Here we are on the 22nd of July, with many Canadians taking some downtime away from the fray. Some are spending time at home, others are visiting family and some are even travelling. With less than 100 days before the 43rd General Election in the fall, the political parties and their candidates are still getting ready. Despite the fact that many people aren’t paying attention to politics right at this moment, this is good time and normally is good weather to get to doors to talk to potentially supporters.
But with that ramping up for the fall campaign another phenomenon has arrived a bit earlier too; the silly season. Yes, this campaigns silly season has now officially arrived. For some, that was marked by the culture wars spreading to chocolate milk, but for me that was just one skirmish that didn’t indicate the full arrive of the silliest and least productive seasons of all. No, it wasn’t until this morning CBC Ottawa broke with a story that screams of peak “silliness” and of frustration to most voters:
Yes, we’re back onto 24 Sussex again and what to do with the crumbling official residence of the Prime Minister. And when I say back, I mean it because the state of disrepair of 24 Sussex has been an ongoing thing in our politics for a long time, but especially over the past two decades. That “debate” has given us precious moments like this one from Rick Mercer:
Remember that one folks, when Paul Martin took to putting clear plastic over the windows in the building to help stop its legendary draftiness? Yes, we all got a good chuckle out of that at the time, but that episode also points how bad things had gotten back then, and that was almost 15 years ago. The fact is that 24 Sussex continued to crumble and got to the point where Justin Trudeau never even moved in there because of the disrepair.
So when the Conservatives decided to take pot shots at the PM for the state of 24 Sussex, calling it a failure on his part, I couldn’t help but note just how much silliness had arrived. I have no problem with calling out this government on things they’ve actually done wrong or promises they have broken, and I’ve done it many times here. But to try to pin the state of this official residence on him is complete garbage, especially given that Stephen Harper himself lived there for the decade before and didn’t move an inch to stop the homes decay. It’s hypocritical at worst and plain silliness at best, but what it’s not is a legitimate complaint.
The fact is that going back now for a long time, both Liberal and Conservative governments have refused to keep that building up to date, an historic piece of our built heritage on a beautiful spot overlooking the Ottawa River. And the reason that has happened is completely political, the worst kind of political reasoning in my view. In the end, those governments have refused to do the work because they didn’t want to be seen as spending public money “on themselves”, despite the fact that 24 Sussex belongs to all of us as Canadians. As a result, the building has gotten worse and worse, which of course means it will be more expensive to fix, costing all of us more.
And let’s face it here, the “political” dilemma here is a real one; if Justin Trudeau had gone ahead with the fixing and retrofitting of 24 Sussex Drive, the Conservatives would still be attacking them, except they would be doing it for “making his home better” or “spending public money on himself”. They would ignore the fact that that home, for better or for worse, is a part of our built heritage and is a part of our history. It belongs to no prime minister or party, it belongs to all of us, and surely that merits ensuring that the bloody thing doesn’t crumble and fall into the Ottawa River below. But regardless they would still attack because this is a complete “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation.
So yes, the home should be saved, fixed and made an example of the best and greenest building technologies that we have today. Let’s make it a showcase of what can be done and a great example of Canadian know how. But the fact that saving a historically significant building is seen by all as a political loser with no political upside speaks to just how silly this whole debate is.
The fact that this silly season would eventually arrive was inevitable, it always happens in every campaign. But the fact that it’s come before July is even done can’t be a good sign for the debate to come. I’d like to think that this is just our parties getting this out of their systems early and that the campaign to come will be high-minded and such, but I’m not that naive. Yes, this promises to be a rough campaign and the early arrival of the silliness is surely a harbinger of that.