Fair warning: this essay is a very long read.
Why are we so content and/or conditioned to elect hypocrites, fakes, and liars?
Exhibits A, B & C: Justin Trudeau.
I won’t repeat my detailed case for his dismissal as prime minister, which I would argue proves him guilty as charged, beyond a reasonable doubt, on each of those counts.
But honest to God, what’s a guy gotta do to get fired these days from elected office? Let alone, from the most powerful and privileged elected office in the land?
And what does it say about us—we, who collectively put him in that job—if we are prepared to not only tolerate his epic abuses of public trust, but to further reward him with yet another vote of confidence that essentially vindicates his unethical example?
We are, after all, not only the jury that sits in judgement of Trudeau’s deceitful and twice unlawful conduct, but also, in fact, the true victims of his shattered trust.
The ones repeatedly assaulted by his bold-faced lies and Janus-faced breaches of our public faith in him, as a self-styled paragon of principle who promised to be so much better than Stephen Harper.
Ho-hum, Canada shrugs. More power to him, if he can get away with it.
More power to him, all Liberals, New Democrats, and Greens seem to be saying, effectively pledging their ongoing fealty to him as the only remotely acceptable choice for prime minister in a minority government.
It’s no time for a change, progressives argue, if that involves dumping Trudeau for Andrew Scheer and putting the Regressive Conservatives back in power.
When the choice is between the duplicitous Mr. Dressup and the too ideologically trustworthy man who stands to replace him, they choose to reward the former over the latter insofar as he better represents their values.
Values that, presumably, do not include Trudeau’s penchant for rule-breaking, bullying, and tromping all over the rule of law.
Or least of all, his prestigious proclivity for lying.
For his dishonesty is somehow so much less offensive than Scheer’s disingenuous Harperesque truth, too frightening to behold in its imagined negative implications, broadly writ.
For those waving flags of red, orange, and green, in the final analysis, it is only all that’s blue and its chief flag-bearer that we should really fear as being beyond redemption.
It is only the Conservatives who are truly innately evil and corrupt—the ones who this election may well win a plurality of seats and will certainly represent many millions of Canadians who voted for them.
For Canada’s so-Con-hating progressives, what’s really criminal and morally reprehensible is not the example of the red-faced charlatan smirking behind the witness box. But rather, the prospect of putting their lives in the hands of the would-be serial cutter who stands outside their democratic socialist values.
It’s the dimpled wolf in Harper-sheep’s clothing whom they view as far more dangerous than Prime Minister Blackface will ever be, newly outed as his own worst sorry joke and punchline.
Besides, they rationalize, Scheer’s shown himself to be a liar no less than Trudeau. Not convicted of anything illegal as yet, but peccant to the core in his malicious piety and vile intent.
So take a chill pill, swallow hard, and by all means, send Trudeau back to his mansion—err, “cottage”—on Sussex Drive, they all agree, with nary a slap on the wrists and new hope for his next four years of “community service.”
Anyway, no matter who stands before us, pleading to be trusted, lying goes with the turf our nation widely yawns in indifference. We should expect and demand no less, most Canadians say, hopelessly resolved not to change that.
We have become so jaded by politics and cynical about politicians that we just throw up our hands and say: so what? What do you expect?
That’s just the way it is. The whole dirty business of politics is all corrupt and so are most of the politicians. They’ll all say anything to get our votes and probably do the opposite when they get elected.
So, what the hell, might as well accept it. We really have no choice. All we can do is to vote for the least dishonest ones we can, and reelect even those liars, if that is what is required to stop the other leaders and parties we like even less from getting into power.
How very odd. And depressing.
We often vote for the likes of Trudeau—the epitome of a dishonest politician—because we never expected them to be trustworthy in the first place.
We vote for them because we actually fear that the one who stands to replace him might, in fact, be exactly who he appears to be, in contrast to the costumed phony who we always saw through for who he really was, and voted for him anyway.
We vote to stop the ones we fear might actually keep their word on the issues that are most salient to us, when their views do not align with our own; or because we believe that they are even more dishonest, even less worthy of trust, and even more bound to do the opposite of what they say they’ll do than the one in power who makes an art form of such practices.
What a sad indictment of democracy that we tacitly accept and feel helpless to change, and then actively refuse to try to change when we get the chance, by dint of our votes.
According to a new Ipsos poll, 78 percent of Canadians feel that “regardless of which party leader becomes prime minister, they will break their election promises.”
Paradoxically, some 83 percent “agree that they will vote for someone they can believe in, most likely meaning that they will listen to their hearts when at the ballot box and vote for someone they can trust.”
