You've noticed, surely, that everyone is a lot happier than they used to be.
No? Well, perhaps you haven't, given the winter we just went through, and the elections we are about to go through. Yet the United Nations says Canadians are verging on blissful these days, so better click on that smiley icon if you are filling in any form that asks for nationality.
According to the World Happiness Report released this week by the UN's Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Canada is the fifth happiest country, up one spot from the group's previous report two years ago. Switzerland is so happy it keeps wetting itself laughing, followed by Iceland, Denmark, Norway … and us.
It is entirely possible, of course, that this survey, like so very many taken in the modern era of landline-less phones and online clicks – just check recent election predictions in Alberta, Quebec, British Columbia and Ontario – is somewhat out of sync with Canadian reality.
Certainly, one would never equate happiness with what Canadians are feeling about their politics and politicians.
The disdain runs so deep these days that it is possible that people are more offended by the defence being put forward in the trial of Senator Mike Duffy than they are by any of the Crown arguments concerning fraud, bribery and breach of trust. He could be acquitted of all 31 charges and many would still say there are certain areas of life – honesty, fairness, truth – where it is not necessary to have specific rules written down for people to behave appropriately.
It's all enough to make you think that perhaps former finance minister John Crosbie wasn't joking when he told that Niagara Falls crowd back in 1997 that "it's 90 per cent of the politicians who give the other 10 per cent a bad name."
Canadians are hardly alone in their disdain. One survey done by Britain's Guardian newspaper a year or more ago found that nearly half, 47 per cent, of respondents were actually "angry" at politicians. Nearly as many, 46 per cent, considered politicians were "on the take," and nearly two out of three, 64 per cent, were convinced politicians get elected by making promises they have no intention of keeping.
Which brings us to the two provincial elections that will be upon us next week, Monday in Prince Edward Island, Tuesday in Alberta.
Much has been made of voter unrest and disenchantment in Alberta where the polls, if they can be believed anywhere any more, are saying opportunistic Premier Jim Prentice is in tough with the NDP. Little, however, has been said of Prince Edward Island, where new Premier Wade MacLauchlan has also called a much-earlier-than-required election to gain one of those "fresh mandates" politicians seem so anxious to sell and voters seem often just as anxious to deny.
PEI, as we all know by now, is where Mr. Duffy's primary residence is allegedly to be found. It has also long been regarded by those who do not have primary residences there as an island of innocence and goodness in this increasingly cynical world.
Turns out all is not quite as sunny as Anne Shirley would have it on her beloved island. Perhaps it has to do with Tuesday's snowfall bringing the season's total to more than 18 feet – the most that has fallen since records began nearly two centuries ago. Or maybe it's just the general political malaise from the mainland making it across Confederation Bridge.
Three of the debaters – Liberal Leader MacLauchlan, Progressive Conservative Leader Rob Lantz and NDP leader Mike Redmond – are in their first provincial election. It's likely far more heated than any anticipated. Island access to abortions is always a hot topic, but now there is also public anger over the province's immigrant investor program, which was closed in January, and over an abandoned online gambling plan that went so sour the province's conflict-of-interest commissioner stepped down following opposition charges that he, too, had been involved.
It all gave Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker, who appears to have no chance beyond possibly his own riding, an opportunity to speak for the disenchanted. In the previous debate, held in Summerside, he said the two parties that decide PEI governments, the PCs and Liberals, were "toxic organizations" and people were tired of their "poison ping-pong politics."
Apparently he struck a chord. As one tweet concerning Thursday's second televised event said, "30 minutes in and I've heard more boos than anything else with this debate."
"Wouldn't it be nice if we elected people who naturally and spontaneously behaved with integrity and confidence," Mr. Bevan-Baker told the audience in his closing statement. "Let's just elect some people who can actually behave with integrity for a change."
Of course, he hasn't a prayer of forming a government Tuesday morning.
Such is the state these days of happy, happy Canada.