Don Martin: Building back better on the snoozy side of the border
OTTAWA -- There’s a cure for Americans reeling from that brass-knuckled presidential slugfest, despairing over U.S. politics as a giant black hole from which intellectual light cannot escape.
For comic relief, look north.
To switch channels from the presidential debate on Tuesday night to the House of Commons feed was to flip between Game of Thrones and Sesame Street.
Never before has our closed border looked more like a welcome line of demarcation against the toxicity of a rabidly-divided electoral showdown in the United States.
You’ve undoubtedly heard or seen all the hair-pulling-out analysis of the grate debate that you can stomach by now.
But just have to note that, among so many head-shaking positions, President Donald Trump ducked on condemning white supremacy and put his racist storm troopers on standby for an election where he senses his pink slip is in the mail. The mind reels.
And despite having an arsenal of high-calibre anti-Trump ammunition at his disposal, rival Joe Biden haltingly fired off rehearsed lines with little sign of punch or clever spontaneity.
But while that debate was in meltdown mode in Cleveland, let’s contrast it to what was happening in Ottawa.
MPs were sitting late into the night to vote on a rescue package to help coronavirus victims and their families survive income interruptions.
And what a bitter fight it was. The opposition was apoplectic at the government’s legislative gall.
But, but, but… it wasn’t substantive opposition at all. It was anger at having time limits put on debating a bill which ended up getting unanimous support from all 300-plus MPs.
In other words, political polarization in Canada means to disagree over how long to debate something everybody agrees must be done.
If my American relatives hear about that, they won’t know whether to laugh or dash north to file political refugee claims at the border.
Ahhh, but our great divide would surely show itself in Wednesday’s return of Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet to question period.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal flock gave the opposition leaders a standing ovation to welcome them back from having successfully recovered from the virus.
Trudeau went on to commend O’Toole for asking questions about Indigenous reconciliation.
Then he shrugged off Blanchet’s odd gripe at a federal government rushing to give billions of dollars to help Quebec deliver health care, an area of provincial jurisdiction.
Seriously? A Constitutional argument over giving Quebec billions to fight a pandemic as it confronts an escalating number of cases? Controversy doesn’t get any more Canadian than that.
OK, there was an issue where the opposition had a serious line of attack.
The Trudeau government has been a foot-dragger in buying, approving and distributing rapid-testing for the coronavirus, a key part of any solution to the devastation it has unleashed.
Europe and the U.S. are far ahead of us in rolling out faster tests while Canadians are forced to stand in lineups for hours before waiting days for the result.
But with the circling opposition smelling blood, the government ordered up 7.9 million rapid-testing kits and Health Canada quickly rubber-stamped approval. And with that, goodbye controversy.
More than ever, the last 24 hours have crystalized the stark political divide between our two countries. And we’re exceedingly lucky to live on this side of it.
American kids watching the presidential debate and its aftermath have undoubtedly recoiled from politics as a snake pit best avoided or ignored in their future.
By fortunate contrast, our kids would have to be bribed with candy to watch our snoozy politics -- and they’d change the channel to anything else at the first opportunity.
That's the bottom line.