The (Baby) Face of Canadian Politics

Musings about the current state of Canadian politics and why voting still matters, maybe more than ever. And that baby face? It’s not what you’re thinking.


I have edited billions and billions of pages (OK, OK, maybe just tens of thousands), preserving technical accuracy, adding marketing sizzle, confirming contractual compliance, and converting unclear, tedious prose into clear, easy-to-review, and even readable text. Says me.

I have struggled to satisfy three groups with competing (and often opposing) interests: the original writers, the executives reviewing the draft, and the clients evaluating the submission. The biggest part of the struggle has been working with the folks who fight every change on the basis that their perspective is the only one. That what they care about is all that really matters.

To the degree that I am good at my job, it’s not so much because I can read and write English, but because I can develop options, and generate compromises. It wasn’t always so, but in 25 years I’ve learned a few things.

I’ve learned that there is more than one way to say anything, and that not everything is a hill to die for.

I’ve learned that there are no perfect solutions, that I can’t make all the people happy all the time, and that, sometimes, it’s not about choosing the best option, but about choosing the best of a bad set of options.

Why do I mention this now? OK, OK, why do I belabour it?

Today marks two weeks since the federal election call (Two weeks down, nine to go. Sigh.) and I find that the world as I would like it to be bears little resemblance to the options I have before me. Dagnab it.

Close-up of baby crying.

I don’t like it!

What do I want that I don’t have? I’ll tell you.

I want a believable story about Senator Duffy.

Close-up of baby with uncomprehending look on face.

Huh? Are you kiddin’ me?

I want an acknowledgement that the years of deficit spending were urged on the government by the opposition parties that now decry it.

I want an adult discussion of terrorism and of crime in our streets, instead of what I see as fearmongering.

Close-up of baby with wide eyes.

Now you’re scaring me!

I want a calm discussion of the economics of building oil refineries in Canada, before we hammer any government for exporting jobs along with unrefined crude.

I want feasible suggestions on First Nations’ issues. You remember those folks: They’re the ones who hit the news cycle every six to twelve months.

I want constitutionally viable options for Senate reform, not bullshit. Oh, sorry, was that my outside voice?

Oh yeah, and while we’re at it, I want leaders I wouldn’t mind having as neighbours.

It doesn’t look like I’m going to get any of that, anytime soon. Well, dagnab it. I definitely feel like pouting.

Close-up of baby looking betrayed.

It’s OK to be a little bit sad.
Just don’t stop there.

For anyone who feels as I do, even if your specific issues are different, I say this:

“Don’t pout: Vote. Accept that you can’t have perfect, identify your non-negotiables and your priorities, and vote. Hold your nose if you have to, but vote.”

Although I can’t validate it from scholarly research, I have a sense that it’s exactly when the options aren’t great that it’s most important to weigh in.

And for any happy souls who don’t know what I’m talking about, who see only one possible choice and are delighted with it, I say this:

“Vote if you must, but please, please, stay away from my proposal teams.”



For a rather more considered treatment of this subject (at least one without the baby faces), see John Robson on why he can’t vote Conservative, John Pepall’s response, and John Robson’s next piece on why he can’t vote Green, either.

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12 Responses to The (Baby) Face of Canadian Politics

  1. Dave Jobson says:

    I am afraid we are all like the frogs in the pot of boiling water. A very unlikely event like removal of the heat or removal of the pot from the stove are likely to happen to save us from our deadly fate. Both the voters and the politicians are frogs in the pot. It is the very rare frog who sees the need to jump out of the pot. Of those who do only a small proportion will see the need to turn down or remove the heat to save all the frogs still in the pot. Most of the out of pot frogs prefer to keep their advantageous position for themselves alone.
    Neoliberalism prevails!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Dave J – We watch the coverage of American politics, and the Donald Trump phenomenon is getting mixed interpretations. One is that his popularity is about a deep anger in the electorate over the political establishment, which they see as being all & only about getting re-elected. Maybe their pot is the same as ours. Politics has always been about getting and retaining power, but in such a connected age, the blatant exercise of power is highly visible to those who cede power. Interesting times.

  2. The message of global warming appears to be that the “business as usual” approach of the Financial Post article against building refineries is in itself flawed. Someone or several ones must stop exploiting the oil reserves. Perhaps they can imagine and enact safer alternatives, but stop they must. Two or three people in the 1% stratum recently have called on their friends of privilege not merely to be more philanthropic, but to retool the system that has been so generous to them but not so much to others. The same critical need applies to resource extraction and manufacturing.

    A few years ago, I edited a text for engineering students designed to frost a layer of civility over the math and science substrate of their studies: primarily through attention to writing formalities but also through reading and thinking about the impact of their projects on humans near and far. One of the authors had a Ph.D. in English as well as in engineering and she agreed that you cannot insist on philosophy and religion courses in the present climate of technical and engineering schools, although such disciplines of thought and behaviour are essential to ongoing life on the planet. She concurred with some of my more challenging questions and made her students read Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. But that failure of sober consideration of the consequences of their unfettered imaginations has dogged the drivers of innovation since the Tower of Babel and the Egyptian pyramids. Our love for the combustion engine and atomic energy reactor recapitulates their hubris.

    The more primitive “cottage life” to which some of us retire for the summer is the lifestyle to which we should aspire, according to John Robson, who incorrectly equates the fantasy he has lived on non-arable land by no-longer-pristine lakes with Tolkien’s Shire, thus missing the central point of the The Lord of the Rings — Frodo pays with his life for Sam’s future of married life in a self-sustaining agricultural community. More realistically, the plight of our Aboriginal brothers and sisters on what is left of the violated land awaits us all.

    The political question is, which of the candidates may help to forestall that day of reckoning? I agree with him that it cannot be Harper. How to vote strategically is the burning issue in my riding that has a Con incumbent and has been gerrymandered.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – I hope to live long enough to see some forms of direct democracy, enabled by technology. I recognize that it has its own potential flaws, but I’m deeply tired of the posturing and game-playing that seems to be an inevitable accompaniment of our representative system.

      • That idea deserves greater attention. For the meanwhile, an election result that furthers democracy would be gratifying.

        • Isabel Gibson says:

          Laurna – Yes, the winner-take-all approach has its flaws, all right. I guess proportional representation can also lead to unstable configurations, but sometimes unstable looks pretty good!

  3. Dave Jobson says:

    It is the financial system that is my target. Private banks create our money and charge us interest for doing so.They are are motivated to earn a profit thus the world goes deeper into debt. And then the ” ? choose your own not nice word ” preach austerity which makes us all worse off.
    Believe it or not the Bank of England has already admitted their bad.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Dave J – Maybe it’s naive of me to think that the internet gives us an unprecedented opportunity for transparency, whether in our financial or political systems. But I guess we still have to be paying attention.

  4. Dave Jobson says:

    While most people are capable of rearranging deck chairs on a cruise ship very few are able to chart the course the ship is taking and that includes politicians. So when we listen to politicians what we are hearing about primarily is where they plan to put the deck chairs. We are stuck with the course were on. Fortunately for Canadians our cruise at the moment is one of the better ones though we might at sometime run into rough or unfriendly seas.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Dave J – Stephen Covey talked about managers and supervisors, who help the workers hack their way through the jungle (sharpening machetes, directing work crews, arranging supply logistics), as opposed to leaders, who climb a nearby tree, look around, and call down, “Stop! Wrong jungle!” I think our current PM does some of that (trade deals and his support of Israel and Ukraine), but some appears to be nothing but using the deck chairs people already paid for to offer them better seats. To mix a metaphor or two.

  5. Jim Taylor says:

    I agree (mostly) with your wishes for Canadian politics, but I was really taken by your description of the role of editing. I think you suffered from a disadvantage that I didn’t — you had clients paying the bills. Generally, authors were writing for ME, so I had the final say, even if they grew intransigent about their little-darling wordings; if they didn’t like it, I didn’t have to publish it!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – Editing technical content (outside my knowledge area) that will form part of a contract, but only if its marketing message is successful and only if it self-evidently follows the client’s submission instructions – yes, it feels like serving several masters, all right! But your apparent final-decision authority was I suspect, only as good as your circulation trends, no? You, too, had another master – just more diffuse and less targetable than mine.

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