“To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle” – George Orwell
Orwell provides a constant reminder to examine what is often obvious but neglected. Canadians watch political events in the Middle East and the US with a smug feeling that they could not happen here. That may not be the cased. Consider two examples.
There is a migrant-refugee crisis in the Middle East and North Africa, which is affecting Continental Europe and to some extent Russia. Nightly on television, the plight of families with small children are seen struggling to cross boundaries in search of some livable haven in Europe. My impression is that there are more men than women making these journeys.
Canada and the US feel that the Atlantic and Pacific oceans protect them from such migrants. What they forget is that North America has a similar crossborder version of these events. With an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the US and 500,000 in Canada, this continent has its own type of foreign refugee crisis, one which is playing out in the US presidential election.
A second example derives from the conduct of political electioneering in the US. What is sad and sometimes amusing is how Republican presidential candidates behave. What is not sad is why their supporters like this behavior, and the message which accompanies it. Rising inequality and stagnant incomes cause voters to support leaders who recognize these conditions and offer alternative policies. Whether these would work is not known, but some politicians promise to take action.
Is this happening in Canada? I think so, but to a lesser degree so far and in Canada’s largest city.
Rob Ford in 2010 tapped a reservoir of suburban, ethnically diverse and primarily working-class Torontonians who had felt frozen out of politics. They connected with his mantra of respect for taxpayers, rough edges and a down-to-earth charisma that seemed to reflect themselves.
As city councilor and then mayor, the late Rob Ford governed in a way which upset some people, but he represented a large swath of taxpayers who felt they had been given a rough deal. It is not what a Ford or Trump say, but why their messages have support, which is the lesson for Canada.
You don’t have to look too hard to see that Canada and the US have their own versions of the migrant crisis. And the political vaudeville in the US has a staged presence in Canada.