The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

On the NDP Surge in Canada

So, amidst the standard gloomy news of austerity, autocratic elites who don’t give a damn about anything but themselves and populations who keep voting for the wrong people, some actual good news arises: the New Democratic Party (NDP) in Canada has surged into second place in the polls.

The NDP are the leftmost party in Canada with the exception of the Bloc Quebecois, the Quebec separatist party who runs candidates only in Quebec.  They are strongly union associated.  They have been the third party in federal politics basically forever.  Provincially they do run some provinces.  Their birthplace was the prairies, but in the last few decades they’ve been strongest in Canada’s Pacific coast province, British Columbia (BC), though that does fluctuate.  I’d argue that the NDP are BC’s natural ruling party and has been for about 30 to 40 years.  The other parties, to defeat them, have generally had to agree that only one of them seriously run against them.

The NDP is most famous for having created Canadian Medicare, provincially under Tommy Douglas, who many Canadians consider the greatest Canadian to have ever lived.  The Feds adopted the plan after he pushed it through at the provincial level.

The scourge of the NDP has been the perception that they can’t win Federally.  As a result, in most Federal elections vote switching has often cost them at least 5% of their vote, and I’d argue up to 10%.  Canadians would vote Liberal in an attempt to keep the Conservative party out.

As a result, parties that range from Center to Left (the Liberals, NDP and Bloc) have regularly pulled in about 60% of the vote, and yet the Conservatives have had minority governments for much of the last decade.  This is also due to the fact that, like the US system, ours is first past the post, winner take all.  Geographical concentration counts big, and the Conservative’s hard support in the prairies and Alberta in particular has translated well into seats.

So the NDP being second in the polls is a really good sign, because it means that core NDP voters now have no reason to switch, and Liberal voters whose first priority is making sure the Conservatives don’t get a majority government may switch to the NDP, instead of the other way around.

The NDP surge is particularly impressive in Quebec, where they are now clearly in the lead.  The Bloc Quebecois has collapsed.  Why this has happened, exactly, isn’t something I’m entirely clear on, Quebec politics are somewhat opaque to me, but I will note that it is particularly in Quebec’s interest to make sure that Harper (the Conservative leader) doesn’t get a majority.

You may have noticed the emphasis on “majority”.  In a parliamentary system like Canada’s, with extraordinarily strong party discipline, a prime minister with a majority is pretty close to an elected dictator.  If he wants to pass a law, it gets passed. If he wants to do something administratively, it happens.  God only wishes he had as much power as a Canadian Prime Minister.

Harper is run by energy interests from out West.  Essentially they want to pump oil and exploit the oil sands, and they want to keep all the money from their windfall profits.  Quebec’s economy, in export/import terms is also an energy economy.  Quebec, essentially, is a hydro-power farm for New York State.  That money allows Quebec to run their economy the way they want—lots of farm subsidies, lots of good food, a generally fairly relaxed lifestyle. Quebec isn’t France, but it’s as close as you get in North America.  It’s a pleasant place to live in many respects.

If Harper gets his majority, the energy interests he is beholden to may cast their eyes on getting control of Quebec’s energy.  That would be the end of Quebec’s pleasant little economy.  I doubt most Quebecois are explicitly aware of this, but I think they may feel it in their guts.

And other than in terms of independence, the NDP and BQ aren’t very far apart on policy. If anything the BQ is slightly to the left of the NDP. (In American terms, they’re practically communists, not that they are in reality.  But they definitely are socialists.)

There are other factors.  Ignatieff, the Liberal leader, is a sleazeball who apologized for torture.  Most Canadians don’t really care about the torture apologetics, but Ignatieff comes across as a sleazeball with no actual convictions.  So when the Liberals went on the offensive against the Conservatives, claiming Conservatives couldn’t be trusted with Medicare (which in Canada means universal single payer health care), I suspect that many Canadians thought “well, that’s true.  But I don’t think I can’t trust you with it either.”  On the other hand, the idea that the NDP would ever harm Medicare if in power is ludicrous.   Whatever one thinks of the NDP, even its detractors know that the NDP loves universal healthcare.

Jack Layton, the NDP leader, is someone I’ve always liked.  He used to be a Toronto city councilor.  Back in the early 2000’s I went and watched city council during budget deliberations.  As it happened, it was a session when ordinary citizens were giving depositions.  They were limited to 5 minutes each, and there were plenty of them.  In essence, many of them were begging for money to whatever they cared about to keep coming, or for tax changes, and so on.  It was obvious that for most of them, whatever their issue was, it was extraordinarily important.  I remember one guy, admittedly a bit of a crank, with 5 boxes of documents.

