Politics on the Hill is on holidays, but not politicians. After a few days of rest, probably at the cottage with the family, most of the Members of the Parliament are back in business for Canada Day in their ridings and immediately hitting the bar-b-que circuit. They will shake hands, kiss babies and flip burgers; still, for most of them, this is the best part of their political life. In the summer they leave the obscure, anonymous life in the dark hallways of Parliament, where the only political commitment is to raise their hand upon request, and go back to their kingdom, the riding, and to their subjects, the voters.
And from this week on, Facebook will be busier than Time Square on New Year’s Eve.
If Twitter is the main tool of communication while in Ottawa where life moves boringly fast, the summer is Facebook season, when life for politicians moves excitingly slow. A tweet is like a hurried “Ciao” thrown at somebody passing by you in a busy working day just to acknowledge your presence; Instagram is like showing a picture of your grandchild to a friend you meet while shopping at Costco; Facebook instead is a formal visit to someone’s house that needs to be recognized with a picture, detailed information about the dinner with an exclusive menu similar to the one of another 30 million Canadians, and a drop of wisdom from a quote stolen from somebody to make the entire event look deep and intelligent.
This might sound frivolous and denigrating, but it is not. This is the most genuine part of the life of politicians getting the only chance to be close to real Canada and real Canadians. This is the time when they get close to the real problems voters have to face on a daily basis, like the cost of gas, the increasing cost of broccoli and the difficulty their children have to find a job. In Ottawa they, probably, know the cost of an F-15 or a Tornado, but very few know the cost of a litre of milk. In Ottawa they hear about billions, in their riding they talk about cents.
In Ottawa there are two kind of politicians, those voting for the government and those voting against. They have no face, no personality; they will emerge from the crowd only when they mess up and are used by the media only to embarrass the government or their leaders.
Somebody said that MPs are nobody 100 yards away from the Hill. I respectfully disagree: they are somebody and regain their individuality only when they are away from the Hill, the farther, the better.
Most of the politicians have the Julius Caesar syndrome, better the first in a small town in Switzerland, than the second in Rome.
Only when they leave Ottawa they regain their individuality, only in their ridings they reconnect with their voters, with their families and, most importantly, with themselves. Only when in their ridings they feel useful again, they feel like somebody.
But the summer circuits are not good only for the politicians, they are very important for the voters too. They have a chance get closer to their representatives in Ottawa (or the Ottawa representatives in the riding), to have the opportunity, or at least the impression, to make their voice heard directly to those in power, to congratulate or even complain hoping that their view reaches the top.
Most likely, it will not, especially if their representative belongs to the government party. But who cares?! The placebo effect is better than nothing; besides, they are there to enjoy the sun and a hot dog served by a politician who believes he or she is doing something highly original and profoundly democratic. It is all routine, a kind of Groundhog Day played every summer, it is like a movie where viewers and actors are the same, the MP with the apron on one side and the voter with a hot dog in one hand and the smartphone in the other. Click, ready for the selfie that a few seconds after will be on Facebook and, thereafter, counting the ‘likes’ and reading the original comments like ‘You look great’, or ‘Beautiful picture.’
Nonetheless, everything is enjoyable and, most importantly, more genuine and interesting than most of the statements read in the House after Question Period. It is a beautiful day under the Sun when, finally, politics meet Canadians.
…and then comes September.