Yet when asked which party leaders they most trust, 3 in 10 respondents say they don’t trust any of them the most.
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer was deemed to be the most trustworthy major party leader, by a hair, with 19 percent choosing him over NDP leader Jagmeet Singh (17 percent), Liberal leader Trudeau (16 percent) and Green leader Elizabeth May (10 percent).
It hardly gives any of them “bragging rights” on that issue of trust that is always overrated as a determinant of how people actually vote.
Fact is, lying works in winning votes, because we demand no different.
Because if we were being honest with ourselves, we might have to admit that we actually don’t mind being lied to.
If only because we have become conditioned to expect our elected leaders to let us down and fall short of their promise, in telling us what we want to hear when we sometimes know it is not politically doable, not economically or fiscally responsible, and not fundamentally true.
If only because it confirms our own moral superiority and negates our own hypocrisy: in voting for promises that we expect won’t be kept; in voting for those who assure us we can have our cake and eat it too, when we all know that’s not true; and in voting for people promising to make changes that we would roundly punish them for making, if they ever followed through on those commitments, to the extent that they demand us to sacrifice or change in ways that hurt us where we really live.
Lie to Me is more than just the name of an old, cancelled TV crime series.
It’s our collective unspoken social compact with the politicians whom we too often consciously trust to break their word and then punish with our votes when they play that game too roughly at our perceived personal expense.
If we want to change that, we need to all take a long, hard look in the mirror at our own hypocrisy and propensity for lying to ourselves about what we really want and what we are prepared to accept from our elected representatives, in exchange for our votes.
In that sense, we are as much the problem as the ones we love to vilify.
Exhibit B: me.
I am voting again for Elizabeth May as my MP in Saanich-Gulf Islands.
I am doing so because I admire her on so many levels, personally and professionally, as a rare leader of high principle.
I am casting my ballot for her, more than for her party, because she is such an effective and passionate voice in Parliament.
Because she stands up to say things that no one else will ever articulate with such conviction—especially on the environment. And also, because she is bound to win her seat by a landslide, and deservedly so.
If Jagmeet Singh was running in my riding, I would just as happily vote for him, because of the change he represents in all his unique splendour, as I argued elsewhere in the Straight.
Conflicted, am I.
The NDP would probably get my vote if I lived in any other riding where it stood the best chance of denying Trudeau’s Liberals a seat or of advancing Singh’s long-term NDP revival, as the best hope for transformative societal change whose time has come.
Yet I would do that in trepidation of Singh’s vow to help put Trudeau back in the catbird’s seat, which is repugnant for me to contemplate, as the most likely outcome when the ballots are counted on Monday night.
I hazard to say, the only person I could never conceive of voting for in my riding in this election is the Liberal candidate: the mayor of my community. A good guy whom I happily voted for in the last municipal election and would readily support again in that capacity as an effective environmental champion and capable enough administrator.
Which is to say, for me, the candidate doesn’t mean squat if he or she is running for a party that has forfeited its moral claim to govern Canada, as the Liberals have done.
That party that used every trick in the book to avoid accountability on SNC-Lavalin and that rallied to defend Trudeau’s abuses of office both times he broke the MPs’ ethics and conflict of interest law.
A party that cheered as their leader bullied, disavowed, and cruelly discarded the only two people in their caucus and cabinet with the integrity to blow the whistle on his contempt for the rule of law.
Both of them women, one of them Indigenous, and neither deserving of Trudeau’s rough treatment that included a backroom smear campaign that so stupidly tried to denigrate them.
If there’s any justice in this world, both Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott will get elected as independents in their ridings, in Vancouver Granville and Markham-Stouffville.
No, I can’t stomach the thought of voting to reward Trudeau for his ethical crimes and for his active frustration of personal accountability in hampering the ethics commissioner and the RCMP in their efforts to properly investigate his Lavscam conduct.
For that alone, he demands to be turfed.
To say nothing of the many other ways in which he has debased his office, disgraced Canada, broke public faith, and otherwise proved himself unworthy of leading our country.
Saying NO to all that is in itself a solid argument that it is time for a change in Canada. Change rooted in accountability, honourable conduct, and ethical leadership.
But I won’t vote for the Conservative candidate in my riding. Not because of who he is, as such, or because I fear Scheer or his party. Can’t say as I do, much as I am against so many of their 20th-century prescriptions for our 21st-century challenges.
Indeed, as a fiscal conservative, I am probably more closely aligned with Scheer’s party than I am with the alternatives, who are holding out gazillions of dollars in commitments to buy Canadians’ votes. All on the public credit card, they imagine, which deeply troubles me. And many of which, I submit, are dishonest in their own right in their “fully costed” “transparency”.
