In just over a month, Canada will once again elect a Prime Minister and House of Commons thanks to last week’s vote of non-confidence – the first time in Westminster parliamentary democracy that a government lost the confidence of parliament by being found in contempt of parliament. The election should likely result in a frighteningly similar situation as to what’s gone down in the past two elections, both of which allowed for a Conservative minority government led by borderline fascist Stephen Harper.
Whenever a Canadian election rolls around, it usually means it’s time to answer various questions from my American pals who have been undermined by an educational and media system that seems to mostly disregard their Northern neighbours: What’s a “minority government”? Why do you have a right-wing leader if you’re all so liberal? Why do you guys seem to have an election every other year? Why do you have so many parties, and which ones are like “your Democrats”? Where’s Ottawa?
While the answers to all those questions – and more – can be found on this handy Wikipedia page, I thought I’d instead offer some genuinely fun facts about the upcoming election, specifically with regard the only man who could (but in all likelihood, won’t) become Canada’s next Prime Minister: Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, who trails Harper in the polls by 10ish points right now.
Ignatiff – while by no means an ideal alternative to Harper – has a fascinating resume. He was listed as one of the world’s 100 leading public intellectuals by Foreign Policy. He’s an author (and not just autobiographies!), with books winning awards that include the Governor-General’s Award for Literature and the George Orwell Prize, and even getting reviewed by Entertainment Weekly. Oh yeah, and in 2003, Maclean’s named him Canada’s “Sexiest Cerebral Man.”
But here’s where it gets really interesting: He’s also a screenwriter. In 1985, he wrote the screenplay for Nineteen Nineteen. About two former patients of Sigmund Freud, the film stars Paul Scofield and a young Colin Firth and screened at the Berlinale. Fourteen years later, he wrote a film you’re slightly more likely to be familiar with: 1999’s Onegin, which stars Ralph Fiennes and Liv Tyler and was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best British Film. Can Barack Obama say he’s written screenplays for 3 Academy Award nominees and 1 winner? Or that his film resulted in a Golden Aries Award by the Russian Guild of Film Critics for best foreign actress Liv Tyler? Je ne pense pas.
Though the most awesome thing that an Ignatiff win would bring Canada (besides, of course, a relatively liberal government) is a first lady whose name is Zsuzsanna Zsohar. I’m not even sure if I could name a Canadian first lady since the legendary Margaret Trudeau, but Zsuzanna’s name is already etched in my brain.
But seriously: One thing Americans need to understand about this Canadian election is what a shitty situation we’re in. After 5 years of a Harper government that has slowly eroded everything Canada allegedly stands for, the great possibility that he could take charge once again (perhaps with a majority government this time around), makes my Craigslist search for a fake Danish hubsand who could help me immigrate there seem more and more necessary….