Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Budgety Hands at Arm's Length

So you are running a country, and the next election might be a close one; you really have to make sure you get everyone out to vote because polls seem to suggest you have the majority, you just need to widen the lead.
What do you do?

Ramp up controversy and spin the "election" buzz for as long as possible.
The budget isn't anything special; just a variation on the same song and dance we've seen every year. More money here for this and that, growth, long-term assets, etc. The difference is just in the focus, not the strategy. The only object is one of location, rather than anything substantial. (To be honest, I would rather if they didn't focus so much on job creation; we were accustomed to the exciting job market of the years before the recession, but it's unlikely to get that way again, trying to force it to be so is just going to result in problems. I can at least appreciate the incentive to doctors out to rural areas, the tax breaks for firefighters, but I have yet to see the breakdown for the fighter jets, so no matter how hard we focus on the economy in the budget, we're still throwing money at an expenditure that will not, no matter how much we want them to, yield any sort of fiscal return.) Even Alberta's finance minister says it's a boring budget. The only purpose being served by the "excitement" is to help Canadians feel like they are more part of the political process (which, of course, we barely are), and rouse some nationalistic feeling that doesn't carry the heavy stink of cynicism.

Cynicism is something Canada is almost proud of. We look at the typical American's flag-waving political joy and sneer inside, even just a little, that we aren't so jingoistic or easily led. But it does mean we have set predictions for our politicians, and they have gladly obliged. The "hands in our pockets" joke has become so old hat that we expect a certain amount of pillaging, but we don't even get to live in New York. The Obama fervor that swept through the states would never get off the ground here; "Change? Now they want our pocket change?" we would chortle, while relegating the starry-eyed politician to the dustbin, "Hope? I hope no one gets elected."

The royal wedding was intended to spark some Royalist excitement, a bit of good feeling (we have a Queen; who doesn't love her?) but unfortunately, rather than reminding us of our noble roots and exciting heritage, it was treated like the latest celebrity scandal, and so evoked the sad distaste of "campy news".

The saddest aspect to this is that Canadians are beginning to value cold intellectualism (51%) more than decency (20%) or compassion (8%) in a national leader. While it is true a leader who stands there wringing his hands over the plight of every citizen is likely to drive us into the poor house, the gross favoring of understanding to empathy leads us to wonder if we have not adopted a "blood at arm's length" stance; if politicians' souls are already damned, why not let them make the unpleasant decisions we really want?

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