Well, yes, it’s supposed to be a secret ballot and all that, but for the first time in my life, I’m planning to vote in next week’s Canadian election for a candidate of the Conservative Party, formerly known around my house as “that awful, ****ing Conservative Party.”
Decision’s been made, so may as well let the world know. I suppose this unaccustomed tendency to sag to the right is probably inevitable if you live long enough, but it nonetheless feels… unnatural and not just a little weird. It’s nearly as if I’ve just given in to an impulse to order the all-you-can-eat pancake special because it seems like an irresistible offer — lookit all them flapjacks for just three bucks — but then you remember, too late, that you don’t care for pancakes, and you’ve always been happiest with just a simple order of rye toast.
A person can always learn to like pancakes, I’m thinking.
As for this Tory who captured my support, the Conservative candidate in my riding has been nigh-on invisible to this point, at least along our inner-city block. Some of the people who recently moved in have placed signs for this mystery candidate on their lawns, but they are the same neighbors who demolished the sturdy old bungalows they acquired, and replaced them with tatty mini-McMansions. These newcomers all seem to back the individual named Taylor Train, and going solely by the name it seemed impossible to tell if the office-seeker is a man, or a woman, or an engineering concern active in the transportation sector.
Not an encouraging starting-point, but it turns out that Taylor Train is a somewhat ordinary chap in the financial planning game, and he could be, perhaps, a plausible-enough candidate for office, if such a thing can be said to exist.
T2 graduated from Queens University in Kingston, after which he placed himself in the service of our fair Dominion for 15 years, in the military. That career choice guaranteed my vote, since a business card that reads “Taylor, Soldier” is half the title of my favorite novel by John le Carré, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.” Apart from which, my quick analysis of T2’s positions reveals that he is a classic Red Tory, in the mould of Joe Clark, Bob Stanfield, Flora McDonald, and various other non-charismatic political figures that we once spent entire decades laughing at. No one’s chortling at the squares any more, since we’ve learned this much about charismatic candidates: their charm always manifests itself in an inverted fashion, once they become your elected representative.
An illustration of that last truism is Michael Ignatieff, the honorable Member of Parliament for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, and the leader of Canada’s federal Liberal Party. Ig was selected for his job in large part because, as a dashing academic and ex-BBC commentator, he was supposed to have scads, if not oodles, of charisma. Now just look at him. His election headquarters are located on shabby Dundas Street West in Toronto, in the former showroom of a relocated Jaguar dealership. That, to a T (for “Tragicomedy”), summarizes the situation regarding strange old Igby, and his doddering participation in the Canadian election campaign of 2011, which is now drawing to a close. And not a second too soon.
This morning, the windows of the abandoned Jag franchise are decorated with posters displaying Igby’s noble profile, framed in a over-lit silhouette. You have seen this starkly dramatic design applied previously — on placards at the Liberal leadership convention of 1968, the gathering that selected the flashy Pierre Eliot Trudeau over the plodders Paul Hellyer and Bob Winters.
Jaguars? Trudeaumania? Both were part of the new and shiny imagery that followed our sunny Summer of Bobby Gimby during the Canadian Centennial. Now the Jag’s buried somewhere in the very back of the wrecking yard, with dead Trudeau’s absurd wardrobe loaded up in boxes on its mildewed back seat. All these rotting talismans seem now like the stuff of prop comedy. Why would Igby want to cut such a ridiculous figure, swathed in Granddad’s hand-me-downs? If you caught his performance in the party leaders’ debates a couple of weeks back, you witnessed the odd demeanor and disoriented look of a man out-of-place, and time. “Let a thousand flowers bloom!”, Igby started to croak, as a rejoinder to some other pol’s banter. And then he seemed to realize, with mounting alarm, that he had unwisely cited a line from Chairman Mao (yet one more discredited late-’60s symbol), and it was too late to call for a do-over.
The next morning, the Lib-baiting, little-guy loving Toronto Sun was quick to scold the Igster for quoting a loathsome Commie bastard, mass-murdering nogoodnik, and so on — but, you know, does one more bit of misspoken silliness really matter, at this late stage of things? Ig’s no apologist for the excesses of vulgar Marxism and the old-timey Beijing regime — although some who remember him from his early days dabbling as a junior history prof at the University of British Columbia will insist that he may well have once been.
What he seems to be these days, mostly, is a shiftless, no-account opportunist, and I offer that judgement with all due respect. Rank opportunism alone is enough to endear him to the Tory-hating, logic-denying Toronto Star, but every now and then the discerning voter will search for a trace-element of integrity in someone who asks you to support them as a leader. Sorry, Igby, old son, but that is what ye dinna hae. In the words of that popular recording by Steely Dan, a big smash hit of 1977, the year when you were last seen flitting around the UBC campus, trying to cadge one of your colleague’s lecture materials: “It’s all over now, / Drink your big black cow, / And get out of here.”