Most of the councilors clearly weren’t paying any attention.  They were talking amongst each other, laughing, walking in and out of the room, in some cases clearly mocking the people ostensibly speaking to them.  Now I get this, it was the end of a long day, and really, most of these people were asking for money they obviously weren’t going to get, or that they obviously were going to get.  The councilors had already made up their minds.

But the people giving depositions, they cared.  Some of them were desperate, all of them had put a lot of work into it.  Ignoring them, laughing while they talked, or even mocking them, was extraordinarily cruel and disrespectful.

There were only three councilors who at least appeared to be paying attention to what the citizens were saying.  They may not have been, they may have been off in space, but they at least had the common decency or basic political cops to pretend to give a shit.  Jack Layton was one of them, his wife, Olivia Chow (now a Federal MP as well, and my MP, as it happens) was another.  There was a third female councilor whose name I forget as well.  Every other one was a complete jackass, being cruel to desperate people who had put a lot of work into the speeches they were giving.

So ever since then I’ve had a soft spot for Jack Layton.  I don’t know if he’d make a good PM, but at least he isn’t an asshole to constituents in public.  And at least he showed he could handle the basic blocking and tackling.

So, what’s outcome of this election going to be?  Damned if I know.  The polls are all over the place.  The most likely outcome remains a Conservative minority government.  The second most likely outcome seems to be that the NDP and Liberals, together, get more seats than the Conservatives, in which case they could form a coalition government, probably with the NDP as the senior coalition member (at which point I will spend a few minutes rolling on the floor laughing hysterically.)

If the Conservatives get a minority government, odds are the NDP will be the official opposition party.  Layton will be a far more effective opposition leader than Ignatieff.  And Ignatieff’s days as Liberal leader will soon be over, the Liberals will turf him, as being third party is a complete and absolute disaster for them.  The Liberals and Conservatives have traded being the government of Canada back and forth for as long as Canada has existed.

If Layton does do a good job, he might be able to cement the NDP as the second party in Canada, and if he does that, eventually the NDP will be the government.  That’s a big deal, because the Liberals are essentially centrists.  They campaign slightly left, rule slightly right, and are certainly neo-liberal friendly.  I say this as someone who actually has a lot of respect for the government of Chretien and Paul Martin.  They did a good job overall and managed a period when Canada had to kiss America’s ass very well.  Chretien, in particular, is due a lot of credit for telling Bush to fuck off when Bush tried to coerce Canada into joining the Iraq war, as that took a lot of guts from a Canadian PM, and was clearly the right thing to do.

What does this mean for the rest of the world? Canada was one of the first nations to go to a right wing government.  Through the 2000’s there has been a wave of right wing governments in the West.  The NDP doing this well might be a sign that things are beginning to turn.  Again, the NDP aren’t the wimpy left, they are actually socialists, not a party like Labor in Britain, which is clearly right wing, just not as right wing as the nutbar Conservatives.

How good a government Layton would run I don’t know. I don’t have a good feel for the wonks behind him, or for how strong a leader he’d be.  Nonetheless I am confident that of the possibilities, he’s the best man for the job.  Ignatieff is a weasel, and no one who has apologized for torture should be in charge of anything, anywhere, while Harper is a conservative ideologue who thinks that Canada should be more like the US, as well as being an autocrat who spits over Canada’s democratic and parliamentary traditions.  The sooner he retires, the better.

The outcome is still uncertain.  Heck, it’s even possible the Liberals could come back into second place, or that the Conservatives could surge.  The polls are all over the place, as noted, and this has been a very volatile election.  Someone could put their foot in it.  But still, for the first time in a long time, I am actually seeing some hope for the future.  Canada, amongst countries in the world, is uniquely positioned to ride out the next couple decades.  We have everything we need to do really well, to be one of the most prosperous and free nations in the world.  But doing so requires a course change that will never happen under the Conservatives and is unlikely to happen under the Liberals.  The NDP are the best chance, not a sure thing, but a decent chance.  So here’s praying they keep surging.

More Details for those who care

Ontario.  The largest population province in Canada is Ontario, and the Conservatives are doing gangbusters here.  This really bad for the Liberals, whose heartland Ontario is.  One of the most depressing political results of the last year was in Toronto, where Rob Ford, a conservative whose first act was to tell the unions he was canceling their contracts, was elected on the strength of the suburbs deciding that they didn’t want to pay taxes to keep the goose that lays the golden eggs healthy.  Ontario, as with much of Canada, is in a mild housing bubble, a bubble which has been deliberately kept inflated by the Conservatives.  The actual cities (not the burbs) vote Liberal or NDP, but the suburbs have been going Conservative.  Southern Ontario’s employment has been devastated by the decline in the US auto industry, and the Conservatives have really done nothing about that, but what they have done is make sure housing prices stay high.  So people who, in essence, have nothing else, are voting for them.

Alberta: Ah, Alberta.  Think of Alberta as Canada’s Texas, except that Alberta still has lots of oil, even if most of it is in the form of the oil sands.  Alberta votes Conservative both out of old resentments against central Canada (somewhat justified, though the most legitimate complaints are getting to be decades old, and I say this as someone who grew up out West) and for cold hard cash reasons: exploiting the oil sands is brutally environmentally degrading, and the Albertans want to do it dirty so they make more money.  They also don’t want their windfall oil profits taxed, nor do they want to be forced to sell oil to other Canadians (ie. they don’t want a pipeline to Central Canada).  Since all of these policies make sense if you think of Canada first, and Alberta second (ie. if you’re looking out for all of Canada) and some of them make sense even if you think of Alberta first (the oil economy will end, and if they’ve fucked up their groundwater, Alberta will be in a world of hurt, plus they aren’t reinvesting properly),well, Alberta doesn’t want a leftish party in charge of Ottawa.  What should be done is windfall profit taxes on the oil, and policies which make it necessary to reinvest in Canada (and not in real estate.  It should be made very hard or impossible to invest these profits in real-estate.)

There’s still a ton of stupidity and greed in Canada.  The five big banks have never forgiven the Liberals for not letting them merge, there is a housing bubble, there is insufficient investment in our industrial base, which is collapsing, and no one is really thinking properly about the future. Even brain dead simple obvious things, like expanding Halifax’s harbor to make it into the major northern east coast container port or like making a pipeline from west to east for oil so that we can credibly threaten to withhold oil from the US when the US fucks with us, are not being done.   How much of even the brain dead obvious stuff Layton will do, I don’t know.  But I know there’s at least a chance with him, and no chance with Harper of Ignatieff.


A blast from the past and a reminder about the future


Osama’s Death Changes Almost Nothing


  1. uni kid

    im moving to canada

  2. Robert McClelland

    Angus Reid poll results just announced.
    CPC 35%
    NDP 30%
    LPC 22%

    This confirms the results of the Ekos poll from earlier today.

  3. Why have the Conservatives been able to form a government? I’d have thought that if the Liberals and the NDP outnumber them, they’d have been able to form a coalition. Did they never win enough seats? Or are the Liberals really not liberals?

  4. Ian Welsh

    First past the post with multiple parties means that you don’t need a majority of votes to get a majority of seats. Cons could probably get a majority of seats in the House with 41% of the vote. It would have been theoretically possible to form a Bloc/NDP/Liberal coalition, and it almost happened at one point, but Ignatieff and some really nasty political maneuvering that in my opinion was unconstitutional put an end to it.

    A coalition with the Bloc, because they are separatists, is also kind of unpalatable to many people.

    The Liberals are centrists. In a US context, the center of the Liberal party is probably about Bernie Sanders (Bernie may call himself a socialist, but he isn’t one. He’s a liberal.)

    The Labor party in England has fucked labor repeatedly. Names don’t always match reality.

    Liberals under Chretien and Trudeau were pretty good, imo. Still would have preffered the NDP, but in context they were pretty good. But Ignatieff is a weasel.

  5. JustPlainDave

    For those interested in the polling data, the best summary I have found is here:

    Note that the province level data (and particularly Quebec) is quite noisy and the margins of error are frequently considerable. My sense is that there’s something really happening, but I do wonder if the magnitude on the day will be as large as we are currently seeing. Hopefully large enough to accomplish two birds with one stone.

  6. A long time follower living in Davenport, Toronto… thank you for a clear cogent summary of an unusually interesting finish to the election. Could my offerings to the gods to not give us a Ford, Hudak, Harper trifecta have been accepted? I hardly dare to hope.

  7. No Mames Buey

    Nice post Ian. I think it would be interesting if u did more blog posts on Canada politics, & compare/contrast the Canada with US political spectrum.

    Interesting that B Sanders would be a centrist in the centrist Liberal party. The US Media aka Propaganda suggests Sanders is the left end of the political spectrum.

  8. Old Wolf

    One thing that makes polling in this election a real crap shoot is that the undecideds are still running at just under 15% in the Nanos polls – down only slightly from the 17.5% at the beginning of the campaign. This can be spun as being to almost anyone’s advantage or it could mean low voter turnout – which is contradicted by the high turn out at advance polls.

    My personal take is that it doesn’t bode particularly well for the Conservatives. By their own admission, the Cons’ base is about 27% so they have been performing well above their base for some years. If someone hasn’t decided by now, it would seem to reflect a serious lack of enthusiasm for the Harpies which is good for everyone else.

