In the ramp-up to the Canadian federal election on Monday, Sept. 20, politicians and news media alike were reminding voters that this would be the “most important” election of our lifetimes. But when the smoke cleared and the votes were tallied, it may well have been the least consequential election in Canadian history.
In terms of seats won or lost by the major parties, it might be the Canadian election that affected the least change, with the Liberals gaining one seat, the Tories losing two, the Bloc and NDP each snagging one, and independents losing two. To find an election that’s comparably boring, you need to go all the way back to 1882, when the Conservatives’ majority of 134 seats remained unchanged from the 1878 election – but even then, the Liberals still managed to jump from 63 seats to 73.
As I wrote last week, I always enjoy voting, even when I’m not particularly excited about any of the election’s prospective outcomes. But every step of the process on Monday felt perfunctory. I was struck by a feeling I almost never feel when it comes to politics: apathy.
I spent my early adulthood galvanized by the frustrating reelections of Stephen Harper, a prime minister who slashed arts and culture funding, abolished long-gun registration, lowered Canada’s corporate tax rates to some of the lowest in the world, increased military spending by billions, whipped up xenophobia by proposing a hotline to report “barbaric cultural practices” and still found time to engage in voter suppression and, shortly before his election, attempt to bribe a dying independent MP to vote against the Liberal government. 2015 brought the relief of “no more Harper,” but also the election of Little Lord Justin and his many progressive promises that gave way to much less progressive policies.
But this election felt like, for lack of a better term, a fart in the wind: silent but not at all deadly, it was a big hullabaloo that changed nothing. That’s not to say there’s nothing to be mobilized by. For instance, the far-right People’s Party of Canada raked in 800,000 votes despite its welldocumented ties to white supremacists. Canadian anti-racists have a lot of work to do between now and the next election. But for folks who get excited about politics, this was the Game of Thrones finale of elections.
Published in Volume 76, Number 3 of The Uniter (September 23, 2021)