Friday, January 13, 2006

Can the Beaver Change Its Spots?

I haven’t been blogging much at all recently (work has been very busy), but I due to popular demand (!) I can’t resist making a post updating my views on the Canadian federal election. I have been following the progress of the campaign in the newspaper, although I wish I could have been able to watch the debates on television this week.

It appears at this point that the Conservatives are poised to snatch victory out from under the noses of the Liberals. How do I feel about this?

First off, I’ll get this off my chest: I’m not voting. As much as I would like to make a principled stand against the Liberals for their arrogance and entrenched corruption, I can’t bring myself to support one of the other parties. Also, the logistics are obviously a bit more difficult for me this year, and it’s tough to bother going through it when I don’t feel strongly about the outcome. I can live with either of the two conceivable outcomes: a win for the Liberals or the Conservatives. I am, generally speaking, not unhappy with most of the policies of the Liberal party - there are no issues besides the scandals and a general distrust of a one-party state that would cause me to vote Conservative. I like many of the Conservative economic policies, although I’m not convinced the GST reduction is a better tax-reduction scheme than lowering income taxes (I cautiously supported the latter a few weeks ago on this blog). I find Liberals ingrained anti-Americanism very distasteful, for obvious personal reasons as well as the fact that it is not doing any favours for the economy. Like it or not, our economic well-being is inextricably tied to the economic situation in the States. I know the lack of movement from the Americans on softwood lumber is extremely frustrating for Canadians, and the US position is undoubtedly 99.9% wrong (even for the vast majority of Americans) – but the rage over this issue that is directed towards Americans in general is unfair (it is completely off the radar screen of the general public down here) and should be focused on the trade negotiators representing the US (and really, the problem is a symptom of the incredible power of tightly-focused political advocacy groups in US politics rather than any specific individuals – Canada is just on the losing end of this system, while usually it is the rest of the American people who are getting screwed).

With respect to the notwithstanding clause brouhaha, I think Paul Martin is making a mistake to suggest removing the possibility of a parliamentary opt-out. There’s good reasons to have a (rarely-used) check on judicial authority. If you want to avoid entering into the kind of battles over Supreme Court nominations that are the norm in the US, this is a decent, if imperfect, means to keep the highest court from becoming the final arbiter on policy. That said, I am extremely opposed to using the notwithstanding clause to sidestep progress on gay marriage. Stephen Harper now says he will not use the clause to avoid this outcome, and while I don’t think he really wanted to say that, I believe him – the political fallout from moving from this position would be immense, and I think he is a shrewd enough politician to realize that committing political suicide isn’t worth it on an issue that will end up going against you sooner or later, anyway.

It is starting to look like a Conservative government will form on January 23rd. If it’s a minority one, I’m not entirely displeased with this, although I’d probably prefer a Liberal minority (Frankly, if it wasn’t for these every-18 months elections, I’d like ALL governments to be of the minority variety. Let’s save that discussion for later.). But there are some positives to the Conservative-minority outcome: first off, it pokes the Liberal party into regrouping and proves they are not heirs to the throne of Canadian governance. Second, there may be some improvements in economic policies, and (potentially) a willingness to be more creative with solutions to issues surrounding health care. Third, a more positive relationship with the United States (or at least one where reflexive anti-Americanism is not part of the party culture) should result. Now, there are definitely some concerns: will this more cozy relationship lead us into military adventures around the globe, accompanying our neighbours to the south? (I hope not). Also, what will happen to social policy under a Harper government? This I am actually not overly concerned about, especially if they only form a minority. It will be extremely difficult to move social policy to the right by bringing in members of the Liberals, NDP, or the Bloc (especially the latter two parties). This then minimizes my biggest concern with the Conservatives.

So to sum it up: Harper seems to me moving towards the center on a few issues, or at least realizing he won’t ever form a government by sticking with his right-wing instincts. Has he really changed? I doubt it, but I can deal with a Conservative minority, and can even find some reasons to be optimistic about it. I sincerely hope Stephen Harper does not make me eat my words.

UPDATE (9:00am, Friday): The G&M now has a story this morning that the Conservatives are getting close to hitting majority status, based on seat projections (which are notoriously problematic). I would prefer to see a Harper government constrained by the other a strategic vote in order?


At 7:15 AM, Blogger Garry said...

Don't worry about missing the debates - they were boring, boring, boring. That also sums up the two potential leaders of our country - boring, boring, boring. Neither are willing to stick a neck out to do what needed for the country (which is why I like Layton) and neither can make Canada stronger. My opinion is that Martin will make Canada worse more slowly than Harper, which is why he should remain in power until there is a real leader to choose. A Harper minority will indeed turn some heads and elicit some change here, though the drastic measures Harper will bring in to stop the bleeding will be good for no one; your argument against lowering the GST is proof of that. The truth is, we have a good country, we just need a real leader to convince everyone else. And because Martin can't do that, he should get out of the way. It's almost enough to make me vote Green.

At 9:14 AM, Blogger Scott McC said...

I've thought about the Greens, as well (I've voted for them before, although that was in my eco-hippie days). What do you think is "needed for this country"? I think we're on a pretty good tack, for the most part (better than almost every major western country, I'd argue). This touches on something I have been wanting to post about: how do you convince voters who are generally happy with the way things are going that massive changes in government are required? (This was really evident in the late 90's with the Coservatives/Reform blowing hard about "changing the direction of the country" when we were in a massive economic boom and everyone was pleased as punch with the general direction of government. It was sad, and hilarious). What also comes up for me, philosophically, is that this just reminds me of why we really need to limit the size and scope of government: it's all well and good if you like what they're doing, but when are party you are ideoligically opposed to obtains power for (perhaps) irrational shifts in voter preferences, having a really powerful government doesn't seem like quite such a good idea, does it?

At 3:34 PM, Blogger Speedy said...

Interesting post & comments. I'm still a little shaky on where I particularly stand. I know that I'm not a fan of the NDP. However, I don't feel that the Libs are really that "Anti-American" in terms of the ppl. I myself am not a fan of the actions that the current American Government has taken in the past years (on numerous issues - not the Iraq invasion).

In terms of our economy being tied to America etc... I myself beg the question of where do you draw the line? Am I willing to lower my standards or support something that I don't agree with in order to gain something else (such as money or power)? If not, why would I then want my government or country to do the same? I have no problem with the citizens of America. (except the arrogant ones, but I have a problem w/ arrogant people no matter where they are from! haha) I think my distaste lies in what America has come to represent and ‘stand’ for. Ok… how exactly does this relate to the Canadian election? Back to the topic at hand

I don’t like that Harper supports the Weapons in Space program. There is an actual stance on my part. Everything else – I’m still unsure about.


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