Is it just me, or are Canadian politics more interesting than what's happening in the U.S.? And in an election year! When did that happen?
South of the border, it was officially decided this week it will be Romney vs. Obama for the presidency. To me, that shapes up as a dud, firstly because Romney can't win, but also because both candidates are sorely lacking in character. Neither carries the inherent likeability of a Bill Clinton or the sheer bizarreness of Bush Jr. For that matter, neither has the transcendence of Obama, circa 2008.
Romney registers virtually no human emotion, and when he does it comes out looking and sounding creepy -- amazingly, he manages to be more endearing (it's all relative) when he's at his most robotic. He does not inspire or connect with voters, aside from die-hard Republicans who would literally vote for an elephant if it won the primary. A man who lacks the ability to relate on a simple human level cannot win the White House, nor should he.
For his part, Obama has lost his edge. America's economic tsunami wiped out the hope; the change never really came. He has become a cookie-cutter politician to his own detriment, and has lost his ability to energize an electorate -- it's unlikely he'll be able to rediscover the unique spirit of the last campaign. Even his most recent stab at rekindling the fire via "change" -- his support for gay marriage -- fell short because, inconceivably, Biden beat him to the punch.
By contrast, here in Canada, we have an abundance of intriguing political characters: A prime minister who seemingly revels in his role as the villain; a bulldog of an opposition leader; a Liberal willing to literally beat the crap out of another human being to score political points.
And Elizabeth May.
The Conservatives have used their Commons majority to send a big f-you to all opponents. "You don't like what we're doing," they say, "well suck it because we've got the votes." The party has not only accepted its role as national heel, it's seemingly relishing the opportunity. And at the centre stands Stephen Harper, the biggest heel of them all who has nonetheless single-handedly changed the course of this country. The attacks leveled against the PM almost daily -- including robocalls -- have barely made a dent; his approval rating hasn't dipped significantly in months. It's incredible.
The NDP is on the up and up after the last federal election. No longer the perennial also-ran, the party has undergone a dramatic transformation since the death of Jack Layton. Thomas Mulcair, tasked with bringing to the NDP the ultimate victory, has certainly brought a dose of spice, a conspicuous edge that is foreign to what the party was previously. But it's also clearly a necessary edge if it is to make further gains and eventually lead this nation. His "Dutch disease" statement showed he has the guts to speak his mind to Canadians, and for that reason alone was a revelation.
And then there's Mr. Trudeau, son of another of our great political characters. After being condemned last year for calling Peter Kent a "piece of sh-t" during question period and for sporting truly awful facial-hair, he bounced back in a big way, beating the snot out of Patrick Brazeau in a boxing ring. The fight was a risky PR move -- he'd be dead in the water right now if he had lost -- but it paid off big time. If the Liberals know what's good for them (a big if, yes), they'll anoint him leader of the Liberal rebuild as soon as possible.
Even Elizabeth May is getting frisky, promising to perform a one-woman filibuster of the Tories' omnibus budget bill in protest against proposed limits on environmental reviews. "They can take me out of the House on a stretcher," she says, before she'll yield the floor. I hope that's exactly what happens: A stretchered-out Ms. May, rendered completely exhausted due to extreme filibustering would either be the funniest or bravest act in the history of Canadian politics. Either way, it would be damn entertaining.
All in all, Canadian politicians are whipping their American counterparts' collective butts -- they're making the scene in Washington look like amateur hour.
Yes, it probably won't last -- the media and the Democratic and Republican parties have a significant interest in making the U.S. election a big deal. As November draws nearer, they will go to great lengths to get people to tune in, to make us believe Obama vs. Romney is the single most important election in the history of humankind.
But until then, Canadian politicians should enjoy their moment in the limelight. The sweetest victory, after all, is beating your opponent at his own game.