rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

A Linda McQuaig victory would make a by-election matter for a change

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Image: flickr/Mark Hill

Elections Canada placed an ad in the Toronto Star last weekend to advise us to be ready to vote on Monday, November 25. Well, not us, exactly. If you happened to catch this ad and happened to care enough to read the smaller print, you'd see the only people who had to be ready were in some place called Toronto Centre. Now there are 2.5 million Torontonians but only 89,000 voters in Toronto Centre. So who exactly lives in that riding? Who knows? There's not a clue about the riding boundaries -- no map, no nothing. Elections Canada didn't bother to include that bit of trivia.

In real life, how many citizens actually know the riding they live in? So unless one of the candidates knocks on your door or you see an election sign -- which look a lot like a "for sale" sign -- you might not even know there's a by-election going on. Which might explain the pathetic turnout in most by-elections, far worse even than the increasingly shameful turnout in general elections.

In some ways this inept and inefficient ad is a symbol of by-elections in general -- obscure, known by few, and with meagre consequences. There are actually four by-elections on November 25, two in rural Manitoba, one in Montréal, and of course the one in good old Toronto Centre (wherever that is), and the political class will inform you that the results are of monumental importance in determining the next Canadian government in two years time. To this I say a hearty donnez-moi une brisée.

Yes, the results make losers uncomfortable and the winners smug. But if a week is a long time in politics, what do you call two years? When the next federal election is held in 2015, these by-elections will be utterly forgotten, especially since they are representative of nothing at all. The two Manitoba seats have long been resolutely Conservative, the two urban ridings stubbornly Liberal. So if Mr. Harper's team loses one of his two -- and Brandon is iffy thanks to internal rifts within his party there -- or if Mr. Trudeau loses one of his, we must steel ourselves for hours, maybe even days, of sound and fury by the usual bloviating suspects that will surely signify nothing by the following weekend.

And yet there is one result that would truly shake up the status quo. If the NDP can pull off an upset in the Toronto Centre riding, the House of Commons will be graced by one of Canada's outstanding public intellectuals, Linda McQuaig, long a fearless advocate for a more just and equal Canada. The Prime Minister has been getting much publicity and polite reviews for his new book on hockey in Canada way back a century ago. As it so happens, Ms. McQuaig is also something of an author, though I bet Stephen Harper could take her hands down on a quiz about the birth of professional hockey.

She herself has rather different preoccupations, as you can judge by her nine books, seven of them best-sellers. In them Ms. McQuaig rather tramples on the PM's turf, since he is a "trained economist," if he says so himself. It's a nice coincidence, really: Ms. McQuaig's expertise is in shooting massive holes in the myths and dogmas of trained economists, especially those of the PM's neoliberal school.

To imagine her directly taking on Mr. Harper from across the aisle in Parliament makes one kvell with anticipation. NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, according to The Globe's authoritative John Ibbitson, is "the best politician in the House of Commons, right now, by a country mile." Ms. McQuaig would take little time, I'd bet, to be seen as the best social-economist in the House by a country mile.

What Ms. McQuaig knows, maybe better than any other Canadian, is how the system is rigged to help the privileged gain even more privileges. Her series of books documents the many ways in which the tax system benefits the rich, how the deficit is manipulated as an excuse to cut services, how our addiction to oil is jeopardizing our future. She knows her stuff, and she supports her conclusions with hard evidence based on extensive research.

To make the contrast with Mr. Harper even more piquant, his speaking style and Ms. McQuaig's could hardly be more antithetical. She's a charismatic figure who speaks with scathing passion, withering humour, and yes, even an occasional expletive to make a point (which as an MP I'm guessing she may need to avoid). This does not precisely describe the Prime Minister's style.

Linda McQuaig's the embodiment, in short, of all those critics the Prime Minister boasts he couldn't care less about. And their confrontation in Parliament depends entirely on a by-election somewhere in the middle of Toronto on November 25.

This article was originally published in The Globe and Mail.

Image: flickr/Mark Hill

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.