12/19/2011 11:00 EST | Updated 02/18/2012 05:12 EST

How to Lose it Like Trudeau


Wow. The success of my last post tells us something: if you are one of those people in the basement shouting at the TV news, you are not alone. I guess a lot of Canadians really are ready to be outraged by the outrageous. It's about time. Standing there getting hit in the face while saying "sorry" was starting to get old.

That's the good news -- we are legion.

The bad news? We are rudderless.

Back to the good news -- we can fix that.

But how? I've now been asked by many, "What can I do?" and have started to feel responsible for helping to articulate how we go beyond anger and towards action. I started to write a follow up piece along the lines of, "Five Things You Can Do to Save Canada."

It sucked.

Part of sucking is that in trying to avoid being arrogant ("THIS is what we need to do"), you end up laying out a shopping list of potential actions that just doesn't ring true. The fact is, while each Canadian does need to step up his or her personal contribution, we also need inspired leadership to stitch this effort together, or it won't have an impact.

So at this point I'm instead going to try to answer the question halfway. We need a bit more truth-telling to shape the activity that many of us are eager to jump into. We need to figure out what stands the best chance of working.

Here are three things, which are hard to say, but which we must grapple with if we are to do things that matter as opposed to spinning our wheels:

1) The government in Ottawa doesn't care what you think. You can write all the letters and make all the phone calls you want, but to a government who believes that anyone who disagrees with them are enemies to be destroyed as opposed to citizens with views to be engaged, it won't make any difference. The only thing they really care about is any credible threat to them losing power. And this means the only people they really cater to are swing voters in swing ridings -- people who can see themselves possibly voting Conservative, although not necessarily those who live in ridings that may go Conservative.

2) The Opposition is letting Harper have his way. If there was one sign that should be hanging on the walls of NDP, Liberal, and Green headquarters, it's this: "It's the Math, Stupid!" Harper was elected with 40 per cent of the vote, and 25 per cent of the eligible vote. Chretien governed because the right was divided, and Harper figured this out and fixed it. Pundits will roll out 27 reasons why the Opposition cannot or should not unite, but until it happens, the Conservatives will govern. Period. The only politicians publicly in touch with reality on this point -- so far -- are Pat Martin (no stranger to colourful language himself), and Nathan Cullen, who is running for the leadership of the NDP. Until more progressive politicians embrace the math, there is no credible threat to Harper.

3) Most of us are sheep. Sure I'm angry at the latest ideological insult from Ottawa, but what am I actually going to do about it in the morning? And are my neighbours even paying attention to anything out of Ottawa in the first place, other than whether the Sens beat the Leafs yesterday? I also don't want to be a downer at the Christmas party by rattling on about how Canada is going to crap, so I stick to talking about the weather, avoiding of course that weird weather conversation so as to stay on polite ground.

That's a pretty daunting trifecta of truth, one that could send someone back into their basement to shout at the television all alone, but I think once we grapple with it properly, it can be empowering. It's definitely necessary.

In short, we need to get together and organize smart, and in the right places. We need to be true friends to our friends in progressive political parties and tell them they need to get over their egos and get together. And, for those of us willing to step outside our comfort zone and shed our sheep's clothing, we must do so, while also charting a path for those who don't to instead flock together with us.

More on this in the New Year. For now, one final thought: If you'd like something more specific to sink your teeth into right now, and if you want to give a friend a gift of Canada this holiday season, then please check out and consider donating to a new organization that is relevant to this conversation, LeadNow.

Foul-Mouthed Politicians