5 things I learned about Canadians on election night

Written in the sky…

I watched the counting of the votes on Radio-Canada’s fantastic web interface, which you can still see here. It featured a lot of tools you could use to monitor individual ridings, a live-feed from Radio-Canada’s coverage, and most interestingly a live-chat, where hundreds of Canadians exhibited their befuddlement at the Liberal majority that was being revealed. There were patterns in the confusion however: patterns that revealed rather interesting things.

For the sake of precision, the live-chat I was watching featured exclusively french-speaking Canadians. To the offense of many, I’m going to boldly extrapolate the attitudes I saw to english-speaking Canadians as well. Come on, I’ve met you guys. We’re all Canadians.

  1. Canadians are multi-cultural, inclusive and proud of it. The same division tactics that worked in the UK and Australia, which are also gathering a terrifying amount of support in the US (cough *Trump* cough), failed to win an election in Canada. In 2008 and 2011, Conservatives won elections by projecting a feeling of competence and security, especially in economic policy. Their failures at effective economic policies becoming apparent in 2015, they turned to fear-mongering. In their recent actions, they looked the other way while indigenous women were being murdered and going missing in troves. They looked away from the Syrian crisis, refusing to take action to accept more refugees. They tried to make us fear middle-eastern minorities by associating them with the extremists wreaking havoc in their home countries. They tried to suppress their right to wear whatever they want to wear by proposing a law that would force muslim women to take off their niqab upon taking up citizenship. Canadians simply said no to all that, seeing through the attempt at division for political gain.
  2. Canadians nevertheless have bigots in their ranks. This may seem in direct contradiction with my first observation, but the truth is you can’t hide the trolls under a generalization. The niqab issue did manage to direct some votes away from the NDP and the Liberals because Mulcair and Trudeau didn’t hesitate to call Harper on his BS. So there are people out there who genuinely fear immigrants, and they want to stick it to them. Interestingly, those people seem concentrated in low-population ridings, where immigrants are actually the least likely to show up. I guess they’ve seen some immigrants doing bad things on 24. I saw a meme on my facebook feed quoting Vladimir freakin’ Putin speaking out against Sharia law. That’s kind of like the people saying that trains ran on time under Hitler. Plus, that quote isn’t even from Putin. Wow.
  3. Canadians really, really want electoral reform. A lot of people expect it from Trudeau. He promised that Oct. 19 2015 would be the last unfair federal election. Seeing the Liberals follow through on that promise is probably the best way for them to restore people’s faith in the Liberal party and the Canadian government as an institution. Realize your promises Justin, and you will seal your place in history.
  4. Canadians have a long political memory. And that’s not a good thing, especially when they don’t keep up. I saw a lot of people being upset that the Liberals got elected. Quebecers in particular, who are still upset that the federal government wasn’t exactly nice to Québec in the 70’s and before. A lot of them are still distrusting the Liberals over the sponsorship scandal (yet, they seem to fail at getting upset over the Mike Duffy scandal). They also still see the NPD as an immature party, despite having existed since 1961. And some people still think that the Liberals and the Conservatives are the same. That was probably true until recently, when the parties started to polarize. Now, they couldn’t be more at opposition with each other. If you don’t believe me, just go do CBC’s vote compass for the 2015 election.
  5. Young Canadians are very engaged. A number of times, older people commented that the youth do not vote. Every one of these comments prompted a deluge of comments from younger people watching the election. Some of them even said the election was more exciting than hockey. Imagine that. They were asked what kind of issues they cared about the most. It came down mostly to the environment and electoral reform. A lot of these young Canadians commenting weren’t even of voting age yet. Take that cynics.

There are two phrases I remember vividly from 2011. One was from a friend of mine, who said “2011 is the year hope died”. That was a sentiment that was accurate for a lot of reasons back then, the Conservatives getting a majority definitely being one of them. The other one I saw on Twitter, and it said “Justin Trudeau will be Prime Minister, it’s written in the sky”. I had no idea back then that the latter would end up being the undoing of the former. I’ve had mixed feelings about a Liberal majority, right after it was announced, and I never really thought of Trudeau as a progressive. But I can’t help being cautiously optimistic. Trudeau offers such a stark contrast to Harper, and he does feel like a different kind of Liberal. He conveys openness. I’ll follow what comes next with a critical eye, but with a resurrected sense of hope.

And now, a time lapse video shot in Santorini, Greece over last week-end. I’ve been trying out bolder sequences spanning very large dynamic ranges like sunrises and sunsets. The camera can only adjust to varying brightness by discrete steps, and I’ve been working on an algorithm to smoothen those out. It stills results in lots of posterization though. I’ll have some fun talking about that in a future post!

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