anger boil over, and in the worst way possible.
This tragic event begs the question: Is Canadian politics getting angrier than it used to be? This question was once an afterthought, spurred on by the days of Chrétien manhandling protesters, or Trudeau watching the 1968 St. Jean Baptiste Day riots; but in those cases, the prime ministers’ anger was perceived as strength, with both men appearing as strong leaders in the face of struggle.
This new wave of anger can be linked to our ties with the United States, whose tendency to be angrier about politics is showcased by their tally of political assassinations—dozens, compared to Canada’s humble four assassinations that took place in Canada. Some say the difference in anger level between the United States and Canada can be traced to the States’ roots—the American way of life was founded on the ideal of fighting for freedom.
Since the turn of the century, commercials attacking politicians have become the norm—even when there is no election in sight. The idea is simple: attack your opponent until their reputation is tarnished, and then attack some more. These attack ads are now commonplace, but at one point they were limited to our neighbours to the south.
We once saw days when politics was not angry in Canada, where members of opposing parties would debate each other all day, and then head to the bar for a round of drinks. There are now whips—a party member responsible for ensuring the collective voting of a party—in the Senate, a place that is meant to be free of party politics.
While I don’t see an end to the divisiveness of politics, I can’t help but wonder, can we at least make it less nasty? My version of politics is a meeting of the best and brightest a country can offer: people who meet to discuss policy, and can work together despite their collective differences. Naive? Maybe, but my naiveté is better than politics governed by contempt, fear, and anger.