In reply to The Vote Has Been Counted

This is a reply to The Vote Has Been Counted And The Question Is What Do Liberals Stand For?

Folks,

Here is my Old American / New Canadian view on the coverage. I apologize in advance if this seems overly negative or culturally mismatched, but these are my observations as best as I can articulate them.

Coming from the US, this whole thing has been a bit surreal. This is probably the most important structural question in all of Canadian politics in decades and it had support in the end from nearly half the MPs who chose to vote. Usually importance + close votes = controversy and coverage. Yet, this got approximately 0 coverage. Yeah, there were a few articles and op eds. Mr. Cullen did an amazing job trying to rally support across the entire country with his town halls. And, of course, there were the tireless and amazing efforts of all of you on this list – I’m inspired by your work. But, by US standards, this was a near complete blackout. The easiest way to prevent positive change is not to shout it down, but to ignore it. And the politicians allowed the press to ignore this.

If there were an issue in the US that promised/threatened to change the balance of power of the major parties for generations, was tightly contested, and involved the leader of the country breaking a promise made 1600+ times, this would be front page news every day for months. How many non-activist friends, neighbors, and co-workers even knew the vote was happening or had an opinion on it? How many t-shirts, lawn signs, posters, or pins did you see? How many MPs had town halls on the topic? How many press conferences were called by the opposition party leaders to use the bully pulpit and set the terms of the discussion publicly? How many front page news stories were written? How many network and cable news stories presented it?

Let me think of how many things in my casual observance got more attention from the nightly news than this

  • Trump, Trump, and more Trump
  • A new train
  • Minimum wage
  • Provincial party leader elections
  • Handshake styles of world leaders
  • Local crime reports
  • Weather
  • Hockey
  • Curling
  • (And I swear this is true) A woman getting arrested for climbing a construction crane

It was amazing to me that no one even bothered to name the vote. I hunted down the HOC description of the vote and it was “That the Third Report of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform, presented on Thursday, December 1, 2016, be concurred in.” 20 words and 124 characters. In today’s world of tweeting, that leaves 16 characters for adding color. Seriously? In the US, the pro side would have called this the “Make your vote count vote”, the “Saving multi-party democracy vote”, or the “No Trumps for Canada vote”. The anti-side would have called this the “Empowering extremists vote”. But, neither side did any creative marketing on this at all and the result was predictable, a win for the status quo and the will of the leader of the party in power.

I’m not saying that we should have American style hack and slash politics. In fact, of of the great things about PR, if enacted, would be the ratcheting down of rhetoric and the creation of incentives for parties to cooperate and compromise. But, something this big and this disruptive to whoever is currently in power needs to be really wanted and demanded by the people or it just can’t pass. There has to be not just a recognition that this is a good idea, but that it’s something that our collective future depends on. People need an greater awareness and much more emotional connection to what’s at stake.

I love that Canadian media and politics reflects the sober and (personally not politically) conservative nature of the country itself. It’s one of the reasons I’m here and not down in the US. But, we’re talking about passing something that is by its very definition against the short term interests of whoever has the majority of the power. That really does call for a different approach towards visibility and marketing of the issue.

I apologize again for the rant. And, I apologize for coming in late, not doing nearly as much work as anyone else on this list, and then seeming critical of the outcome. I’m still learning Canadian politics and may be wildly off base here. I am only taking the risk in writing this in hopes that maybe my outside perspective contains some nugget of insight that may be helpful for our next run at the issue.

Thanks so much for having me in the group. I’m excited for our prospects in the long term.

Take care,
Jay


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