Somewhere between, say, the National Citizens’ Coalition and the Rhinoceros Party of Canada, there must be room for a new movement to confront the concerns of ordinary people. We mean the issues that really concern ordinary people, not the issues that politicians say should concern them. There is a decided difference.
Unfortunately, at the federal level at least, the differences have become muddled. Instead of politicians going home on weekends to listen to constituents, they seem to spend all their time delivering re-election speeches, telling their voters what’s wrong with this country and how they, if re-elected, will fix it.
Then it’s back to Parliament to say that “over this great land, people are demanding that we lower the budgetary deficit.”
Quick, when was the last time your train trip was ruined because other passengers insisted on talking about a lower deficit?
You see, one of the problems here is the weekly caucus, when MPs cluster behind closed doors, listen to their colleagues’ positions on major issues—naturally they’re all national in scope—and then plot speeches accordingly. Obviously, there isn’t much opportunity for them to talk about the lack of public washrooms at the local level. And it’s a great pity. Because for every person I’ve heard mention budgetary deficit in the past five years, there are roughly 28 who want directions to the nearest public relief station. This being one of the few countries in the world with 1,000 public telephones for every public washroom, our knee-crossing visitors can only be told to enter the nearest restaurant and beg for mercy.
Yet, when is the last time anyone has spoken out on this particular crisis facing ordinary citizens?
Or music pollution? We hear all about the dangers of acid rain, assorted industrial pollutants and raw sewage in the St. Lawrence—all legitimate concerns— but nobody is protecting us from recorded music pollution. And that damned stuff is everywhere.
On elevators we are forced to listen to Mendelssohn. In dental chairs we get Lawrence Welk with the drill. Doctors have been known to give us a dose of Willie Nelson with a needle. While a
Stewart MacLeod is Ottawa columnist for Thomson News Service.
telephone receptionist puts us on hold, we are blasted by the Beatles. And anyone who’s a frequent flyer is likely to become confused at live concerts unless each movement is interrupted three times with reminders that seat belts are to be fastened at all times. It’s reached the point where there must be a market for soothing industrial noises to make us forget that horribly harmonic day at the beach.
Speaking about things piped in, when is the last time a political party has promised that, if elected, telephone solicitation would be outlawed? And can you think of any single problem that causes more grief around the supper table—with the possible exception of the teenager with the Walkman who plays drums with the fish knife on the butter patty. At any given time, there are probably far more Canadians talking in varying degrees of rage about the telephone plague than about free trade. Far,
Quick, when was the last time your train trip was ruined because other passengers talked about a lower deficit?
far more. Nothing’s being done.
Who in heaven’s name is going to protect us against plastic bubble packs, those formfitting and everlasting containers that automatically triple the price of everything in hardware stores, defy bare-handed entry, and reduce otherwise normal human beings to babbling lunatics? Yet not one parliamentary speech.
Sure, from time to time, a politician will take on a cause that truly affects us, and we must not ignore that brave brand of MPs who recently brought the chartered banks to their knees over service charges. But it wasn’t revelations about big-buck losses that did it; it was the down-home stories, like the little lady being zapped two bucks for changing a $20 bill, that did the trick. Had she been forced to pay 29-per-cent interest on a $2,000 loan, no one would have given a tinker’s damn. We turn off at four digits.
Barry Turner, the energetic Tory MPfrom Ottawa-Carleton, deserves an average-joe award for his sterling stand against the CBC a few years back when it dropped The Friendly Giant—even if
the stand didn’t do much good. Then, neither did the more powerful political uprising against the cancellation of the Don Messer show some 15 years earlier.
But that was a proud moment on behalf of the elusive average Canadian and it produced, by far, the best demonstration ever seen on Parliament Hill. Fiddlers galore.
When it comes to broadcasting, we’ve always taken the high road—a sort of esoteric through way—and become obsessed with the origin of programs and, of course, their impact on Canadian creativity and culture. And does this reflect the daily concerns of Canadians who might have had a hard day on the trapline?
“I am afraid we’ll have to turn off this good movie, Martha. It doesn’t seem to project the creative independence as guaranteed to the CBC under the Broadcasting Act.” Happens all the time.
Tell you something else that happens all the time. While parliamentarians conduct a verbal holocaust for and against tax reform, there are thousands of ordinary Canadians quietly going insane because they can’t locate a certain page in their favorite magazine. Now there’s a noble cause—making it a capital offence for publications not to number every page, in the same spot, regardless of content.
We have become a nation of storystarters. The mystery tour of magazines starts with the words “continued on page 93.”
In the past 20 years, we have had something like 16 commissioned studies into Canada’s economic prospects— all of them reaching roughly the same conclusion, that we’re rich in natural resources. But in that same period, not one parliamentarian is on record as proposing a study into why employees of health food stores always look so undernourished. Nor have we had any royal commission into the devastating effects of bumper stickers on nearsighted and tailgating drivers. Lord knows how many people have gone to eternity trying to read those “Baby on board” signs.
And don’t look to the media for help unless, of course, the sign is in the window of a government jet, being read by a freeloading politician who is tailgating in the Prime Minister’s spare jet at 8,000 bucks a minute.
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