Election campaign an offensive farce

With all due respect to the venerable ideal that is democracy in Canada, Canadians should be excused for suffering from "election fatigue." This ailment follows the recent four-week debacle that was the federal election, one that might be aptly described by what Shakespeare once wrote: it was, "the rankest compound of villainous smell that ever offended nostril."

Whatever one thinks of the election results, the fact that the vote was more reality show than an exercise in nation building should make every Canadian weep with rage regardless of their political beliefs. This election will be remembered more for its drama - the surge of the NDP and its suddenly credible leader, the collapse of the Liberals and its intellectual head, the exclusion of the Greens, the desperation of the Conservatives for a majority - rather than issues.

Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that in a culture that loves reality shows we've let elections degenerate to farce. But it's a pity because there are many nation-building issues that needed to be addressed. That should specifically worry Christians who believe that they are called to influence our society not only on issues that matter to them as people of faith, but on all issues that make Canada what it is and what it will be.

Where, for example, were the Conservatives on the abortion issue - a prime issue for Evangelicals and Catholics? One would think these groups were prime pickings for small "c" conservative religious voters. The party went into full-blown damage control during the election mode when one of its sitting MPs, Brad Trost of Saskatchewan, suggested that he contributed to denying funds to pro-abortion group International Planned Parenthood Federation. Stephen Harper didn't just deny Trost, he threw him under the campaign bus, vowing to "defeat" any attempt to even raise the lack of an abortion law in Parliament.

The point on the abortion issue is not that the Conservatives - the supposed champions of "family" values - betrayed their conservative credentials. (This is the same party that torpedoed the attempt by Conservative MP Ken Epp to make it a separate offence for killing a fetus when a pregnant women was murdered). It is to say that all politicians of every stripe agree that some issues are taboo and public debate of such issues should effectively be prohibited.

It is not just those "family values" issues like abortion that appear to now be off-limits during elections and beyond. Where, for example, was there any discussion about the huge role the Supreme Court of Canada has in deciding the direction of the country? More specifically, where was the debate on whether or not Canadians should have more say in who is serves on the Court?

Consider this: the Supreme Court is by far the single most important decision-making institution in Canada, far more powerful even than the elected Parliament. Since 1982 when the Charter of Rights and Freedoms gave the judges the power to interpret or strike down federal and provincial legislation basically at will, the court - not the elected Parliament - has decided Canada should have no abortion law, that the law against assisted suicide should remain in effect, that gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry and are protected by human rights legislation, that group sex at "sex clubs" do not offend community standards and that the state cannot regulate personal religious beliefs.

The Court has also decided that Quebec cannot declare unilateral independence and that private health insurance is perfectly fine even within the state-funded medicare system.

But with four of the nine current judges on the court over 70 and likely to retire in the next two or three years, the prime minister will be populating the court with whomever he chooses. Should Canadians be worried that the majority of the Court will change and bring their own personal legal biases to bear on the future of this country without any public input? Should we introduce U.S.-style grilling of Supreme Court nominees to give Canadians a chance to vet these all-powerful judges? Or should we have a non-political ad hoc committee vet judges as the British do?

Unfortunately, Canadians did not and likely will not have a chance to debate such important questions.

An election should be a time to ponder such issues. Promises made to be broken and disgraceful television ads are not what make elections. People make elections. Inspiring voters to consider where the future of Canada lies is what democracy should be about. But forgive us if too many of us are turned off by the offensive farce that has become election campaigns.

Oh, Canada.

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