Apologies we’ve been absent so long, but things have been busy. We’re doing a big presentation at Youth in Motion’s Courage to Soar conference in just over a week. But with all the engaging (and absurd) political theatre unfurling itself south of the border, we thought we’d take a minute to express our pity for the beleaguered and pitifully ignored dudes in Ottawa.

While the New York Times is snubbing John McCain and Paris Hilton is making campaign ads on Funny or Die, the federal Liberals and Conservatives are doing everything short of bombing their own House to get people to pay attention to them. The problem? It ain’t working. No matter what they do, Dion and Harper can’t make the poll numbers change – at least not in any meaningful way.

Dion has his Green Shift – a bold if controversial new policy that sounds like good sense but needs a half-hour to explain. Meanwhile, Harper, in an appeal to Quebec, has come out promising further decentralization.

Harper says “fish or cut bait;” Dion says “You’re on”. The Mexican stand-off begins, and yet, because we’re still in the lazy days of summer, and because the political race down south is a bit sexier (with all kinds of arguments over some amorphous notion of ‘Change”), few people actually notice.

This is one of the problems with today’s Canada and the increased emergence of a global consciousness: though Canadians, in general, know more than they ever have before about the goings on in the United States, Europe and the developing world, they are less and less engaged in their own national politics.

When I ask friends why they have opinions on everything from Obama to Mugabe to China’s right to hold the Olympics, but they don’t have anything to say about the Green Shift, people tend to say it’s because Canadian politics are boring or of little import. So here we sit, glued to elections in which we have no control, often favouring candidates who may not act in what those who care call the Canadian national interest. Meanwhile, our own politicians – uncharismatic, unsexy anti-celebrities – jump up and down for our attention and go largely ignored.

No one wants an election – fair enough. Elections are expensive, silly, and rarely personally rewarding. But it looks like we need one. The status quo can’t continue. The Conservatives don’t want a Sword of Damocles (if only a nerf one) hanging over their heads; the Liberals need to finally give Dion a shot, so they can move forward should he fail; and the NDP, well, they don’t really know what they need, beyond something.

But a fall election? Following a US one? The Liberals can pray for the wave of Obamarama to give him a residual push, but what if the skeptics are right and America gets cold feet? Then where does all that energy go?

It’s a conundrum to be sure. Because this US election, in the midst of the onset of recession, a spike in oil prices (though they’ve temporarily quieted down), and an international food crisis, has tapped into a powerful desire for a new type of politics. People aren’t entirely sure what that “change” is. They just think that it must look and sound something like Barack. So what do you do when you turn from the US electoral circus on CNN to CPAC, where “change” is ill-dressed and insufficiently slick?

The next federal election will offer Canadians a real choice. A great deal will be at stake – for the environment, the character of our international engagement, and indeed the idea of Canada itself.

Let’s hope we don’t all sleep through it.