Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Over Forty Percent Couldn't Get it up to Vote for Canada. Now What? Post-Election Thoughts.

Canadians want a dictatorship. How else to explain such an abysmally low turnout. Canadians are like sheep; they want someone else to think for them. They voted in such low numbers, Canada ended up somewhere like 83rd on the global list, below even the Brits, whose sozzled thoughts extend as far as wondering how many pints they can fit into a football match. Afghanis, living in that backwards war-torn country, turned out in vast numbers, 85%, knowing full well that the only way their will be done is by voting and ensuring their democracy represents what they want. Their imperfect, corrupt democracy is stronger than ours by virtue of the fact that they don't make specious arguments that their vote doesn't count so why bother. People who get out to vote know that their vote may not counter those for their opponents, but if they don't get out, they may just as well hand the seat over to the other guy on a platter. The only chance to unseat the opponent is to vote.

So Canadians didn't, and they handed Stephen Harper the country on a platter.

Harper intends to govern Canada as if he had a majority. He said so, and he said it again last night. His agenda will prevail. The way he'll do that is to cow the opposition by making every bill, every motion, a confidence motion.

(When I was studying political science in high school, we learnt budget matters are confidence motions in minority governments, all other motions are negotiated with the opposition, in a style that's Canada's hallmark, the style that forged our nation in the first place.)

It really is too bad. This election was the first one in a long time where inspiring ideas were being discussed, where a new way of envisioning our country and her place in the world, of encouraging our innovators and entrepreneurs, of making us a green industry powerhouse were in the limelight. Instead we had voters who ignored that which they had long groused for -- a vision and real ideas -- and rewarded the same old, voters like those in Central Nova who chose a Harper lackey, a man who hasn't had an independent thought since Harper won the leadership, a man who as Foreign Minister looked like milquetoast compared to our previous Foreign Ministers and who only looked competent once Maxime Bernier took over. They chose that man because he was familiar and a good constituent MP -- as if Elizabeth May would be a bad one, yeah right -- over a woman leader, who would've shaken up Parliament for the good, would've set a public example for politically inclined women to aspire to, and had injected a vigorous, respectful note into this election. These voters were no different than Canadian Idol voters this past summer who chose a bad singer simply because he was from Nova Scotia -- as one tweeter had put it, he sucks, but he sucks from Nova Scotia. And then there was Bernier, a man who not only embarrassed Canada, but also jeopardized months of delicate behind-the-scenes negotiating in Afghanistan, because his mouth clearly had no brain behind it. The voters in his riding obviously like that in their MP. Suave and stupid. And then there were the voters in Jim Flaherty's riding, who decided that having an MP who slagged them -- yes, folks he slagged you too when he said don't invest in Ontario -- is a good thing. Or maybe they thought their fellow Ontarians deserved such an underhanded diss -- nothing like watching your brother being stabbed as you cheer on the sidelines -- and like good sheep followed their divisive leader all the way to the ballot box. I could go on.

But Canadians weren't all universally unthinking. There were pockets of critical thinkers who weren't afraid to use their noggins and who had enough self-respect to believe that they deserved an MP who wasn't a fool or a bully or a braggadaccio. It's unfortunate they weren't in ridings that would have seriously changed the nature and tempo of Parliament.

So now what? We're right back to where we started, only about $300 million poorer as we head into an economic storm, as people were so fond of saying last night. Even The Toronto Star latched onto that metaphor this morning. As I was saying, sheep, all sheep.

Harper is a wily, cunning man, who uses divide and conquer and non-confidence bluffs effectively. Although I thought St├ęphane Dion's ideas were bold and visionary and provided an exciting future for Canada, I do not believe he has the political street smarts to outwit Harper. (Layton was right on that.) Bob Rae has proven adept at working with and then outmaneuvering his opponents. I believe it's because of his NDP roots and the fact he's a natural politician. He enjoys the cut and thrust of Parliament, and he knows how to use words. I don't know what his French is like, but I'm sure it's better than Harper's. Jack Layton has proven his own leadership credentials in Parliaments past and now with his gain of 5 seats despite no gain in popular support (which just means the number of NDP seats is closer to representing the actual vote percentage). He and Rae, together with the savvy Gilles Duceppe, could form a formidable coalition the equal to Harper, one that could call him on his non-confidence bluffs, bring down his government, and, like in Ontario two decades ago, form a coalition government that would govern until the next fixed election date, saving Canadians another election while representing the majority. It would take a ton of negotiating, a ton of setting aside of differences, a ton of seeing what their common goals are and creating new ways of achieving them that they could all agree on. In short, it would pit the forces of unity against Harper's disunity.

Harper has generated ill will in this country, exacerbating the hate-Toronto and be-jealous-of-Ontario moods, playing on the idea of Maritimers as lazy barnacles, creating the notion of keeping certain segments of Canada out of his cabinet, playing on the notion that a democratic Parliament is a bad thing when it thwarts the will of one man (him), and running his government like a majority when clearly Canadians have told him they want him to have a minority government, with all the compromises and co-operating and stunning leap forwards such a government can bring.

And so I have changed my mind about Dion. In Harper's Parliament, we need an Opposition led by career politicians who can out-wile the strategist. Layton and Duceppe are already there. But not Dion, unfortunately. A new Liberal leader is needed, but whoever it is I would hope would pick up Dion's visionary ball and play with it in a way that Canadians understand and in a way that scores against Harper.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow! You really wanted that carbon tax!

I would give up on the idea of a coalition government, though. The 'natural ruling party of Canada' generally takes a longer view than that. I couldn't imagine any Liberal leader that could ever conceive of an alliance with socialists and separatists.

James Bow said...

Don't blame the voters. Had any party given something for the voters to vote for, they would have beaten a path to the ballot box. They didn't. The fault for that lies with the politicians and the faulty system, and not the people who are governed by it.

talk talk talk / Shireen said...

anon, Wow! You really swallowed Harper's distortions hook, line, and sinker. The negative ads worked for you, eh.

If Ontarians can elect an NDP gov't, anything can happen. Besides the non-voters pinched all their pockets, so they're going to have to be creative in ways they never have had to before.

James, that's untrue. For this election, the four parties had four distinct approaches. The Tories had no platform, just their past record. But each of the other national parties had comprehensive platforms representing their vision for the country. For the environment, you got three distinct approaches, and Canadians said this issue was either the top one or in the top two. That's why the few who voted went for the party that had nothing. That's what non-voting got you.

For health care, you got a brand-new addition to medicare, expressed in 3 different ways. For infrastructure, which cities badly need, you had one party that had a comprehensive plan, and three others that had watered down ideas. I could go on.

It's a cop out to say that parties had nothing to offer. Maybe in previous elections, but not in this one. All four opposition parties had lots to offer and different approaches to choose from.

As for the faulty system, there's no doubt that the first-past-the-post system does not work in a multi-party state like ours, only in a 2-party state. We definitely need electoral reform, and since the politicians aren't willing to make the move, it's up to Canadians to speak up. That's democracy.