Then again, I like to think of myself as more socially progressive than not.
On many, if not most of those social issues, I find myself alienated by Scheer’s beliefs and by the Conservatives’ too social conservative beliefs and values.
Singh’s NDP values most closely align with mine on that front, to the extent that the Liberals have ruled themselves out of the running as a wholly unprincipled lot, whose values mean nothing when they collide with partisan interest.
By the same token, I applaud Scheer’s commitment to hold Trudeau accountable for his sordid deeds on SNC-Lavalin. I desperately want an independent public inquiry that will get to the bottom of that matter, regardless of the political motive.
Only Scheer’s Conservatives are seriously resolute about properly empowering the RCMP to investigate Trudeau’s illegal political interference with Jody Wilson-Raybould in that criminal proceeding as a potentially criminal obstruction of justice.
I could wholeheartedly vote for that change. And I am deeply disappointed that May and Singh have been so weak on that issue.
Had either the NDP or Greens been much stronger on that issue of accountability, I’ll bet they would have got a lot more votes.
Especially from people like me, who are mad as hornets at Trudeau’s unconscionable political interference with our country’s former minister of justice and attorney general, in trying to help a company charged with fraud and bribery avoid a criminal trial.
I have voted for Scheer’s party in the past and wouldn’t hesitate to do so again, if it was to ever again legitimately style itself as a truly progressive conservative party, whatever the oxymoron inherent in that proposition.
I’ll admit it, Scheer’s Conservatives do not particularly frighten me.
Except for their appalling betrayal of generational responsibility in tackling the climate crisis that is utterly beholden to Big Oil, and for their essential disregard for the environment, for Indigenous rights and title, and for our country’s decisive interest in advancing reconciliation.
Then again, I’m not a woman, an Indigenous person, a member of the LGTBQ community, or among the millions of Canadians who are economically disadvantaged, socioculturally disenfranchised, or otherwise vulnerable. Most of whom view Scheer’s Conservatives as a threat.
I am instead among the most privileged in our society, happy with my lot and hopelessly conflicted. And also, something of a sanctimonious fraud, as it were.
I’m someone whose personal blessings and experiences in the halls of power were anything but consistent with my “nobler” retired-boomer’s vision for society. Which I have come to be convinced is only possible through significant redistributions in wealth, including from people like me.
I also think that the Greens and New Democrats are kidding themselves if they honestly believe they can do a fraction of what their platforms propose and not invite a national economic and fiscal calamity.
And I don’t think they are being honest with themselves or with taxpayers about the deferred burden of their imagined largesse and generosity. I worry about the future generations who will be obliged to pay the true price of our new-age entitlement profligacy, financed with borrowed tax dollars.
Truth is, I would never vote for either the Green or NDP platform if I thought for a moment it would actually be wholly implemented. Which neither will be.
So, as we tend to do with party platforms, I feel at liberty to cherry pick the juiciest bits that hang for me on those progressive vines.
And I have no trouble spitting out the rest of the hard nuts that I could never willingly ingest, that will nevertheless be interpreted by the Greens as part of my vote-given mandate to them to achieve.
I just hope that on those items where my views diverge from their campaign commitments, they don’t actually keep them.
Lie to me, please, and I’ll vote for you. Tell the truth and I may well run for cover.
For example, the Greens’ and NDP’s prescription for imposing proportional representation without so much as a say on that new electoral model is something that I would fiercely reject. It’s not the end, per se, that I oppose, but the means for achieving it.
I would never vote for any party that I thought would actually serve to deny us a vote on the very electoral system that determines how are votes will count. That’s just wrong.
At least that’s what I tell myself, as I get set to vote for May. And in so doing, potentially empower her in forcing Trudeau’s hand to achieve that end as the price of hanging onto his power in a hung Parliament.
Hypocrite, me. I’m lying to myself if I think it can’t happen.
If my vote helps to give May that hammer, I will be the first in line begging her not to use it with all her might.
I would hope that she would instead “temper” that Green commitment on electoral reform, by rather pushing for the national referendum on proportional representation that Trudeau killed, when he broke his 2015 election promise on that issue.
A lie from the outset, that should be properly punished and not rewarded with our votes.
Time for a change, it’s obvious, if you are among those who are passionately supportive of electoral reform without a vote yourself on the model.
For the only way to advance that goal is to elect Greens and New Democrats who will continue to push a minority government to revisit that national democratic project.
A comfortable hypocrite, am I, even on my top policy concern—climate change.
