The federal election campaign looks a lot like reality TV

I once smugly thought that politics was highbrow. At the same time I would scoff at the baseness of reality TV. The more I watched both though the more I realized just how lowbrow they both are. Politics may even be the lower of the two. I’m serious.

Both are staged. For example in the second season of Survivor Colby won the immunity challenge and could vote off either the likable fake-breasted Tina or the wimpy liar Keith. With a $1 million prize at stake Colby chose to face Tina in the final. For those who have forgotten the tribe spoke and voted Tina the victor. Obviously it was rigged so that viewers would keep watching the finale. Reality TV audiences clearly watch for the entertainment value not for the reality of it all.

So too is politics. Politicians seem to stick to the script even more than reality TV show contestants. Rarely will you hear a speech that is not written by someone else or read off a teleprompter. As seen from the ridiculous repackaging of the leadership candidates political scriptwriters have a lot to learn from their reality TV counterparts.

Reality TV contestants and politicians will both say anything to win. Liberal leader Stéphane Dion is trying to convince Canadians to vote for the Green Shift. The difficulty for voters is that during the 13 years that the Liberals who signed the Kyoto Accord were in power carbon emissions increased 30 per cent. Dion was the environment minister for the last year and a half of this time. Are voters supposed to believe that the Liberals will now follow through and actually reduce emissions? This would be like trusting Keith.

Both reality TV contestants and politicians utter words that don’t mean anything. On September 15 when the Toronto Stock Exchange dropped 515 points Conservative leader Stephen Harper said “The Canadian economy’s fundamentals are solid.” During on period on October 6 the Toronto Stock Exchange dropped 1180 points or 11 per cent. Despite the stock market decreasing 29 per cent since June Harper said he remained “optimistic” about the economy. You would expect this kind of talk from a reality TV show contestant but it is quite another coming from our prime minister.

Canadian politics however has significant catching up to do in the area of eye candy and sexploitation. TV’s Rock of Love for example features two dozen female groupies competing for the love of Bret Michaels the washed up lead singer of Poison. True to rock star form he makes out with many women sometimes even in front of the other stripper-like contestants. Such shows are so over-the-top bad that it’s hard to stop staring I mean watching.

Reality TV though doesn’t pretend to be anything it is not. Politics does. The problem is that the consequences of this election will be real. It will determine the quality of universal public health care; the availability of affordable housing and daycare; whether or not the country continues to participate in the war in Afghanistan; and whether or not we respond to global warming.

There is a lot at stake in this election. This is a time when we need less boob and more substance. Now more than ever we need the kind of action that transforms democracy to create a more just and sustainable world.

David Wilson is embarrassed to admit that he voted for Ralph Klein and Jean Chrétien in his first two voting opportunities.