Canadians go to the polls on Monday

With the election three days away, the news source I respect most has endorsed Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party. The Economist‘s argument is a straightforward one: the Liberals have become a problematic governing party as the result of corruption, internal divisions, and an ineffective Prime Minister. This is a sentiment I have frequently expressed myself. They portray choosing the Conservatives as a gamble, but one that is worth taking. As usual, it is a defensible position, though not one that I agree with.

Despite the extent to which it seems to have dominated this campaign, the sponsorship scandal has been overblown. The levels of money involved are fairly small and the furor needs to be set beside the strong governance record that the Liberals have had. We’ve had a long period of growth, low inflation, and the like. Whether the Conservatives would be able to perpetuate macroeconomic stability and economic growth of not, credit should be given to the Liberals for carrying it this far.

The second half of the equation is whether the Tories can be trusted in power. They have taken pains to at least appear different from the ugly face they took on during the teeth-gnashing days of the Canadian Alliance. Even so, it’s quite legitimate to ask whether things have really changed on the blue side of Canadian politics. One of Paul Martin’s best moments as PM was defending same-sex rights as an equality matter under the Charter:

The Charter was enshrined to ensure that the rights of minorities are not subjected, are never subjected, to the will of the majority. The rights of Canadians who belong to a minority group must always be protected by virtue of their status as citizens, regardless of their numbers. These rights must never be left vulnerable to the impulses of the majority.

That said, he could certainly have done more to shift Canada further towards a sensible policy on narcotic drugs (based on harm reduction among users and combatting the violence and organized crime that a criminalized drug trade spawns) and could generally have given a more impressive demonstration of leadership and direction. He could also have done rather more to repair Canada’s contribution to the international system.

Clearly, the Liberals are in need of rejuvenation and reform. Ideally, a new leader should emerge who is both more capable of delivering policy progress and less connected with all the advertising and Quebec ugliness that has tainted the present Liberal leadership. Perhaps a Conservative government is the only outcome that would allow the Liberals to reorganize. Indeed, giving Paul Martin another shot as Prime Minister would hardly send a message that change is required. Having a Prime Minister with a stronger connection to the west would probably be a good thing, and might serve to help counterbalance the self-obsession and cronyism that seem to be involved in Ontario and – especially – Quebec politics.

While it’s hard to predict the outcome of an election, it’s easier to predict what each possible outcome would resemble, at least in the medium term. A majority Liberal government looks out of the question, and would be a perverse outcome anyhow from an election in which they definitely failed to outmaneuver their opponents. A minority Liberal or minority Conservative government is the most likely possibility. Another Liberal-NDP coalition would be a return to politics as they have been lately, more or less. I am less certain what kind of coalition the Conservatives would form. Indeed, that might be the most mysterious possibility of all. A majority Tory government, while not impossible, also seems highly unlikely. Canada, it seems, is likely to end up with a muddle: a situation that definitely reflects my own feelings about this election.

5 thoughts on “Canadians go to the polls on Monday”

  1. Here’s the long and short of things. I want to vote for a socially progressive party: the most socially progressive party with a shot at winning. That’s because I think that much about life is profoundly unfair and that governments on the left do a better job of accepting that and creating policies to mitigate it.

    My rule, therefore, tells me to vote for the Liberals.

    At the same time, I know that politics is a messy business. Sleazy people, as well as idealistic ones, join political parties. Even the idealistic ones tend to become sleazy as the result of exposure to power. Every now and again, we need to give parties a good jostle, to at least curb the most egregious of internal abuses.

    On Monday, then, do we let Harper’s lot give them a bit of a jostle, in hopes that we will come back stronger afterwards? I share your uncertainty, as regards this question.

  2. “The irony, I suppose, is that many of the people who will vote Liberal will do so because of a classically conservative distrust of rapid change.”

    That is kinda funny, isn’t it?

  3. I am surprised by how many minor parties have crawled (slightly) out of the woodwork in the media coverage for this election. Some, I had heard of: Marijuana, Marxist-Leninist, Libertarian. Some I know absolutely nothing about: Christian Heritage, Action, Progressive Canadian, Communist, Animal Alliance, First Peoples…

  4. If only the Marxist-Leninists and the Communists could settle their disputes and unite the ultra far left. Sad, really.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *