The 2011 Federal Election

I have a confession to make: I love politics[1] and I love elections! Ever since I was a child I was engaged in politics. When my stepfather came into my life, I had a worthy opponent to debate politics. He was a staunch conservative[2] who voted Progressive Conservative[3] and then Reform. I always loved the NDP. I remember hearing Dave Barrett speak at a leadership convention and what he said resonated with me. As a person who has always had an overly developed sense of fairness the NDP just made sense to me. At least 3-4 times a week dinner was a political debate between us. My mother and sister would complain very loudly as they hated it. My sister really didn’t get it and my mother would get emotional. I thrived on it.

When I started university and changed my original goal of going into psychology[4], I fell back to my first passion, which was political science. After a semester of taking 2 political science courses I realized that history[5] was extremely important in understanding where we are at politically. So the natural fit for me at school was political history. I love just about any kind of politics.

I was watching the news earlier today and they were talking to people to about their thoughts on the election. What struck me was that everyone single person was complaining about the upcoming election.[6] This is the wonderful thing about parliamentary democracy and in particular a minority parliament. The Opposition parties did not table a motion of non-confidence without major issues. Or in other words, the motion of non-confidence was not frivolous. The Harper government has been found in contempt of parliament for not supplying proper documentation on the cost of the proposed crime legislation, the cost of F-35 fighter jets and corporate tax cuts. This is the first time any government in the Commonwealth has been found in contempt of parliament. In addition to the contempt of parliament charge is the odious acts of disrespect of Bev Oda. If the government cannot provide basic information on such important issues how can we expect full information on the budget?

This is the beauty of a minority parliament, the opposition parties can hold the government accountable for their behaviour. Nothing like this process exists in the American system. Americans are stuck with whomever they elect for 2 or 4 or 6 years depending on the position.[7] In the absence of majority governments, the threat of frequent elections is always there. However, I would argue that minority government is better government. The constant threat of votes of non-confidence ensures that the government has to be more aware and cognizant of the policy directions of other parties. When you get a prime minister like Harper how does not work and play well with others you have to expect a lot of problems.

I think we should be grateful for the upcoming election. It gives us a chance to try move forward. If we are to look at history, the closest time period that resembles the current federal situation was the Diefenbaker-Pearson years. There were several elections starting in the late 1950s up until Trudeau was elected in 1968. What finally broke that cycle of minority parliaments was a new, charismatic leader in Pierre Trudeau. Given that we have not seen a change in leadership in any of the parties to galvanize support for one party over another.

Barring any major gaffes or game-changing moments we will likely have another minority parliament. I am not going to predict party at this point, as it is far too early in the election. One of the things that is going to come up is strategic voting. I will likely post more about this option, as we get closer to voting day. My only wish is that people would be more grateful for the right to vote in real democratic elections. Just look at the events in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya if you have any question about what having a franchise means. Just remember voting is a right and an obligation.

[1] In Alberta we used to have 2 days of school for the ‘Teachers’ Convention.’ I remember watching the Watergate hearings at about age 7 glued to the TV. Can you say GEEK?!?

[2] Not to be confused with the Conservative party.

[3] Again, not to be confused with the Stephen Harper Conservatives, which is a conglomerate of the former, Progressive Conservative Party and the Canadian Alliance (which was born of the Reform Party).

[4] I wanted to get a doctorate in psychology except for one minor problem: I hated it! Seriously, hated it. Twenty minutes into the first lecture, I realized how much I hated it.

[5] When I sat through my first history class, I had the opposite reaction to the one I had with psychology. I felt completely at home.

[6] My suspicion was that they must have been in a Conservative riding.

[7] Members of the House of Representatives are elected every 2 years, presidents every 4 years and senators every 6 years. Interestingly, as the head of both the executive and legislative parts of governments, prime ministers have more power than American presidents.

Is something in the wings?

Ok, I am seriously wondering what the Liberal Party of Canada is going to do in reaction to the election results. I think it is seriously telling that Stephane Dion had a press conference scheduled for today and he cancelled it. The Liberal Party are mercenaries when it comes to having power and they are currently sitting in the political wilderness with a leader who can’t connect to people and no chances of resurrection and no heirs apparent in the wings. Justin Trudeau is too young and too untested to get the leadership and do it justice. This does not sit will for the ‘natural governing party’ of Canada.

My point, because I do have one, is I think they are going to do some bold. I am hoping they are engaged in talks to bring back Jean Chretien as an interim leader until the party can be rebuilt and a new leader can be crowned. This scenario is not outside the realm of possibility. Pierre Trudeau retired and came back. Jean Chretien is very similar to him in terms of leadership style – after all he served with him for many years. As far as I know, Chretien has no pressing reason not to do this for his party. I would love to see Jean Chretien mop up the floor with little Stevie Harper and his sweater vests.