By Mohamed Omar
Canadian federal politics is like an owl in a cage. Tamed and understood, it can be a majestic beast from which we can draw wisdom, patience and leadership. But most of the time it’s just an animal discreetly defecating.
Last week in the House of Commons, a man stood up and set that owl loose — and the shit was everywhere.
Paul Calandra is parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative MP for the Ontario riding of Oak Ridges-Markham.
During a livestream of question period on the Cable Public Affairs Channel — a Netflix for federal politics, if you will — Calandra was asked by Tom Mulcair, the NDP’s leader, about Canada’s military mission in Iraq. Normally, a politician would give a vague answer on the topic.
Calandra answered by attacking the NDP’s position on Israel and, reading from what he later said was a Facebook post, used words like “effing.” That’s like a prof asking you why your essay was late and you said, “well your ESPN subscription is about to expire and that reflects poorly on you, punk.” Even a baby drunk on moonshine would sober up after a response as nonsensical as that.
But here’s the magical thing about all of this: after his glorious gaffe was so brutally eviscerated by the Internet — God bless Twitter — the idiocy of Calandra and federal politics as a whole became almost tangible, begging to be challenged.
Mulcair tried again. Calandra kept talking about Israel. Clearly incredulous over how bonkers of a reply he had received, Mulcair asked Andrew Scheer to coerce an on-topic answer. Scheer, the speaker of the house – responsible for keeping order- didn’t do anything. He apparently cannot force a grown-up MP to give a legitimate answer to a legitimate question. Mulcair, understandably agitated, questioned Scheer’s neutrality (a big no-no in the House) and was revoked of his two remaining questions.
This display is a painfully sharp example of why many students don’t give a damn about politics.
What kind of students or young adults – already drowned in tuition, loans, part-time work or rent – want to care about, much less join, fools like that? Luckily, we found a couple. This week’s feature by Ramisha Farooq looks into youth in politics, a topic quick to dismiss – the young’uns don’t vote, they don’t care and get off my lawn, you damn hippies! — and drowned in cynical attitudes.
But Farooq’s story, which acknowledges the low turnout rates of young voters, looks into three young minds who have taken in that pessimistic view of politics and morphed it into ambition. Whether it’s playing secretary and phoning constituents for a local politician or running to be mayor of Toronto, our three subjects are a good mirror for youth in politics for a great reason — they’ve grown up outside that shitty cage.
They are young in a time when political mishaps are immortalized in YouTube videos and gifs – Google “Paul Calandra faceplam,” you’re so welcome. They want accountable and trustworthy politicians, not sneaky ones. They’ve had too many of the latter.
Few of them are noble and many are overpaid dweebs. Paul Calandra has taken that shitty fact and smeared it all over our face.
So thanks, Paul. I love you.