No doubting Thomas

The longest election campaign in a century has been dominated by fear: fear of the other, fear of each other, fear of no change, fear of change, fear of not being able to make a change – even fear of being unable to vote, which is one reason Canadians have flocked to advance polls in record numbers.

We don’t think most clearly from a place of fear, yet that is the shadow over our decision-making in this election. 

Hope energized the inaugural, euphoric and successful presidential campaign of Barack Obama. And even as the late NDP leader Jack Layton faced death, he challenged Canadians to believe in hope: “Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.” 

An election based on being our best rather than defeating the worst seems almost quaint – and so very far from our reality – as we ping-pong along with polls in a mind-numbing exercise of first-past-the post, even while recent political history is loaded with failed polling information, including recent votes in Alberta, BC and the last election in Ontario. 

But it’s safe to say that a vast majority of Canadians want change, are desperate for change and an end to the Conservative carnage.

Tom Mulcair and the New Democratic Party were understood to be the party of change at the beginning of this campaign. And maybe they messed up by campaigning safe, trying not to frighten voters away from a dramatic new moment in Canada. Now, much to the delight of some in the mainstream media, Justin Trudeau and his ever-morphing Liberal party are seen by many as the party of change. A return to red rule feels like a safe place for many. Maybe it won’t be the “fresh start” the NDP once seemed to promise, but at least it won’t be Harper. Anything but Harper, or so the thinking goes.

So fear sends us yet again to vote, not for what we are for, but to save us from what we are against. The fundamental change that a brand new party, the NDP, would represent, is for some now like a drunken flirtation, a crazy, booze-addled talk at an office party best forgotten.

The Liberals have broken progressive hearts for generations in this country, campaigning left, governing right. Remember the promise to repeal the GST? Kathleen Wynne’s provincial Liberals campaigned left, and now they are planning to sell off 65 per cent of Ontario Hydro, hardly a progressive move and one she never mentioned on the campaign trail. Why would it be any different with the federal Liberals? 

When I raised concerns about a Liberal post-election switcheroo, a progressive-voting friend said, “I trust this generation of Liberals.” I had to laugh. It sounds like someone in an abusive relationship convincing themself that this time it will be different. Why would it be?

Trudeau has routinely voted with Harper, including on the reprehensible Bill C-51, and now says that, somehow, he didn’t mean it. Will he not mean it when, if elected, we try to hold him to his Willy Wonka goodie bag of promises? His commitment to civil liberties is so soft, Trudeau enthusiastically put former Toronto police chief and architect of this city’s G20 fiasco, Bill Blair, forward as a candidate.

When Conrad Black announces to Bay Street, as he did in the National Post recently, that they have no need to fear Justin Trudeau, progressives should be worried. When NDPers get elected, big money buys full-page scare ads in newspapers and threatens to move head offices. Trudeau? Not so much. Because Black, like his Bay Street buddies, knows that when all the passionate election talk fades away, the Liberals will fall in line just fine.

Polls didn’t predict the orange wave in Quebec in 2011. When surprising upsets happen in sports, commentators and pros say, “That’s why we play the game.” It’s still “game on” right now, and I am choosing to vote for real change, not a lesser of two evils. I’m voting NDP and hoping for true change instead of participating in the ritualized swapping in and out of Conservatives and Liberals.

I will not be frightened into lowering my expectations and aspirations. The Toronto area has an amazing collection of NDP incumbents and new faces. In many Toronto ridings, the clear choice is between a Liberal and an NDPer that’s an easy call. I’d love to see a new Ottawa, not just with returning NDP pros, but other fresh party faces.

Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done. | @m_hollett

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