Sitting in a rest area about 3,200 kilometres from the Yukon, with nary a political sign having been seen along the way, the lack of interest in the election was palpable.
Gas jockey Wayne kicked it off.
“Nope, I ain’t voting – only encourages the buggers,” he said.
“The only people excited by the whole thing is the media, and the number-crunching pollsters,” said waitress Liz. “Why should I listen to the same old, same old, I’ve been hearing since I left school. A professorial pundit on radio last week suggested only voters well informed should vote, resulting in the best choice of MPs for us all, and I ain’t well informed, so I might go spring bear hunting with my husband.”
“They’re all just pedlars of hope, without substance, except for the Bloc – where else but Canada eh?” said a gas jockey reading the National Post.
And that was it for the next 1,600 kilometres. The only people excited about the election were the media on silent television sets in restaurants. The volume was only turned on if it was an NHL playoff, or some royal wedding stuff.
Then Lady Luck smiled.
A Circle Senate meeting came along, my name not theirs. Apparently there are still a few around. They personify small-town Canada, meeting regularly at a special table in a Main Street restaurant, often the only restaurant.
They’re attendance is a bit like our plush chamber of sober second thought in Ottawa, but they only miss a day or two, not a year or two, with pay, like some of that other bunch.
Sometimes they get a free Timmies on the house; Sam brings it in special on the bus sometimes. They’re the folk who still believe elbow grease is still the best lubricant to get somethin’ done,” Something we all wish was contagious, especially in Ottawa.
“Well, well, well,” said Doc, when asked about the election. “Haven’t heard a word about those of us who don’t fit in. Actually I think the talk of our fearsome foursome is not much deeper than a spring mud puddle, and there’s only a week to go as they follow Kim Campbell’s lead, and nary a word, discouraging or not, has come forth about major issues.”
“Issues have sure been rare,” Peter added. “As rare as politicians like Tommy Douglas,” he added. “Sure could use his like in this country again, eh?”
“Lord t’underin” Jack interjected. “Ever since CBC had that Most Famous Canadian, or whatever, you haven’t shut up about him. He ain’t comin’ back!”
“Oh, for Christ’s sake, Jack, you’re the same – you’d vote for a suckling calf if it had a blue-bottle fly on it’s arse,” Jimmy cut in.
“Well it’s better than them foolish similes ‘bout red and blue doors,” he shot back.
‘Twas a dreary late April morning on the road less travelled in rural Canada, which is where there are more places where nobody is than places where somebody is. The opposite of urban Canada, where 80-some per cent live bunched up in megacities along the 49th parallel many of them ready to fly south with the Canada geese when the first snowflake dilutes their Starbucks.
“They never talk about malversation either,” Alex interjected. An ex-school teacher whose teaching hadn’t left him yet, but his precision in language was appreciated, with the whole circle senate wishing our politicians would follow suit.
“Their language slop always costs us, not them,” Alex concluded.
“OK, tell us, what’s malversation?” George asked.
“Corrupt behaviour in public office,” explained Alex.
“There’s nothing new about that,” Ray replied a bit disgusted, “Lord t’underin’ that’s been going in since Plato, Aristotle and them Greeks came up with democracy. What about climate change, our financial woes, health care in crisis, internecine wars all over the global village and our fighting men and women in some of them. Then there’s the biggest elephant in the global village, overpopulation; seven billion of us chewing up land, water, plants and animals, the whole ball of wax, and I’ll bet we’re increasing exponentially now.”
“You guys are all making good sense today,” said Dan, aiming at getting the last word. “But in all their preaching I haven’t heard the word I’m looking for from them all ‘together.’ They all claim to be working for the good of Canada and Canadians, well all but Duceppe, yet when it comes to the nitty-gritty they huff and puff like the big bad wolf and if they can’t blow the other parties ideas down they go off in a huff and pout to the press. Urban, rural, whatever, we do all agree Canada is the best country in the world, and I think together we could make it good for all not just the top dogs and cats, especially if we used another of my favorite words ‘sharing.’ Anyway, according to the national media there’s an election going on, whereas out on the road travelled ‘t’ain’t necessarily so.”
“If you’re a betting person, I’d bet we’re gonna get more of the same,” Dan said. “And all of us need remember the essay a young girl wrote after studying Socrates. “Socrates,” she wrote, “was a man who went about giving people advice. They poisoned him!”
But we’ve grown out of that, eh?
Doug Bell is a former publisher and longtime columnist for the Yukon News.