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The election no one wanted is upon us. The annoying ads, the pie-in-the-sky promises, the trek to the polls in the middle of a fourth wave – who needs it? I do, for one. Since I started lying to pollsters, I’ve found elections are much easier to endure. At first I worried it might be unethical to prank a pollster. I am a mostly honest person. I’ve never even pilfered a pen from the bank. (Admittedly, their pens are often secured by a bead-chain, but still.)
I tell myself it’s not like real lying. It’s more like telling Santa you’ve been good lying. Surely I’m not the only one who enjoys messing with pollsters? If you haven’t tried it, I think you should. It makes the election period more fun – and fun is something that’s been sadly lacking in Canadian politics.
Our political parties don’t even have mascots. Our American neighbours have #TeamDonkey and #TeamElephant. Yes, they made odd animal choices. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld wonders what it says about political parties when one deems the jackass to be a suitable symbol, and their rival opts for a smelly, slow-witted circus animal wearing a little hat with a chin strap. What it says to me is that politics should be fun or at least should have its lighthearted moments.
Team mascots would help with that. Luckily for us, potential Canadian animal mascot choices abound. The caribou is a real contender, as is the Canadian goose. Or even the moose. And why not the loon? Lord knows we’ve had our share of political loons. I could get behind a party that adopted a playful mascot as part of its pitch.
Since none of ours have progressed past picking a team colour, I’m forced to find my own ways to inject a little levity into their campaigns. When my landline phone rings – predictably just as I’ve removed my chicken from the microwave – my rapid response finger is at the ready.
“Who do you feel will make the best prime minister?” asks a robotic voice. (Grammatically, I think it should be “whom” but there is no point in correcting a robot.) “Press 1 for Justin Trudeau, press 2 for Erin O’Toole…“ The voice drones on with all my choices.
I press “7” for “other.” In my mind, I am picturing my current political crush, New Zealand politician Jacinda Ardern. I like her accent, plus she seems like the sort of leader who’d be open to adopting an animal mascot for her party. Her first choice would likely be the kiwi, but given Canada’s kiwi-shortage, here I think she’d choose a cute critter like the Vancouver Island marmot. So today I press “7” for #TeamMarmot.
However, I’m an equal opportunity pollster-prankster. Yesterday I told Nanos I was sold on Jagmeet Singh for PM. Tomorrow I may tell Mainstreet I’ve moved on to Annamie Paul. The fun is in keeping the pollsters guessing while doling out a dash of hope to each of the parties’ wannabes. (Nova Scotians are also good at this game, judging by the surprising outcome of that province’s recent election.)
Particularly annoying to me are the pollsters who want to know how I voted last time. Is nothing sacred? What’s the point of that cardboard curtain around my voting booth if I’m just going to spill the beans to you later? You guys deserve my porky-pies, and you should expect them. Psalm 116 says “all men are liars.” I am not a man but in this case, God’s got my number.
Heaven help the pollster who wants to know into which age range I fall. “Press 2, if you’re age 20 to 29. Press 3 if…” I immediately press 2. Hard, to make sure it registers. How to shave off 40 years in a flash! Ekos ought to know better than to ask a woman her age. If they wanted an honest answer, they should’ve FaceTimed.
Mostly what I resent is knowing the leaders and candidates are watching, then tinkering with their strategies and sugarcoating their sweet talk based on my responses. I know I’m being played, so it seems only fair to game them back. It’s fun and so far my pants haven’t caught on fire.
But the pollsters are catching on. They suspect I might be fibbing and they’ve discovered ways to suss me out. First, they began asking about my second choice. Now they wonder which party I think is most likely to win. That’s sneaky. They know I’ll have talked to my friends, relatives and neighbours, and I know which party they’re most likely to support. If I blurt out the consensus, I’ll have given pollsters a sample that’s 20 times greater than my own.
Instead, I press the number linked to the party I judge least likely to sweep the country. If this team had a mascot, they’d likely pick something like the sea lamprey. The pollsters are going to be surprised that they’ve uncovered a pocket of sea lamprey supporters in my electoral district. That’ll muddy the waters. Mission accomplished.
I know it’s small of me to try to put something over on the pollsters. But soon enough the election will wind down and the winners will get busy breaking the campaign promises they’re making to me. So allow me the little thrill of power I get by playing Pinocchio. After all, these guys are the ones keeping me from my dinner. So my house, my rules.
Judy Millar lives in Nanaimo, B.C.
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