Opinion

Flying in the metaphorical helicopter

So our defence minister is apparently the Brian Williams of politics and it’s causing quite the kerfuffle.

You will recall of course that American television anchor Brian Williams, shall we say, massaged the truth, regarding his presence when a helicopter was hit by fire during the Iraq War. Turns out Williams was in a different helicopter, quite a distance away. And he paid for the fib, losing the lucrative anchor desk and being demoted to the hinterlands of MSNBC.

Now Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan is in hot water over boasts that he was the mastermind behind Operation Medusa, one of the major operations of the Canadian war effort in Afghanistan. He was not in fact a mastermind. He was in the metaphorical helicopter with Brian Williams, some 30 miles from the incident. There, but not in mastermind territory.

Minister Sajjan now has some ‘splainin to do to Parliament.

It’s a pretty natural human tendency — building yourself up by exaggerating — and one politicians would be tempted to indulge in as they make the circuit out on the stump.

Think about it. During an election campaign, a candidate must deliver at least a speech a day, and that’s a candidate just in his or her own riding. So in a six week campaign, 42 speeches. A provincial or national candidate would likely hit four or five events a day during the six weeks of intense campaigning that is required in Canada. About 200 versions of the same speech. And that’s a far cry better than the more than two years of campaigning practiced by American politicians.

In any event, during all those speeches, it would be totally natural to want to try to change them up once in a while — just so the speaker doesn’t put his/her own self to sleep with all the repetition. So you embellish the speech a little each time, just to make it a little more interesting. And then before you know it, you’re in the helicopter with Brian and Harjit.

And you’ve got to think there’s going to be more than a little hyperbole in the next four days. The BC election is May 9, and for all the endless talking done by the candidates, the polls are showing a dead heat between the NDP and BC Liberals, with the Green Party showing a pretty strong surge. So you’ve had five weeks to convince voters to go with you, and in all that time, we’re at a statistical dead heat.

What does that mean? Does it mean that voters are not keen on any choice? Does it mean that both parties are offering some, but not all, of what voters are looking for? Does it mean that voters are truly undecided? Does it mean that the candidates have been so successful in painting their opposing candidates as vile imbeciles that voters cannot bear to vote for either?

Or does it mean nothing at all? Polls before the last BC election certainly were nowhere near the final results. Those particular polls had the NDP firmly in the lead — an exaggeration to be sure.

Were those pollsters in the helicopter with Brian Williams? Were the voters? Is there room in the helicopter for more passengers?

Surely there will be one or two more flights before this election comes to its merciful conclusion.

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