That aside, I am voting for May’s Green party, above all, because of its ardent call for urgent climate action.
Which also brands me as a hypocrite, dishonest with myself.
In part, because I don’t fully support the sweep and scope of May’s climate plan.
Sure, I’m happy to pay the carbon tax, to a point. So long as it doesn’t materially impact my quality of life or standard of living in ways I can’t abide, even to save the planet.
But even she is not being any more honest than Trudeau or Singh about just how high that carbon tax would have to soar to meet her emissions reduction targets.
We’re talking about a carbon tax that would be maybe $350 a tonne by 2050, versus the measly $50 a tonne that Trudeau has thus far admitted to and now probably won’t have the courage to increase beyond that, before the next federal election.
I’d double that, at least. But then I’m not running to get elected.
“Reasonable revolution” should be in the air, I say.
Which is to really say I support aggressively evolutionary change to combat the climate crisis that begins with more tough love of carbon pricing and with reducing our nation’s dependency on fossil fuels, if not quite at the pace that May imagines.
I consider myself more in her climate corner than most, and I console myself in my hypocrisy with small gestures that I know are nowhere near enough.
I swapped my gas-powered yard tools for electric. I planted lots of trees. I rarely fly, because I don’t have to. And I’m dead-against the Trans Mountain pipeline that May so bravely opposed with real conviction, including by putting her own arrested neck on the line in a way that I was too chicken-shit to seriously contemplate.
I’m with her Green vision all the way, if not quite yet in her Tesla, nor quite ready to drink from her party’s photoshopped cup, to achieve the rapid change she wants and that the world’s scientists warn we need to avoid cooking ourselves to death.
I still live in a two-story house. I drive an SUV, however sparingly. I am one of Amazon’s best customers. I eat meat, for God’s sake.
I don’t intend to give up any of those indulgences that I’d fight tooth and nail to keep if any leader, including May, was being totally honest about what it would really take to achieve her party’s vaunted 60 percent reduction in national carbon emissions by 2030.
Time for a change? Yes. Absolutely. But let’s get real.
And the best hope for affecting that change on climate action is to elect more Green and NDP MPs.
It is to make real progress on that priority that Trudeau only pretended to embrace, in at the same time selling out to Big Oil and buying a multibillion-dollar pipeline that will cost maybe three times more than its purchase price to construct.
All part of his supposed “plan” to achieve net zero emissions in Canada by 2050.
Another whopping, big lie that we should not blithely allow him to propound as part of his mostly hollow “commitment” to climate action.
Not that I hold out any hope that Andrew Scheer represents on that crucial issue. Obviously, I do not.
But I do not fear the change that he stands to bring, so long as he does not control the balance of power.
The key is to elect parties that do regard the climate crisis as the urgent priority it obviously is and that mean what they say in advancing the climate action agenda.
If Scheer should win the most seats in a hung parliament and forms a minority government, let him see how far he gets in trying to convince the progressive parties who hold the balance of power to support his pro-carbon agenda.
About as far as an imaginary electric Hummer, is my guess, powered by triple-A batteries.
At any time, the united opposition could bring his minority government crashing down.
What better issue to do that on then in forcing a new election squarely focused on climate change—and not on Trudeau’s spectacular fall from grace?
I’d like Singh’s odds in such a subsequent race that would also see the Greens become even more relevant.
Who would lead the Liberals and the Greens into that next battle?
May has already signalled that this will be her last campaign as party leader. And if Trudeau loses out to Scheer, because voters abandon the Liberals in droves, he would be done like dinner.
If we turf Trudeau’s government on Monday, he would probably get turfed by his own party in a rearguard effort to stop its bleeding to the NDP and Greens on the central existential issue of our times.
A new Liberal leader might rise to the fore who stands to actually lead that climate action war with real conviction, even if not as May and Singh would fight it.
Real change to fight climate change? You bet.
It starts with turfing Trudeau as prime minister.
In the meantime, let’s be honest with ourselves.
We choose who we elect.
We do have the power to change political discourse in this country and to demand so much better of our leaders than we have become accustomed to accepting.
You say you don’t want to elect hypocrites, frauds, and liars?
Great. Grab the power you have to start changing the rules of the game on Monday.
Reach higher for ourselves and for our country.
Vote to punish dishonest conduct, not to reward and legitimize it, as voting for Trudeau’s Liberals will do.
And let’s stop lying to our hypocritical selves about what we are really voting to achieve and about our true expectations of the politicians we alone empower.
Change starts with each of us and with coming to grips with the true trade-offs we are really willing to accept or not for the betterment of Canada, whatever our ideology.