What the devil is Canada’s status quo?

Let’s imagine that the peculiar universe that is Canadian politics has a referee hulking in the shadows. Careful not to infringe on the Game of the Great North, she—Canada’s ref would naturally reflect anti-gender discrimination policies, and will preferably belong to visible minority—hasn’t called a time-out in decades. But, given the toll the first 10 years into the 21st century has taken on Canada, she notes that it’s time for a wee break. After checking that the phrasing of her decision is progressive-sounding enough for the NDP, double checking that her position hasn’t been cut by the Conservatives, and triple checking that the Liberals are still around, she calls for half time.

In the locker rooms of Canada’s main parties, then, the big questions are asked: where are we? How will the lines play in the next half, who will get benched, who will fade into oblivion? Most importantly: who will be leading the rankings come next season?

Rumours from the NDP camp has it that Captain Mulcair, formerly of the Liberals, is having issues rallying his entire team behind him. The veterans are adamant that the old playbook is the way to go, while some rookies—many of them still bedazzled about their unexpected draft from the minors last season —believe in their bearded leader’s plans to bring the centre through their team. Or their team around the centre. Or whatever. What’s important is that they will not quite be the centre.

Meanwhile, Rae of the Liberals, formerly of the NDP, is rallying his troop(s?) for battle. Ready to get back at it, the Libswill start the next half by standing steadfast in what they believe. Whatever that happens to be. The game plan will mainly revolve around convincing Mulcair to face Justin Trudeau in the boxing ring, and running a series of attack ads about Harper stealing candy from babies.

The Conservative front is quieter than usual. Their leader has taken the break as an opportunity to welcome other nations into the game. He was last seen offering home-made Albertan oil to a panda bear in China. His starting line-up is still strong too. The expert advice that counselled them not to pursue those fighter jets—advice they ignored—has turned out to be, well, expert advice. Hopefully the expert advice they received not to table their omnibus penalty box bill—advice they ignored—will be anything but expert advice. One small ray of sunshine is the high job growth of last month, which may distract spectators from accusations that the Tories have been rigging the game since last season.

Half-time analysts highlight the identity formation of both the NDP and the Libs. As the former juggles the fine line between holding onto its social democratic fan base while providing fiscal strategies that most Canadians find realistic, the latter needs to offer more substance than just We’re-The-Moderate-Option rhetoric. The Tories, on the other hand, are busy with identity protection. They’ve carved a brand for themselves in the West, Canada’s new economic heartland, and need to keep the small-but-safe team management product they’ve been selling attractive.

Home ice will be important for all teams as they emerge from the break. Fortress Calgary should give Harper’s crew enough spark to continue dominating the game, even while Montreal provides the NDP with a fertile incubating ground for retaliation. Where exactly the Libs have relocated remains a big question mark. A beleaguered Ontario does not bode well, but it will play a key role in the Great North’s ability to sustain all three of its most popular teams.

But whatever predictions one can make about the next half, the next season is thoroughly up in the air.

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