Survival Guide for a Conservative Canada.

The election is over, and a lot of people are nervous today. Stephen Harper has been seen as overbearing, dismissive, and uncooperative in a minority government -- now that he's got a majority government, what can stop him from doing whatever he wants to the institutions of this country?

Well, before we go too far into paranoia, let's remember: If right-wing politicians wanted nothing but money and power, there were other ways besides politics to achieve those dreams. They can't possibly have signed up for this job without loving their country and wanting to do a good job of running it. In every budget, there are going to be a lot of things to pay for, and only so much money to pay with. Yes, they'll have a different set of priorities, and there'll be disappointments, but try not to view it as a personal attack.

Really, I think the thing that's even worse than any policy changes is the sense of helplessness people will feel on seeing the country change around them. You can (and should) talk to your MPs, of course, and voice your opinion, but... well, it remains to be seen just how receptive the new government will be - either to the non-Conservative voters, or to the new opposition party.

But there is hope.

Simply put, just because the government wants to change your country, doesn't mean that you can't change it, too. To quote Gandhi, "you must become the change that you want to see in the world."

Are you scared that funding to the arts will be cut? Start supporting Canadian artists and the CBC. (CKUA also accepts donations, from what I hear.)

Will the Conservative Party ignore the environment? Then you're going to have to get green.

Is Canada's international reputation going to suffer from non-involvement? Not if Canadians are willing to fund international charities. (Alternately, travel to other countries, and try to be a good Canadian ambassador. That flag on the backpack is a powerful symbol, but it's one we have to live up to as well as benefit from.)

Does the current government seem to disregard the scientific community? Volunteer at a science museum. Even if all you do is stock shelves at the gift shop, you're freeing up valuable personnel that will let the museum run more education programs. (Think of it as "trickle-up charity". Appropriate, no?)

Are you worried that the news media will be neutered, and partisan networks will become more prevalent? Then stop buying the gorram Calgary Sun, and tell your workplace to get a subscription to a *real* newspaper, if people need a crossword puzzle in the coffee room that badly.

Will welfare programs be cut? You can see where I'm going with this.

If you're worried about same-sex marriage, abortion rights, or any of those most personal of topics... alas, even if the government gave you a big sloppy kiss and told you unambiguously to do what you wanted, there will still be people who try to look down on your decisions. It's regrettable, but your response will be the same then as it is now: "It's a shame that certain aspects of my life displease you, but you really don't have any need (or right) to interfere." (That remark can be seasoned to convey the appropriate level of sass, of course.) It's a battle, but Parliament is only one of many fronts on which it is fought, and a victory on any of those fronts makes it easier in the others.

Aside from that, support your local LGBTQ communities, support Planned Parenthood, and the next time some popinjay tries to cleverly point out that there's no such thing as a "straight pride" parade, simply remind them that we apparently had one on May 2, 2011.

The hidden beauty of this strategy is that it requires you only to do things which make you happy. In a way, that's perfectly fitting - the election made some people happy, and if you're not amongst those people, then you'll have to seek happiness in some other way.

The hidden horror of this strategy is that it's exactly what the Conservatives want. Cut programs, save money, and leave it up to the individuals and their private organizations to fill the gap. Do we somehow lose the game by playing along?

Of course not. If private initiatives result in a more environmentally-conscious Canada, for example, then that counts as a win, no matter which government is in charge. You don't elect a government to create a better government: you elect a government to create a better country. That's what we're doing here, and if we do it outside of parliament, then none can stop us.

Shall we begin?


jherbert said...

Denton, you are -- as always -- thoughtful and brilliant. Those of us who are left-wing Albertans, living under a provincial Conservative regime that has lasted since before many of us were born, much less old enough to vote, have learned that we need to stand up as individuals for what we value, rather than hoping that our legislative (or parliamentary) representatives will stand up for us.

We may not like a lot of the decisions the government will make for the next four years, but none of them will be set in stone. Everything that changes can change again. And the best way to respond to a government that we don't feel represents us as Canadians is to stay politically engaged, communicate with our fellow Canadians fairly and reasonably (whether they agree with us or not), and represent ourselves to the best of our abilities.

TilJ said...

Well said, Denton. One of the best political posts—of any stripe—that I've read in a long time.

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Canadian explorer. Chemist by training, biologist by nature. Long-time supporter and participant in National Novel Writing Month. Known as "Aquadeo" in most Internet circles. Also known as "that guy with the pants" to people who have seen me in certain pants.