A Kayak Instructor and an Actor Walk into a Bar: One Canadian’s Look at the 2016 Political Landscape

With the 2016 presidential election quickly approaching, it’s about time I raise my hand and toss my two cents onto the table. Why? Because I’m Canadian, so I think I have a reasonably unbiased view of the dramatics and posturing going on down there. Also, when I look at the economic climate and political culture happening in your country, I see some similarities with what the US is dealing with today and what we dealt with a year or so ago.

Allow me to state my disclaimers. I’m not a politics guy. My wife holds a bachelor’s degree in political science (in my defense, I didn’t discover that ghost in her closet until after we were engaged), which offsets my own ignorance. And, as mentioned above, I’m Canadian. But my specialty is economics and common sense, which have nothing to do with my nationality.

There are two obvious parallels between the US today and Canada in 2015 when we hit the polls. The first parallel is that when we elected Justin Trudeau, our economy was pretty strong. Not thriving. Not the kind of economy where you felt it was 2007 all over again. But it was strong enough. Despite some soft jobs numbers for May, the US economy is doing alright. So JT (Justin Trudeau, not Justin Timberlake who would also make for a pretty cool president, or “prime minister” as he’s officially known in Canada, and kudos to my wife for the clarification) had the tailwind of a strong economy at his back just as Trump does today.

But more importantly (and this would be the second parallel) JT used the nation’s political discontent to push him over that line into the prime minister’s office. Canada’s political system was broken in 2015, just like yours is right now, and as voters we were fed up with it. And that is exactly what’s working in Trump’s favor today. It’s what got Barrack Obama elected; I remember sitting in front of the television with wide eyes and thinking that BO had something nobody else had: an argument for accountability and transparency.

The problem with BO is that accountability and transparency have no place in the political domain. To incorporate those things into your campaign is like promising the return of unicorns and Vikings with free rides for everyone (cotton candy on weekends, anyone?).

Anyway, as Canadians, we sent a pretty strong message in 2015. Oh yeah, we elected a kayak instructor to the prime minister’s office. In fairness, JT was also a school teacher but in the same way we think of Trump as a real estate developer first and a TV personality second, I think of our prime minister as a kayak instructor first and a teacher second, not that either of those careers qualifies him to run a country.

My common sense tells me the reason we elected JT had little to do with wanting to learn how to tackle white water rapids, and even less to do with our paranoia about children-drowning incidents on family canoeing trips. My spidey senses suggest we elected a pretty boy because we were fed up with the status quo. Our conservative government not only lacked personality, but our minority government called elections whenever someone couldn’t get along—now, JT smacks people into line, according to the media. Plus we were tired of going to the polls during hockey season.

I’m worried that’s the same mistake my US neighbors might make. A lot of people like Trump and, in their defense, if BO couldn’t bring back unicorns or the Vikings, much less deliver on his promise of accountability and transparency, how much trouble can Trump cause for the greatest nation on the planet? You’ve had celebrity presidents before (one with an airport, schools, libraries and maybe even movie theaters named after him). Plus, you’ve also had playboy presidents (typically democrat; incidentally, the NRA tends to favor republicans), one of whom admitted to indulging in the type of pleasure that would have most people “fired,” ironically enough, and if he can run a country with his pants down and his eyes closed, how much trouble can Trump really get into if he shows up and tries really hard?

On a serious note, times have changed. Celebrities might no longer have what it takes to serve as the face of your nation. Think about it: Our economy is global now. Domestic actions come with global consequences. Remember the financial crisis? It crippled entire countries, many of them larger than Rhode Island. 

The world also makes the US an easy scapegoat. Today, everyday Americans have incredible power, and sending a message to the White House that you’re tired of a lack in accountability and transparency (like we are in Canada), you’re fed up with the rhetoric and abuses of power (like we are in Canada), you’re no longer willing to take the heat for your politicians’ blunders and inadequacies (like we are in Canada) is not an easy solution. Trust me, my kayaking-lessons-for-life card doesn’t count for much when I’m visiting Florida in the winter.

In Canada, I wish we had united better. I wish we’d had the foresight to see how the world would view our young, inexperienced leader when he advises on nuclear strategies, military actions, economic sanctions, and any other very real thing that has very real consequences somewhere else. People, we’re not kayaking down the Mississippi with a pound of weed in our backpacks singing kumbaya to make things better; we’re sitting at the table with the world’s most powerful leaders, people who don’t take “you’re fired” very lightly.

This November, think it through. Unite. Make informed decisions about your leadership. Times have changed, and it’s more important than ever that your great nation takes a stand and sends the right message, not just to the White House, but to the globe. 

Morgan Parker spent twelve years sifting through boxes of research before sitting down and writing 1986. An earlier version of the story was called The Devil’s Wheel and was adapted into a screenplay that ended up as a quarterfinalist in a screenplay competition covered by a top Hollywood production company. Morgan has written seven other novels since 2012 and is praised for his unique voice and storytelling ability. Parker’s newest novel, 1986, (released June 13, 2016)is available now. 

Comments are closed.