PART 2 of 3
NOTE: I’ve broken the original gigantic “Canada, we have a Prorogue” article into 3 more manageable segments with no additions
So if you read the long version, you will have already read this.
My take on Canadian politics
I first became aware of politics during the Trudeau era.
Pierre Elliot Trudeau was undoubtedly Canada’s most dashing Prime Minister. And although almost unheard of in politics, Trudeau was SINGLE. A suave and sophisticated bachelor– heck he even dated my favorite movie star diva Barbra Streisand!
Checking out Trudeau’s biography on Wikipedia just now, I am aghast to discover that he was much older than my Dad. I guess our own parents always seem old.
A lot of who we are begins in high school. Now, I have always felt mathematically challenged and I’m quite sure the introduction of the metric system while I was in school didn’t help matters any. Which isn’t to say that introducing the metric system wasn’t a good thing for Canada.
In order to survive high school math I didn’t even pretend to convert.
20 degrees Celsius = 70 degrees Fahrenheit = no coat
Let me tell you that I credit my favorite high school teacher, Mr. Ziegel, for helping me learn how to think for myself in his grade ten history class. I grew up in a large family, and you better believe it, with six siblings you learn how to argue if you want to survive. So going in I thought I knew how to hold my own and make a point; because after all arguing was practically an Olympic event at home.
But Wayne Ziegel was a master.
He quite often argued points that I am sure he didn’t believe in order to make us think. I don’t know if it worked for anybody else, but he certainly forced me to think.
Mr. Ziegel’s devil’s advocacy both infuriated me and challenged my perceptions.
- Why did I think what I thought?
- Did I understand or,
- did I just think what my parents thought?
- Did I have facts?
- Could I back them up?
- Did I really know?
- Was I just parroting what I had heard?
- How did I reach these conclusions?
- Did I use logic?
- Or guesswork?
At the time I don’t think I entirely understood what was happening. But I knew it was important. I made a point of taking every class he taught for the remainder of my high school sojourn. I’ve had other good teachers in my life but none that could touch him. Thank you Mr. Z.
Mr. Ziegel made the prediction to our history class that gas prices would reach $2.00 a gallon by the year 2000. This “wild prediction” made everyone think Mr. Ziegel had lost his mind.
This was after all the enlightened 1970’s. There was no way anything that insane would ever happen. After all, Canada had our own oil fields. Yet since that time Canadian gasoline prices have exceeded one dollar a litre. Which converts to something in the neighborhood of four dollars a gallon. So as it turns out, Mr. Ziegel’s prediction actually turned out to be terribly conservative.
You may well be asking: high school? The metric system? Is this a digression or what?
And I’d have to say no, not entirely.
One of Prime Minister Trudeau’s majority governments forcibly implemented the metric system on Canada. Although the metric system is rational, our largest trading partner — the United States — was not on the metric system. (Of course they weren’t using the imperial system either, heck, I’m not sure what the American system is called.)
Canadians were not pleased. Not pleased at all. This was imposed on the country without any consultation. What recourse to Canadians have against a majority government? Uh, none actually. Our only option is to vote against next chance we get.
So what happened? Trudeau was voted out and Joe Clark in. Sadly Clark’s minority government only lasted a couple of months before a non-confidence vote triggered an election. During the campaign I remember Prime Minister Joe Clark warning Canadians that if Trudeau was re-elected, gas prices would rise by an extraordinary amount. And Trudeau countered with the promise that gas prices would not go up as much as Clark said. Naturally Canadians re-elected Trudeau with another majority government. Of course, Trudeau actually kept his promise because gas prices didn’t hit the high promised by Clark. Gas prices actually went much much higher.
The Trudeau Legacy
But even so we still didn’t really get it.
What we saw was that the big number on the gas station that used to be seventy cents was now only twenty cents. What didn’t really sink in was that twenty cents a liter really meant eighty cents a gallon. Because the real reason we got the metric system was so that adult Canadians who weren’t adept at conversion (aka, everybody) would not really understand that gas prices were actually going up so much.
Prime Minister Trudeau certainly had chutzpa, as well as being the most intelligent man to hold the Canadian office of Prime Minister. Even worse, he wasn’t just intelligent, he was smart. And yes, he did some good things for Canada, but still, I will never forgive him for realizing that under our electoral system a majority government is essentially a dictatorship with a time limit. Even worse, for making that fact crystal clear to all his less brilliant contemporaries.
Is it any wonder Canada has been poorly served by succeeding governments?
My political “awakening” happened in high school, thanks to Mr. Ziegel as well and other fine history teachers our school had. They taught us we could make a difference. I remember writing a letter to my MP Perrin Beatty and being totally amazed at a telephone call I received in response. But that was then. The Progressive Conservatives were the out of power “alternate party” so of course they were approachable.
Like many other Canadians, I have been increasingly disappointed in our governments.