For those who have trouble discerning between Canadians and Americans, here’s a difference you can’t miss: how election campaigns are run.
The American campaigns ahead of party primaries to determine who will become the standard-bearer in the presidential run are like reality TV. Canadian campaigns to form Parliament are designed to be … boring.
Both are geared to ensure known party stalwarts get out to vote. In America, that is done by whipping up a frenzy on the extreme wings (where the people who vote in large numbers reside). In Canada, the strategy is to nudge core supporters toward the polls, while making sure everyone else has fallen asleep in front of their TV screens.
For our respective nations, both strategies work.
In Canada, candidates for the highest office in the land hire (using tax dollars) highly paid staff to ensure no media gets clear access to the candidate. All policy announcements are carefully crafted into packages released as talking points for a whistle stop somewhere, with only selected questions allowed, all of which must be easily ducked and dissembled before the next whistle stop. Repeat, ad nauseum.
In the U.S., political teams plot timelines to get their boss on the air with journalists for a half hour or more of intensive one-on-one. In their game, the more time and the more valued the interviewer, the more points awarded the candidate. If the candidate ends up in a fight with a media personality, so much the better, because that’s how you get the actual voting lunatic fringe behind you.
That’s how you get Donald Trump. And his impersonators.
That’s how you get Wisconsin governor Scott Walker — who wants to be the Republican candidate for president — to say that building a wall between Canada and the U.S. is “a legitimate issue for us to look at.” On a national network news program.
Because, you know, the fringe loonies still believe the 9/11 terrorists came in through Canada. And these are the people who will pack the floor at the various primaries, and vote. Rational people, who would be appalled that a person could say that and then actually run for president will stay far, far away.
The Canada/U.S. Wall is purely a media issue. Because American candidates actually meet the press, they will be forced to answer such stupid questions. But as we have found, the candidates — even a respected moderate like Scott Walker — will not call the question of a Wall thousands of kilometres long stupid.
That’s why the question isn’t actually stupid, though. The question is being asked in counterpoint to Donald Trump’s assertion that he will build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and send Mexico the bill. Say it often enough, and it becomes “legitimate” in some people’s minds. The assertion is monumentally absurd, though. It is itself a counterpoint to a stated plan to deport undocumented aliens — along with their children born in the U.S., contrary to the U.S. Constitution.
Another plan — deemed “legitimate” — would task the CEO of Federal Express to design a system that will track the movement of illegal aliens like packages.
None of these things will ever happen. Or we should pray they never do.
But serious politicians planning to become president of the most powerful nation on Earth must avow things like this are “legitimate issues for us to consider.”
Why? Because they want to win the primaries. And in the Republican Party, the primaries are overpopulated by irrational zealots who would not shy away from invading Canada if they thought a teenage terrorist with a pocket full of exploding doobies might emerge from here.
Contrast that with our Canadian campaign. Top-of-mind issue? The deficit, or the surplus, whichever way you want to hire an accountant to interpret things.
Either way, all proposed budget deficits so far amount to less than a rounding error against the total budget. Less than half a per cent of total spending. Likewise, any proposed budget surplus. Rounding errors all.
So while Canadian political leaders drone on about their respective managerial prowess in getting student loan defaults down to something manageable, we get to watch American candidates contemplate a space elevator from which they can more cheaply deport illegal aliens to a colony on the moon. That is what you do with aliens, isn’t it?
We get to watch Donald Trump call a supporter up from the crowd during a speech to tug on his hair, proving once and for all that he isn’t wearing a wig. Imagine Justin Trudeau or Stephen Harper doing that? Can’t see it. Nice hair, though, for all of them.
Perhaps the job of a Canadian journalist is to try to keep everyone awake until election day. Since, in this election, we really have nothing else to do. After all, we can’t revoke people’s citizenship like they want to do Down South, or build walls to keep out terrorists and dirt-cheap labour.
Vive la différence.
Greg Neiman is a retired Advocate editor. Follow his blog at readersadvocate.blogspot.ca or email firstname.lastname@example.org.