Alas, so far in the 2015 federal campaign, there is an inescapable sense that the election exists entirely for those who would be elected, while the electorate itself is kept on the outside of the chain-link fence and allowed, at best, a vicarious peep at the goings on inside.
While the Conservatives have held invitation-only campaign events that apparently forbid in writing anyone from transmitting unauthorized information about them to the outside world, all three major parties appear content to practise a politics of tightly scripted platitudes and bromides.
Even the first televised debate was a form of charade with talking points. The three male leaders struggled to ape their media handlers’ instructions on the power of body language to communicate and conceal. May, meanwhile, did her best to portray a feisty upstart holding her own among the alphas. None of the four came within a sniff of saying anything remotely memorable, much less important.
Nowhere has this prophylaxis of nothingness been more absurd than on the so-called life issues — abortion and euthanasia — that are not merely being ignored but, it seems, collectively suppressed as campaign trail topics. This is, after all, a summer electoral contest taking place a scant five months before Canada crosses the historic political, sociological and cultural divide of legally allowing doctors to kill their patients. Whether we support or oppose the lethal injection option, it is a moment of monumental change in Canada.
Yet consensus has apparently been quietly obtained to prevent it from being raised. The Conservative government signalled its willingness to forgo any discussion by appointing a vague consultative panel barely two weeks before Parliament was dissolved, doubtless leaving the good people comprising it wondering just who they are meant to report to when their work is done.
The minister who appointed them showed his deep interest in the consultative process by literally announcing it on a Friday afternoon in July before he slid off home to Nova Scotia to make good on his commitment not to run again. The only thing approaching debate around physician-assisted suicide, then, is whether the government’s expert examination of it is meaningless, pointless or both.
Scarcely more confounding has been the silence around Health Canada’s approval of the abortifacient RU-486 just as the campaign began. In another context, a federal ministry’s apparently abrupt reversal of a ban on a toxic substance, and the clearing of that product for human ingestion, would have raised all manner of ki-yiing — some of it legitimate, some of it opportunistic, all of it very loud.
As the Catholic Organization for Life and Family expressed it well in a media release, the RU-486 reversal can’t possibly have anything to do with the notion of health that Health Canada is mandated to protect.
“RU-486 is specifically designed to end life in the womb and has nothing at all to do with the promotion of health. To the contrary, this is the same drug that was banned for use in Canada in 2001 after a woman died from septic shock during initial drug trials,” COLF pointed out.
“In the United States, no fewer than 14 women have died as a result of taking RU-486. The famed feminist and abortion ‘rights’ advocate, Dr. Germaine Greer described RU-486 as a ‘violently active chemical’ with ‘violent reactions on the organism.’ ”
Former Prime Minister Kim Campbell famously said an election is no time to discuss social policy, but one would think an exception should be made for inflicting upon society of a substance that endangers the lives of women and unborn children.
Of course, that exception requires all of us to insist loudly, persistently and provocatively that concerns of the electorate must be the primary purpose of election campaigns. If we do not, then we must resign ourselves to democracy itself becoming an unimportant plaything of politicians.
(Stockland is publisher of Convivium magazine and a senior fellow with Cardus.)