Comedian Robin Williams, both a genius and a mixed-up insecure, shy individual left as part of his legacy an oft-repeated one-liner: reality … what a concept. Politicians everywhere would do well to consider what Mork meant. For these days, especially in Canada, but to a large extent politicians everywhere seem to reside, pontificate and make far-reaching decisions in a vacuum, or their own politico/biodome, or closed system into which reality does not intrude.
And unfortunately this leads to toxic partisanship, the only way to describe what is happening in Ottawa, and goes far in helping to understand the present situation in Tallinn, where as of writing no-one, a month after the national elections is happy with the results and many point fingers, make absurd accusations. That seems to be the name of the game rather than acquiescing to the wishes of the nation, its people.
In theory democracy is based on each person’s ability to make free, uncoerced, informed decisions. Both Canada and Estonia are free, there is no coercion and, again theoretically, the voter is informed, thanks to social media, the ability to read and react to mainstream as well as independent media. Perhaps there is too much information. Yet part of growing up, having to wait until casting one’s first vote, having that first legal beer is based on the understanding that life experience is a critical stage in expressing one’s voice. Or rights, as we keep on uttering in the free world.
Alas, this leads to negative expressions. There are so many hashtag creatures out there – just consider #outrageculture and what that means. The minority chides or worse, excoriates the majority. Or those brave enough to take a stand. This is where it is difficult to avoid Canada’s long-lasting SNC-Lavalin scandal. Two political neophytes, women ministers in important posts were forcibly expelled by last year’s feminist flavour of the month, Justin Trudeau. Who keeps proving his true colours. As a (part-time) drama teacher before entering politics, banking on name recognition and cashing in on that is this a surprise? However, Jody Wilson-Raybould and Dr Jane Philpott, rookie MPS, rookie ministers, gaining cabinet posts perhaps only due to Trudeau’s oft trumpeted “because it is 2015” desire to emphasize that he respects women.
Wilson-Raybould keeps emphasizing the word principles. And even though she strikes the TV viewer as rather strident if not politically naïve, she has a point. As long as those principles are shared by the ethical majority. Philpott, personality-wise much more refined and considerate, supported her colleague in what is emerging as a blatant order to toe the party line. Principles do indeed matter. However, one does not win in politics without party backing. Look at Ontario’s sycophantic grovellers in the Conservative caucus. Only Randy Hiller, a maverick in the good sense of the word had the spine to stand up to an increasingly autocratic premier. With the not surprising result of being turfed from the party.
Politicians are not from the real world. As if that is news. How many silver-spoon party leaders, Prime Ministers has Canada seen? Coming from privilege, name recognition. (Not only Trudeau, but the two Paul Martins, senior and junior with massive wealth behind them). Robert Stanfield, perhaps the best Tory ever not to run a government inherited the garment manufacturer Stanfields – in business since 1856 – family fortune. And let us not forget NDP leader Jack Layton, also born into wealth. Ironic, then, that he became a socialist. And unfortunate, that his visions were not realized “in principle.”
Finally, women. Canada has never had an elected female prime minister. Kim Campbell assumed the mantle mid-term as Brian Mulroney sensed how the wind was blowing and resigned. Merely the most ignominious defeat for the Tories ever in the ensuing election, this with a woman at the helm.
To conclude, a return to Estonia, where the political partisanship is notably toxic. After a month of negotiations the Centre, Isamaa and EKRE parties were unable to reach agreement on a coalition. No surprise, such an alliance would have been doomed to an early demise. Centre relies on Russian support, is accused of being pro-Moscow. At the other end of the spectrum is EKRE, fiercely nationalistic to the extent that many on the left accuse it of being fascist, at the best neo-con.
Hence Estonian president Kersti Kaljulaid, the first woman to hold the post, turned last Friday to Kaja Kallas, leader of the “squirrels” (honestly, would you chose them for your mascot?), the Reform party, who gained the most votes in the election, asking her to form the new government. It remains to be seen with whom Kallas, saddled with the sins of her father Siim - who perplexingly was elected vice-chairman of the new Riigikogu – will open negotiations. There seems to be no viable partner in this messy game. Estonia, by the way, has also never had an elected female prime minister.
Justin Trudeau’s antics, resulting notably last week with the Daughters of the Vote expressing disgust in a respectfully quiet way by turning their backs, quietly on the PM, are reprehensible in what once was a genuine democracy. Unfortunately, as a myriad of examples prove, placing party over principles is a malaise sweeping the Western world. Ethical, moral behaviour, believing in your convictions matters not a whit.
Tõnu Naelapea, Toronto