On behalf of all Canadians, sir, I would like to thank you. You have done it! You have really done it. You’ve managed to get us interested in federal politics.
This campaign season began several weeks ago with you standing solemnly in an empty Parliament to dismiss a supposedly unwanted election — triggered, of course, by your government being held in contempt of Parliament — as something sure to disappoint Canadians. You didn’t pull this dismissal out of thin air: after all, the last election, held just a couple of years ago, had the lowest turnout in Canadian history; young people between eighteen and twenty-four stayed home in droves, with less than 40 percent bothering to vote. Your party subsequently wrote off the electorate, especially its youngest constituents, and your rivals seemed to agree — in this month’s televised debates, there was very little mention of any issues of interest to young people. It seems like you all assumed that young Canadians won’t vote because they don’t care, so why waste your breaths?
But something has happened. There has been a ground swell of engagement by Canadians of all ages. The internet is ablaze with political talk, more people watched the debates than the NHL playoffs, and on campuses across the country — during final exams — students are holding vote mobs. Vote mobs, Mr. Harper! The very Canadians you dismissed as apathetic, it turns out, aren’t after all. They are forming mobs, sir, and a mob is the next best thing to a riot.
We saw something like this in 2008 — i.e., an unprecedented number of young and discouraged voters becoming engaged in politics for the first time in their lives. The problem was that it happened in American politics, and it centred on the charisma of Barack Obama. The sexiness of the American presidential election only served to highlight the dullness and hollowness of our Canadian choices, further discouraging voters.
But all that is changing, Mr. Harper. Things are really turning around. There are mobs, sir! Mobs! And this exciting shift is largely thanks to you.
I would like to tell you that your own charisma is inspiring Canadians to become involved in this election. Or that one of your competitors is taking the country by storm with a message of hope and change. But, much like last time, this election is pretty much void of any charisma, save for one plucky challenger. Left wanting for something positive and hopeful, Canadians have found an equally powerful inspiration in response to what you lack. These vote mobs, this Facebook chatter, the viral videos, and potty-mouthed websites that show the increasing engagement of those young voters you dismissed are not partisan per se, but are united, instead, by a severe distaste for the Harper Government and the questionable ways it runs things. Canadians from all walks of life, from the Arcade Fire, to Margaret Atwood, to Joe Nobody, are lashing out against your five years of secrecy, contempt, and hypocrisy. Canadians are engaged in federal politics now more than they have been in a very long time, thanks to you. And it looks like many young Canadians will now decide to vote for the first time. But unfortunately for you, Mr. Harper, it will be for anyone other than yourself.