What Have You Heard About Carbon Tax?

Ottawa is, by and large, a weird hole in the centre of nowhere, with its body geographically oriented somewhere south of the Quebec border and its mind trying its hardest to be in Everytown Canada, where, if you go by the rhetorical spasms witnessed in the first half-week of the latest parliamentary sitting, the obsession is carbon and the tax that the Opposition might one day impose upon it.

This is basically false, but it hardly matters. What matters is that you have heard this before and you voted a certain way. You have heard these same accusations leveled at a different federal leader — one a bit more Liberal than Thomas Mulcair. That one, Stéphane Dion, suggested we tax carbon, then basically lost an election to a black cartoon oil stain shouting on YouTube about a “tax on everything” that would surely put your family in the poor house, leaving you to eat donated Kraft Dinner out of your bare fucking hands. You have heard this before. Of course you have.

Hear it again, lowly democratic voter.

“Stats Canada reported that Canada’s industry is operating at 81% of its capacity — 11% higher than the low point of the global economic downturn,” unknown Conservative MP Robert Sopuck reported to the House Wednesday afternoon. “The NDP would stop the spread of this prosperity with its carbon tax schemes.”

He was not alone.

“The leader of the NDP will not back down on his job-killing carbon tax scheme, which will raise the price on everything, including gas, groceries and electricity,” his colleague Rick Dykstra warned a few minutes later.

You get the point. We all get the point. We’ve all gotten the point for a while; it’s about as subtle as a fart delivered directly to the back of your open mouth.

There’s apparently a “carbon tax” afoot again, and, should it ever take any sort of discernible shape, it’s going to stab your job to death in a back alley. And though the reality is that a “carbon tax” is a convenient, meaningless catchphrase used by a defensive-by-design, hair-on-fire-by-choice government marginally provoked by a quote on a Sunday morning TV show from the leader of the Official Opposition, it starts to stick. Never mind that all three parties have, in the past five years, pitched either a direct carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system in their campaign platforms. Never mind that, now. It sticks anyway, because the message is what is important. And, as someone trying to be engaged in the process, your ears are open. They have to be. And by virtue of their openness, they are bound to be filled with crap.

The spin comes in fits and starts, but always has the same tonal horizontality that, in the end, achieves its goal — like some horrible Miley Cyrus song looped for all eternity. For the first few listens, you hate yourself for even knowing it exists. After a while, you acknowledge that the beat is okay. Then maybe you start to care less and less about the content. “My best friend Leslie said, ‘Oh, she’s just being Miley.’” Whatever. What’s the difference, you start to ask yourself. Maybe the beat is okay. Maybe music is really subjective, and whatever you like, you like. Maybe music is nothing at all. Maybe it’s all just vibrations in your brain and you’re hearing something subtly different than everyone anyway, so who are you to judge? And then, by the millionth listen, you’re just bobbing your head like some sponge in a current, uncaring and unknowing of anything but the water around your face. You listen to the vapid lyrics of a vocal messenger from hell who, in future years, will decide to go punk by shaving half her bleached head and donning Doc Martins in some kind of weird rejection of the spectacle that is her life, which you find disturbing yet oddly attractive. And then you’ll truly hate yourself. And you should: Because by that point, you’ve accepted some part of it all as valid and you didn’t even notice. It just happened.

This is how political spin works. This is how it sticks. It’s like a shitty Miley Cyrus song. And it has one goal: To Kill You.

But this is How Things Are, and all the partisans are okay with it, to some degree. They recognize the political game. The dirty shit, the gutter fights. The Knives Out of it all. They’re aware of the dichotomies, the We stand for this, They stand for the other thing, and that’s where we are with our democracy, Canada.

And in case you’re feeling like you voted for the Good Side, you didn’t: spinning garbage knows no ideological boundaries. So we’ll hear additional facts about the carbon tax and sit through more prepared statements and suffer alongside the warmed-over righteousness for a while longer until, at some point in time, the voter turnout goes from 59% to 0% because we all decided there were better things to listen to.

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Colin Horgan writes about politics for iPolitics.ca, and about hockey and other stuff for Guardian.co.uk. He also uses Twitter.