A new election demands a new analogy

Thursday, April 28, 2005


Written by Scott Piatkowski

A year ago, I wrote a column in which I lamented the fact that the media appeared incapable of covering an election campaign (or the period leading up to an election campaign) without resorting to tired old horse-racing analogies. “Instead of giving Canadians a clear idea of what issues are at stake and where the different political parties stand on those issues, the media can be expected to focus almost exclusively on who is ahead, who is gaining and who is falling behind,” I complained.

Did anyone listen to me (or other critics)? On the contrary, media coverage of the 2004 was even more shallow than I had feared it would be. And, with another federal election coming (sooner or later), there’s nothing to indicate that we are in for anything better. Indeed, we’ve already been subjected to the release of at least eight opinion polls in the past two weeks alone. There’s been precious little analysis of those polling numbers and even less discussion about the issues driving those polling numbers. All we’ve heard has been speculation about when the government will fall and how the parliamentary seating plan will look after an election.

It has occurred to me that I made a crucial error when lambasting the media last spring. If reporters and editors are so addicted to substituting analogies for analysis, couldn’t I at least try to offer them a better analogy with which to work? Instead of reporting on elections as if they were a horse race, I’m suggesting that the media should liken them to a personal computer. Keeping in mind that I know just enough about my own personal computer to allow me to use it, here is my explanation of how the different parties fit into my analogy:

The Liberals are the screensaver of Canadian politics

When your computer is turned on but there is no activity for five minutes or so, the screensaver appears. In electoral politics, there’s a similar phenomenon, known as the Liberal Party. Given that the Liberals have governed Canada for most of the past century, it’s not surprising that they are the default party for many Canadians. This is particularly true of Canadians who fear other parties (in Quebec, those who oppose separatism tend to vote Liberal; in the rest of Canada, those worried about the Conservatives’ extremism on social policy are inclined to do the same). Periodically, something will jiggle the mouse long enough for the screensaver to disappear but, more often than not, it has reappeared again in time for election day.

In the case of the current scandals dogging the Martin government, there may be the rare opportunity to change the system settings so that the screensaver appears less often. If the level of corruption is as deep as it appears to be, that change could even result in a different party becoming the screensaver of Canadian politics. At the very least, it appears unlikely that the word Liberal is going to be flashing across your screen on election night – except possibly when the networks are reporting on who has lost their seat.

The Conservatives are the virus attachments in your e-mail inbox

The e-mailed offers are often tempting. Who can resist the opportunity to buy cheap pharmaceuticals without having to visit a doctor? Your spam sometimes promises interesting photos or a patch for a problem with your operating system. But, if you click on these offers, you’ll often find that, not only has your own computer been infected by a virus, but you’re also sending viruses to everyone that you know.

The Conservative campaign is likely to be similar to these e-mailed offers. They’ll try to sound as innocuous as possible in order to get you to click on their offer. But, if you elect them, you’ll soon discover that your entire system is compromised. In order to safeguard your system, it’s important that you activate the filters in your mail program so that these messages are immediately sent to the trash folder.

The Bloc Quebecois is like pop-up ads

Outside of Quebec, the Bloc Quebecois is treated by voters as something that pops up on their screen at inopportune times. When it does, they usually try to click it off their screens as quickly as it appears. What they fail to realize is that the Bloc is part of their system at all times, even if they’re not noticing it.

Inside Quebec, of course, the Bloc’s message is much more welcome (and becoming more so). That doesn’t necessarily mean that a majority of Quebecois would vote to separate, even if they vote for the Bloc. But, the unfortunate side-effect of the Bloc winning most of the seats in Quebec is that another party can form a minority (or even a majority) government without significant support in the province. And, unless someone other than the Liberals wins some seats in Quebec, the current government may not be defeated after all.

The NDP is the firewall that protects your system

There are constant threats to your operating system, so it’s crucial to have something or someone to guard against those threats. The NDP has served the role of guardian of social programs for decades, but few Canadians have noticed how important their role has been. This election may be the opportunity for the party to seek a role where its contributions can be better recognized (with votes).

I hear that the role of screensaver may be available.


| More


Back to Top

No comments

Share your thoughts

Bookstore First Year