My Personal Ruminations On The Coming Federal Elections-Part 1: The Illusion Of Choice
There is an election coming up here in Canada. Most of my American readers won’t have more than just a passing curiosity at that statement; for those who care though, here are my feelings regarding the choices I face.
Canada has a federal election at the discretion of our Prime Minister, barring a vote of non-confidence, about every four years or so- with a single term limited to a maximum of five years. Does that sound confusing? You betcha! What it amounts to is this. The effective head of our federal government can call an election whenever he wants (with approval from the Governor General, the Queen’s representative in Canada) within his or her five year mandate. Tradition dictates this happens every four or so years, assuming that the Prime Minister has the confidence of the Parliament. If the Members of Parliament vote non-confidence, either directly or by refusing passage of important legislation (the budget being the most important), then the Governor General must either dissolve Parliament or ask the opposition if they are able to form a coalition government in place of the current regime. Still sound confusing? You don’t know the half of it….The good news is that if you understood everything I just said then you know more than the average voter in this election.
Our current Prime Minister is Stephen Harper, the Emperor Palpatine of Canadian Politics. He is the leader of the Conservative Party, and with 143 of a total 308 seats in the House of
Commons (Parliament), he has a minority government. This means that to pass legislation with a 50% majority, he needs to depend on the votes of at minimum 12 opposition Members. The Last Federal election was October of 2008, when Harper increased his seat count, and this last term was his third as a minority Prime Minister.
The election is scheduled for May 2nd, and it essentially exists as a two horse race between the Conservatives under the leadership of Harper and the Liberals under the leadership of Micheal Ignatieff, the Jar-Jar Binks of Canadian politics- to stick with the same franchise. If you are a betting man, I’ll place odds right now that Harper will still be Prime Minister May 3rd, but with a slightly smaller seat count. If it is quite a bit smaller, I also expect an NDP-Liberal coalition in the near future, and this wouldn’t be a horrible thing. Well, other than having
to watch the Canadian political equivalent of Jar-Jar Binks on my T.V. more frequently.
So here lie my choices. There are really four parties that field decent candidates in my home riding, and I’ll introduce those not privy to the intricacies of Canadian politics to those four parties now. If you want to get an idea of who you might vote for if you were a Canadian, or if you are a Canadian who doesn’t know who to vote for, here’s a great little Vote Compass that CBC News is offering. It asks a series of policy questions and places you on a graph with the major parties, including the Bloc Quebecois, which I will discuss briefly at the end of this post. The four National parties, in order of current seat count in the House of Commons, are…
The Conservative party in Canada is exactly like the Republican Party in the U.S., except
they have to keep their stupid opinions to themselves until they get a majority government. Picture your drunk Uncle who rants about how Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh are the smartest people on earth, that the rapture is coming sooner then we think, that poor people deserve their lot in life, and the only redeeming quality of women is their birth canal. Now picture your Uncle in a job interview for a tenure-track position in the Women’s Studies Department at Berkley. This is exactly what it is like listening to your average Conservative Candidate. Stephen “Emperor Palpatine” Harper has gone to fantastic lengths to whip his party of frothing wolves into house dogs who wait till you leave the house before tearing the couch apart. The Conservatives have done an admirable job of not alienating their base while seeming relatively populist, though the inevitable slip ups have happened. What the conservatives do have going for them is that the Emperor has a young son he takes to hockey games and Harper does seem firm but friendly, and has a boatload of charisma (relative charisma-this is like being the hottest chick in Inuktitut) compared to his opponents, which brings us to……
With all the smack I just threw at the Conservatives, you would think this election would be a cakewalk for an opposition party. In any other dimension of space-time, you would be right, but not here folks. As if to tell Canadians that they don’t really think they need to
even try, the Liberals elected as their leader a blathering egotistical and arrogant intellectual boob who spent the last several decades as a professor at Harvard. Which isn’t in this country. This has allowed the Emperor to air commercials that paste “Iggy”‘s smug face all over my evening television screen with accusations of egotistical motives of coming back to Canada just to be the PM. Oh, and Iggy was quoted on tape as referring to America as “his country”. No one has yet asked for a long form birth certificate……
The problem with the Liberals, in my mind, is that they are really good at staying the course; which is a polite way of saying they don’t actually do anything. They need to be prodded into almost any course of action. Do you want better social programs? Get the NDP to bug a Liberal government. Want deficit and debt reduction? Have the Conservatives hold their feet to the fire. Solid environmental policy? Don’t hold your breath till the Green party becomes a thorn in their side. Liberals are only concerned with one thing: What is the absolute least I need to accomplish to get you to vote for me again? Does this mean that I don’t think the Liberals would be better than the Emperor? No. Anything marginally better than a Ouija board would be preferred to the Conservatives in my mind, as a Ouija board has at least a random chance of not bending me over on every policy decision.
