Welcome to history. You’re living it and making...
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Oct 18, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Welcome to history. You’re living it and making it: Tim Harper

The longest campaign in modern Canadian history has kept this country engaged longer than ever

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Yes, there were days when we thought we would never get here.

The longest federal election campaign in modern history but, though we may have tuned out from time-to-time, a campaign which engaged more Canadians for a longer time than any in recent memory.

Never before so long, but also never before so close. Fittingly, then, it will deliver history Monday.

History often sneaks up on you or assaults you when you’re not looking. In this case, a date with history has been circled on this day on the calendar for ages.

All elections promise history, but some deliver generational change. There is potential for that type of realignment Monday.

At some point over 78 days all three major parties led the pack, the pollsters told us, and that has never happened before. All three parties at one point trailed in third place.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper controlled all the levers, the timing and the cash. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau would be proved the neophyte who could not keep up with Harper and his real challenger, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.

That was the saga placed before the country Aug. 2.

It held — until it changed.

Over 11 weeks, it gave us every possible twist. There was the Trudeau-Mulcair battle for the change vote, the apparent fade of Mulcair, the Trudeau renaissance, Harper’s push back against that tide of change and his electoral death, which proved wildly premature.

It stretched over three months, three long weekends, two seasons and five (somewhat sparsely viewed) debates. It began in the days of shorts and flip flops. The Blue Jays were six games behind the Yankees.

It ends after the first frost and a playoff game at Rogers Centre competes for our attention on election night.

Vitally important issues of the moment faded into the fog, to be replaced by others that no one had anticipated, then to be replaced by those that were merely political constructs.

We went from debating budget bottom lines to a discussion which cut to the core of what it meant to be Canadian — the value of our citizenship, our history of welcoming the world’s neediest, our treatment of our neighbours, our place in the world, our accommodation to others with different customs and garb.

Some of the debate soared. Some of it headed straight to the ditch, sullied by a welt of lies and exaggerations meant to sow fear and appeal to our innermost darkness rather than challenging us to rise above the distractions and seek to become better Canadians.

Niqabs, snitch lines and revoked citizenships really had no place in this campaign, but there they were, alongside brothels in the suburbs and “marijuana stores” beside schools.

Early on, it appeared we were heading for history with the potential election of Mulcair and the first NDP government in this country.

Much must be written in the days ahead about a potential winning campaign that faltered on niqabs, balanced budgets and an overabundance of caution. But Mulcair can still prove the 2011 NDP surge was not a fluke, little solace to a base that saw a dream dashed, but a result which would cement the party as a potential government rather than a third fiddle in the political firmament.

More still will be written about the Harper hubris, which led him to seek a fourth consecutive victory rather than seek an exit ramp to renew his party.

A campaign which began with Conservative cheques in mailboxes, turned to Mike Duffy, then the economy, veered into fear and ended with hokey gameshow tactics and an embrace of the Fords.

Trudeau was the story, win or lose — the naïf who wouldn’t go away, confounding an NDP which had no plan to counter that resilience and Harper, who unwittingly gave him the time to shed the “just not ready” tag.

And the history?

If he wins, Trudeau will become the first offspring of a prime minister to win the job himself and he will have steered a party from third place at the dissolution of Parliament to victory for the first time in Canadian history.

If he loses Monday, Harper will be the first prime minister in 36 years to go from a majority of his making to conceding defeat on election night. The last? Trudeau’s father, Pierre Trudeau, in his 1979 defeat at the hands of Progressive Conservative Joe Clark.

Should Harper prevail, he will become the first Canadian leader to win four consecutive elections in more than a century, since Sir Wilfrid Laurier. He would have done it by defeating four different Liberal leaders.

Welcome to a historical day. We’re not just living, it, we’re making it.

Toronto Star

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