Giving Ourselves A Wedgie

September 14, 2013

I was watching the National’s At Issue panel Thursday night – I believe it behooves me to occasionally seek out what white people are saying about current events, talkingheadsespecially the ones who only have regular recourse to a national newspaper once or twice a week – when the topic of the charter of Quebec values came up.

As a godless heathen, it’s a subject I’ve largely avoided paying much attention to. People and their religious symbolism is something of a mystery to me. But live and let live, I say. As long as no one is forcing me into a garment I have no interest in wearing, have at it. I will keep my views to myself except to note that if a crucifix is regarded as a cultural object maybe so too is a hijab.

But anyhoo…

My interest in the chat was peaked when the Toronto Star’s Chantal Hébert suggested the whole thing was little more than a wedge issue for the Parti Québécois. A way to galvanize the sovereigntist vote, largely outside of Montreal, in order to form a majority government. wedgeissuDivide and conquer, and all that.

Again, I don’t know enough about that particular issue to weigh in further than I already have but wedge politics, am I right? The surest sign a politician or party has run out of positive ideas. As was stated on the show last night, wedge politics is the evil twin of good policy. It benefits a few at the expense of the majority.

We’re watching it right now a province away here in Toronto with the never-ending saga of the Scarborough subway. This has been a wedge issue used by Mayor Ford to keep suburban and downtown voters at each others’ throats. When the words ‘deserves’ and ‘2nd class’ are bandied about in favour of something, you know you’re dealing with a wedge issue. There’s no rational or logical reason behind it. It doesn’t stand up to the light of day yet you can’t put a stake through its heart to kill it for good.

Like any effective wedge issue, the Scarborough subway is not good policy. robfordstreetcarsIt’s good politics in the sense of a useful tool to maintain a faithful base of support but terrible long term public policy.

It ultimately wouldn’t matter if the mayor was left to his own devices to try and use suburban subways for re-election. If everybody recognized it for what he was doing and just went ahead with the business of carrying out good policy. Unfortunately, too many politicians have reared up in fright, trembling at the prospect of being painted as anti-subway, anti-Scarborough, anti-suburb.

And it’s not just councillors looking out for their own best interests. The provincial government too has scrambled desperately to get on side, even to the point of turning their back on a transit plan years in the making. So determined are they to be seen as Scarborough subway proponents champions that even the premier is sabre-rattling her intention to ignore whatever city council decides and disregard the signed Master Agreement that’s still in place stating that a LRT line is to be built from the Kennedy subway station up to Sheppard Avenue. Replacing that with a shorter, 2 stop subway makes absolutely no sense, fiscally or transit wise.

“We will keep our commitment to the people of Scarborough to build the subway in Scarborough…,” the premier proclaimed on Thursday.wedgeshot

Whether or not it makes any sense. We said we would (at least as far back as the August 1st by-election campaign). The people of Scarborough said we should. That’s good enough for us.

Is it a surprise to anyone that voters have grown cynical and apathetic? Our politicians can’t even be bothered pretending that it’s not self-interest driving them rather than leadership or good governance. Who needs bold ideas when you can just exploit differences and divvy up just enough of the electoral spoils to maintain power?

I’d be much more indignant if the tactic didn’t work so well. Politicians wouldn’t do it if it didn’t, right? The question is, why do we so easily allow ourselves to be put into warring camps and exploited for political gain? In Quebec, I guess there’s a certain degree of tribalism at work. wedgiePure lainism and all that. But even that’s showing some serious cracks in it.

How did we become so tribal over an ill-advised subway extension?

It really doesn’t seem like something to circle the wagons over especially when there’s a much better alternative in place. Yet here we are, ready to plunge forward because enough of the potential electorate has been persuaded they’re being short-changed and are deserving of better, whatever that means. I guess if we’re simply looking out for number one, if we can’t see past our own little shires, there’s no reason to expect better instincts from our politicians.

splitly submitted by Cityslikr