Pa-rump, pa-rump, pa-rump : Election Time in Canada
I don’t have a lot to say but I couldn’t let the moment pass without a comment and some links.
At some moment in the past few days the election drums began to beat again in Canada. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff (add it to your dictionaries now) announced the other day that the Liberal party would no longer support the Conservative government. So, its only a matter of time then before the Conservatives do something the NDP can’t stomach and that isn’t in attractive enough for Quebec that the Bloc don’t support it. Then it will be off to the races again.
Now, I’m not ashamed to admit that my favourite sport is national elections. But even I feel that 4 elections in 5 years is a lot. It also costs a fair bit of money to hold and election. However, democracy is about representing the will of the people and about people’s representatives working together for the good of the country. The Conservative party has shown a decidedly uncooperative strategy most of the time and their insistence on resisting the will of most Canadians on many issues demonstrates why they have not been able to convince a large enough minority of us to vote for them. For example:
- They persist in talking about removing public funding for political parties even though this program has wide support amongst Canadians. This support allows a wider range of voices to be heard without them needing to be beholden to business interests or large donor lobbies. For some people it is also the only reason left to vote as they are discouraged by the horrible, horrible process we use to count votes in this country. If you live in a riding where the competitive parties are not the ones you support you are out of luck, your vote will be wasted, except for that small amount of money going to the party you vote for.
- they refuse to defend Canadians abroad who have been accused of crimes by requesting they be returned home. These people they refuse to defend always have the poor fortune to have been accused of some crime, usually with flimsy basis, and of not coming from one of Canada’s two European founding nations. This isn’t what Canadians want, they want you to vigorously defend all Canadians abroad. If they’ve committed a crime let us try them, don’t let your friends (or strangers) do your dirty work
- They are obsessed with cutting taxes. This is the simpleton’s approach to fixing economies, “put money in people’s pockets” and they’ll spend it. Well, sometimes they won’t, when the economy is crashing around them they stash it in their pillow and wait. Meanwhile the government slid into deficit even before the economic crash occurred and programs have been cut that Canadians support and need. Remember how they started their tenure in minority government as well, by giving out a tax rebate for daycare of a few hundred dollars to counter the Liberal’s scuttled plan to build a national daycare program. Money in the pockets of thousands of people doesn’t build daycare and train staff, it just increases competition for scare daycare resources and drives up prices. Surely our Prime Minister, an economist, should understand that. But I’m sure he does.
- They are so clearly trying to look safe – the most convincing fact for me is actually that Conservatives have done fairly well at looking uncontroversial and reasonable. They have had complaints from the more conservative folks in their ranks that they are veering away from the ideals of the Reform movement with deficit spending, senate appointments, centralized control rather than grass roots chaos. They’ve maintained a rigid discipline and managed to look fairly safe. This is key for them as of us many centrist-left voters, who are the bulk, even the majority of votes in Canada, feel uncomfortable with people right of Joe Clark and Brian Mulroney running the country. Part of it is the fact that they are clearly trying very hard to behave that worries us. I don’t know what they’ll do with a majority, but I really don’t want to find out. Canada is not a conservative country and Stephen Harper has the goal of slowly making us more conservative by lulling us into a false sense of security. The latest poll shows that Canadians are still torn and I don’t think its going to change.
The problem, as ever, is that the alternatives are not that exciting. Mr. Ignatieff is a stronger leader than Mr. Dion was but he is playing very coy with policy in order to avoid the problems Dion got into. But it also opens the Liberals up to the very same reservations many of us have of the Conservatives, what is it you are hiding? Of course the NDP cannot win a majority, and they have demonstrated they will attack anyone they need to in order to improve their seat count, even if it weakens the centre left coalition (small ‘c’ coalition there). So we may well end up with the same result, in fact I see only three possible outcomes to this election
- Minority Conservative government – Liberals with more seats than last election but nothing else changes
- Liberal government – probably a minority, this can only happen if Ignatieff turns on the fire and gets the country dreaming ala Obama about real change or something, if he does it really really well we could have a majority, but thats unlikely and its the only majority scenario possible
- Centre-Left Coalition – with a capital ‘C’ here. Some kind of formal coalitions, maybe signed after the election but clearly hinted at and discussed before the election so people know its part of the plan when they vote. Its not clear that Mr. Ignatieff’s substantial ego will allow for this. Mr. Layton’s also not insubstantial ego will make the deal hard with a few ministers for them. And if the Bloc are needed in the Coalition as well, not necessary but some of kind of agreement might be, then it makes the optics tricky to say the least
Stephen Harper seems to have a “cunning plan” as his first counter move to Ignatieff, which is to offer the opportunity for an election quickly on an issue that many people actually like, a home renovation tax credit. The thing about this is that the government has been encouraging people to take advantage of this credit even though its not actually in place at all yet. The Conservatives will accuse the Liberals of not supporting the stimulus spending but clearly they’ve made the impact of this worse buy promoting a non-existent program in the first place. It also appears the Liberals would re-introduce the program if they win anyways, so it shouldn’t be an issue, but of course, it probably will.
So, I guess I had quite a bit to say after all.
Next we have to see what Jack says…then we’ll probably all get a say soon.
Pa-rump, pa-rump, pa-rump
Links: Here’s a few more links, to follow Canadian politics via twitter in a nicely aggregated way look at Politwitter. If you want to get into policy and debate it try Parliament2, styled on the whitehouse2.org site, it allows Canadians to propose issues, argue for them and rank priorities. It should be a checklist of what Canadians want their PM to get done.