Jack Layton. Probably the most likable of all the leaders in the four major parties. If you have ever seen a Video Professor commercial, then you have met his doppelganger, and
perhaps if the theory holds true, Jack will never succeed until the Video Professor is destroyed. Jack is the leader of a party that, believe it or not, is too far left for most Canadians. That’s saying a lot, like being too douchy to work at the Gap, or too old to be a greeter at Wal-Mart. Not impossible, but certainly requiring some imagination.
The NDP(New Democratic Party) are the spoilers, along with the Bloc Quebecois, in this election. They are just popular enough to get a few seats here and there, as long as here and there is in Atlantic Canada, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, B.C. or one anti-social riding in Alberta. But the seats they win, and more importantly the seats lost to the Bloc in Quebec, are the difference between a majority and a minority government. Jack will never be Prime Minister, but he can keep one in check if his seat total gives the Liberals or Conservatives a majority with his party’s support. If you love unions, like in the Pee-Wee Herman sense of the word, and you love deficit financing to give world class social programs, and every blazer you own has suede elbow patches, then the NDP is the party for you.
What do you get when you mix Conservative fiscal policy, Liberal social policy, and an
Environmental policy that won’t result in a Mad Max style dystopia in the next two decades? You get the Green Party of Canada. They like tax breaks for Corporations, if only to offset the first-born-child-of-CEO-per-pound-of-CO2 tax that they plan on instituting upon election. They are all for deficit reduction and debt repayment. They have no problem with women (their leader is Elizabeth May, who I am fairly confident in reporting is, in fact, a woman), they don’t really have much to say about the gays (although I think they sided on Civil Unions before marriage was legal), they don’t have an issue with marijuana possession, and they aren’t pro-corporation or anti-working poor. Their big issue is the environment. They advocate a carbon tax, and not in the Liberal “I-would-love-to-have-a-carbon-tax-that-will-be-phased-in-by-2095” kind of way. They actually seen to have the prescience to see the immediacy of our dilemma. Unfortunately they are not invited to the debate (no parties without seats in the last parliament are), they suffer from poor organization, and most Canadians view the importance of environmental issues on par with the guy in the mail room at their work that always drops in to chat when they are playing solitaire at their computer:
- It’s a minor annoyance.
- If I ignore it long enough it will just go away
- someone else will deal with it eventually
Elizabeth May is not the most charismatic of leaders though, and she spends most of the campaign whining about being on the outside looking in. If they win a seat in this election, that will increase their seat count by ∞, but they did get almost a million votes in the last election, and were the only party that increased their number of votes from the previous election. The Green Party has about as much chance of forming a government as Honolulu has of getting a foot of snowfall in July, and about as good odds of winning more than two seats in the election as the Edmonton Oilers have for making the Cup final next year.
A Note About The Bloc Quebecois
In Canada, we love democracy so much that we are willing to allow a party run in our elections that exists for the sole purpose of destroying our country. The BQ is a Quebec-only separatist party, hell bent on independence for their province and whining for special privilege in the meantime. So great is our democracy that 10% of the popular vote can win you 49 seats; while the NDP, with 17% of the vote, can get 29 seats.
In my riding, we have a Liberal Member of Parliament. There is little chance this fact will change. Our MP does a fantastic job for our riding, and is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. He remembered my name last time he saw me, and I have never worked or voted for a Liberal in my life. I once headed the youth wing of our Conservative Member of Provincial Parliament, and was involved in two elections with him; and he still never remembered my name. Not once.
Because I am in the enviable position of being in a riding where my vote really will not impact the outcome of this election, I plan to vote Green. I did last time too. The more votes that the Green Party gets, the more the other politicians will have to take them seriously. My vote will tell the politicians that do end up in Ottawa that one more voice is shouting “WAKE THE HELL UP”, that business as usual is going to lead us down the road to destruction. My hope is that every voter in Canada who gives two shits about our future and who is living in a riding where a Conservative has no hope of winning will join me in sending a message to the other parties that it’s time to shape up. We need a scientifically grounded sustainable environmental strategy and we need it two elections ago. We need a more equitable and fair representation in our government, one that gives every persons vote a voice. We don’t need a quasi-theocracy, and we don’t need dithering and vote buying. We need competent and forward thinking leadership, we need everything that the two major parties will never give us….unless we demand it. And Loudly.