Trudeau, Liberals don't get a free ride because PCs may be worse
According to CBC’s Poll-tracker, it is estimated that, as of this writing, there is a 38 per cent chance of the Conservatives winning a majority government in the upcoming 2019 election. In comparison, the Liberals have an estimated 10 per cent chance of winning a majority.
Many people in Canada, especially marginalized people, are I believe justifiably fearful at the prospect of Andrew Scheer’s Conservative party taking power. As conflict and controversies surrounding the Liberal government continue to occupy the bulk of the news cycle, this prospect feels increasingly like a destined reality.
Alongside all of the negative press, however, it is also likely you will find this common narrative being pushed by Liberal supporters: Trudeau and the Liberals may be bad, but the Conservatives are worse. We cannot take a stand against this government because we will be responsible when one we deem worse takes its place, in this case Scheer’s Conservatives.
Comment sections are filled with statements that echo these sentiments and they are commonly weaponized against those who take up stances against the Liberal government.
As frightening as I personally find the probability that the Conservatives will win in October, and as much as I believe in fighting for the option that will reduce the greatest amount of harm for communities like my own, which are profoundly affected by regressive governments, the “at least they’re better than the other guys” tactic being used to try and keep the Liberals afloat is deeply concerning and angering.
This lesser-of-evils messaging, when projected from the government, is a manipulation of the real fears of people who know they and their communities are likely to be harmed under a Conservative party in power. This rhetoric is not one meant to inspire faith and support, it is meant to secure power at any means necessary, even through the exploitation of fear.
People may believe the Liberals are the comparatively better party, but that doesn’t mean the political tactic we’re describing isn’t fear-mongering and it certainly doesn’t mean we should accept it.
When we become comfortable with the idea that the best we can hope for is a government that is even marginally better than what we believe is the worst option, we allow ourselves to become complacent in the face of that party’s shortcomings and acts of injustice. We cede our ability to hold the government accountable beyond the most basic principles of decency and good governance. We give permission to those in power to fail in ways that are entirely unacceptable, out of fear that a different power will behave in ways that are also unacceptable — just different.
Beyond this, the “Liberals are at least better than the Conservatives” narrative is particularly infuriating because I, like many others, don’t really know that they are, at least not significantly. It is true that when you compare the Liberal party platform to the much of the Conservative membership’s stances on issues, especially of social equity, it is certainly a stark contrast.
The Liberals list critical files like the environment and Indigenous relations as top priorities, while the Conservatives have never been champions of such issues, often taking up opposing stances on carbon taxes and the implementation of bills like UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples), for example.
However, despite how much better the Liberals may seem on paper, we cannot overlook that they still tried to push a pipeline through Indigenous land without proper consultation or consent. They are unlikely to meet their GHG emission reduction targets as set out by the Harper government and are off-track to reach their commitment to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. Their leader mocks Indigenous community members and activists poisoned by mercury.
Do their good intentions really matter when their impact has been so often harmful?
All of this is not to say we should surrender to an inevitability of Conservative power or regressive government. It is instead a call to recognize that we may have been given no truly good options and that we cannot accept that so easily.
We must demand better. Demand champions rather than lesser of evils. Demand an electoral system that is truly multi-party where your vote can reflect your beliefs rather than a strategy or act of harm-reduction. Remember that as long as you let even a small act of injustice stand, then injustice has already won.
Most of all, stop vilifying those who criticize the Liberal government. Stop saying they lack foresight or deem them responsible for a Conservative win. If the Liberal government does fail come October, that is the responsibility of their own action and inaction. If a Conservative government forms, then that is the responsibility of those who voted Conservative alone.
Holding the government accountable for its shortcomings is not an attack on the country. In fact, I believe it may be one of the most loving things one can do for the people living within it.
Riley Yesno is a student and writer from Eabametoong First Nation/Thunder Bay and is an alumnus of the Prime Minister’s Youth Council.