11/27/2005

Canadian Election Forecast: "Meet The New Boss Same As The Old Boss"

For the first time in twenty-five years Canadians will be facing a winter election. With last week's motion of Non-Confidence introduced by the Conservative party likely to receive enough opposition support when it comes to a vote Monday evening, the governing Liberal party will be forced to call an election. (Due to the nature of Canada's political system of winning seats from ridings, or electoral districts, a party can end up winning the most seats, but not have a majority in the House of Commons. They can be defeated in two ways: either a bill that is considered a confidence issue like a budget is voted down or an opposition party introduces a motion of Non-Confidence that is subsequently passed) Following traditional procedure Prime Minister Paul Martin will thus go to the residence of Governor-General Jean Michelle Tuesday morning and request permission to dissolve the current government and call an election. The earliest a vote may be held is 36 days from dissolution, which would make January 9th, 2006 the first possible day for a vote. Since the parties seem to have called a truce from campaigning over the holiday week, they will tack an extra week on and hold the election on Monday January 15th. (All federal elections have to be on a Monday. The only reason I can figure is that this way in the weird event it falls in the first week of November there won't be a conflict with results from an American election day.) The last federal election we had in wintertime was in February of 1980. This was the year that saw the dramatic rise from the ashes of defeat by Pierre Trudeau. After losing to Joe Clark in the previous election it looked like his political future was in doubt, but he came back and led to liberals to a resounding victory in the subsequent election. That election literally changed the face of Canada as it resulted in the repatriation of our constitution and the implementation of the Charter of Rights And Freedoms, which has been so instrumental in overturning laws and enshrining rights. But today we don't have any leader with any sort of vision of Canada. They all just seem to float from issue to issue as political expedience requires. One of the reasons the Liberal party has been ruling since that election is that nobody has provided an alternative that a majority of Canadians are comfortable with. The separatist Bloc Quebecois doesn't run candidates outside of Quebec, the New Democratic Party (N.D.P.) are considered too radical, and the Conservative Party of Canada thought too reactionary. That leaves the Liberal party as the only ones enough people are comfortable with to vote for in significant numbers to have a chance at forming a government. Even now when they are in the midst of recovering from one of the most damaging political scandals in Canadian history, illegally funnelling money into their own coffers from a series of kickbacks during the 1995 independence referendum in Quebec, they are still maintaining a lead in the polls as we head into the election. Even one of their staunchest detractors, Conservative Premier Ralph Klein of Alberta, has publicly said he believes we will have another Liberal minority government. So what are the issues heading into the campaign? There are the usual big ones; health care, social programs, aboriginal rights, and housing. In spite of what Bono thinks, most Canadian don't really care about his opinion of our politicians. When we have over a million children living in poverty ourselves and don't do anything about it, did he really expect our government to spend money on foreign aid? Perhaps military spending will be an issue, which should make our American allies happy. For the first time in a long time the government is realizing that you really should pay a volunteer army enough money so that the rank and file don't have to rely on food banks to eat, and that maybe they should be equipped with stuff that doesn't carry the moniker of "widow maker" Although any increases won't affect our commitment ability, it will allow our troops to be properly equipped and funded. Don't expect anything original from anybody on any of the issues. The Liberals will try to make it appear that they have been doing things about all the major issues, whether or not they have. The Conservative Party will say they are spending too much money and say the only way to do things is by cutting taxes and let everything else take care of itself. The N.D.P. will say that not enough money is being spent on the right things and argue that Canada needs to invest in itself not a few wealthy people. The Bloc Quebecois, trying to win more seats in Quebec, will demean the Liberals every step of the way. Since issues aren't going to be an issue in this election, when are they any more anyway, what will they be talking about out on the campaign trail? The Conservatives have shown that they are going to go to any lengths to raise questions about the Liberals moral authority to govern. Already they have used the protection of the house to accuse the Liberals of having ties to organized crime based on what happened during the sponsorship scandal. (Anything you say in the House of Commons cannot be used against you in a court of law, no matter how libellous) This has prompted the Liberals to both demand an apology and issue a lawyer's letter of warning. If the Conservatives so much as hint to a connection between the Liberals and organized crime on the campaign trail or in public they will find themselves in court. Not that it matters now, because the accusations have been publicized across Canada already. For their part the Liberals will be playing up the fear factor to the fullest. There are too many Conservative party caucus members and new candidates who are social conservatives for the liking of too many Canadians. While the anti-gay, pro life, Christian, family values talk may play well in some smaller constituencies, in the areas where the Conservatives need to make gains it goes over like a lead balloon. Even those ethnic minorities that may share some of the same views can be scared off by the Conservative's virulent anti-immigration policies. While the Liberals don't operate what you'd call an open door policy by any stretch of the imagination, the Tories would most likely slam it shut in the face of most refugees and "those looking to take jobs away from Canadians". That kind of talk isn't conducive to overcoming the impression that the Liberal's are the party of the immigrant. The Conservatives may try to make an issue out of Canada's recent cooling of relations with the current American administration. They will probably cite the softwood lumber dispute as a sample of the results of Liberal policies concerning issues important to the Americans. The fact that one has nothing to do with the other and the former issue predates the current government will have little bearing on the matter. But if they play this card they will have to be very careful, Canadians are feeling very sensitive about he issue of national identity these days. Paul Martin vacillated over the issue of the missile defence system for that very reason. He didn't want to be seen as kowtowing to the American President if Canadians weren't in favour of the program. As polls began to show that most opposed it, he backed out. Jean Chretien got lambasted in the conservative press in Canada for refusing to join the American invasion of Iraq, but the majority of Canadians opposed the idea and he received wide spread popular support for the decision. The leader of the Conservative Party, Steven Harper, is already viewed as being a little too cosy with the America government in the parts of Canada where he needs to win seats. A lot of people were suspicious of his private meeting with President Bush a while ago in Washington. What would an opposition leader be doing meeting with the President of a foreign country? He doesn't go to any other countries and get invited to meet the leadership because he doesn't represent Canada. The last American Presidential election made it clear that most Canadians don't agree with the current administration's policies, and Mr. Harper may want to keep that in mind before he wraps himself in the Stars and Stripes. The Liberals have spent their last couple of weeks in office pushing through tax cuts, signing agreements on Day Care with provinces, and hosting an inter provincial meeting on Native rights and conditions. In other words playing Santa with a bag full of pre election goodies. Since most of this was stuff they've been planning all along, if the opposition accuses them of "bribing" the electorate, they can respond by saying we knew you were going to shut down the House, so we wanted to pass as much as possible, and if you disagreed so much why didn't you vote against it and call an election earlier? Unless something happens on the scale of one of the leaders being found in bed with an animal or a dead human, I can't see the results of this election being all that much different than the last. The Bloc Quebecois may gain a seat or two, and perhaps the N.D.P. will win a couple more if the Liberal and Conservatives split the vote enough in a couple of ridings in Ontario and British Columbia. Even if the Conservatives some how manage to reverse the position of the first two parties, their chances of being able to govern are slim. Unless they are bigger whores for power than I thought, I can't see them forming an alliance with the Bloc.Quebecois that their caucus could stomach for more than a week. The real fun will begin after the election; that's when the knives will come out and the jockeying will start to happen to encourage leadership reviews in both Liberals and the Conservatives. Neither Steven Harper of the Conservatives or Paul Martins of the Liberals could garner a majority after two elections and that's usually the limit a party gives its leaders. Which probably means we can look forward to another election around this time next year. The only good thing about so many elections is that it keeps the politicians from doing any real harm. As long as they're campaigning, they're not doing anything to mess up our lives. That's a plus.

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