    The key may be how many of these undecideds shift to the Cons the last week because they are afraid of the “evul soshalists”. The elections results May 2 may be the most interesting TV we’ve had in quite some time. If the current trend holds, there will be 4 new party leaders within the next year or so with only Layton left standing.

  9. Lui

    American politics makes sense in the way that things make sense inside an asylum.

  10. Michael

    “The Liberals are centrists. In a US context, the center of the Liberal party is probably about Bernie Sanders (Bernie may call himself a socialist, but he isn’t one. He’s a liberal.)”

    I would say that if there’s one good thing that might come about from the tea party its that they may be making “socialism” more acceptable in the U.S. They’ve been using the term so much to describe any policy left of center (my jaw almost dropped when I saw a fox news commentator can’t remember if it was O’reilly or Hannity start accusing a woman of socialism for defending progressive income taxes. I shit you not.) that there starting to get to the point where actually popular programs and policies are being included under the term. They’ve been trying to apply it to Roosevelt, and his new deal policies like social security and they’ve also been trying to attack medicare with it.

    I think it might get to the point where if they expand its meaning to such an extent that it starts to overlap with public opinion on many things the word may lose it’s pejorative bite. If that happens then who nows, maybe americans will finally be willing to take a look at some real socialist ideas, if they think that some of the stuff they already like is socialist.

    The reaon for hope came as a result of a visit to my grandfather (who is in his early 90’s but still very sharp) and a discussion he was having with an uncle of mine. Both of them are louisiana natives (my grandfather grew up near Lake Charles, my uncle Batoun Rouge) and they were talking about politics and more specifically about Obama’s term.

    Anyway my grandfather has been a democrat all his life, my uncle a republican, and one way or another the discussion about obama turned to Roosevelt and the New Deal. My grandfather waxing nostalgic about it and lamenting that obama failed to pass anything similar, when my uncle said that he didn’t miss anything about the New Deal and calling Roosevelt a socialist.

    When my grandfather incredously asked him how he could believe that, he listed out the jobs programs roosevelt passed, the unemployment insurance, the massive spending on infrastructure, and the numerous agencies he created, as well as his massive support from “Red Unions” (his words not mine). He also pointed to the fact, and this to my uncle was the clincher, that Roosevelt had sent aid to Stalin’s russia before the U.S. had been attacked by Japan and claimed this was proof Roosevelt was trying to bail out his comrades in Moscow.

    My grandfather patiently explained to him that most of these programs had been temporary responses to an economic crises, that labor unions had been needed at the time since just a few decades erlier state governments were still willing to shoot striking workers, that roosevelt had also been sending weapons to England to help wear down the Germans, and that many of the agencies Roosevelt created along with the Government control of certain industries were direct responses to trying to manage a total war effort.

    But after that my Grandfather said something I never thought I’d ever hear him say in my life.

    “Now if all those things that roosevelt did were socialist, then I’m not ashamed to admit it. Not only am I a red, I’ve always been.”

    Like I said, the crazies may be overplaying their hand.

  11. Steve

    My ex works for Enbridge as a pipeline scheduler in Calgary, and she ships lots of oil out East to refineries. So, there are pipelines to central Canada. I’m not sure what you mean by, “They also don’t want their windfall oil profits taxed, nor do they want to be forced to sell oil to other Canadians (ie. they don’t want a pipeline to Central Canada). ”


  12. Ian Welsh

    There is not enough pipeline capacity to fuel the East which actually runs through Canada (it runs through the US). If Canada wanted to cause oil shortages to the US, and there are scenarios where we should at least threaten to do so, we do not have the pipeline capacity to supply the East even though in principle we have enough oil. The East gets most of its oil from the US, as it happens.

  13. alyosha

    “Now if all those things that roosevelt did were socialist, then I’m not ashamed to admit it. Not only am I a red, I’ve always been.”

    Good story, Michael. The US is going to have to crash and burn, requiring people to band together in ways they haven’t had to do for decades, before people wake up and realize that socialism isn’t a bad word. If they’re even still aware of the word “socialism” for how they’re organizing themselves at that time.

    Thanks for the background, Ian. Good luck to all of you up north.

  14. I can’t vote this time around. If you go to the Elections Canada web site, you’ll see that it turns out that Canada effectively disenfranchises >5-year expats, something most countries don’t do—cannot request absentee ballot. I would have to make a special trip at considerable time and expense to go and vote in person, though it’s now extremely likely that my preferred MP candidate will win. (Ian can probably easily guess who that is.)

  15. A very tiny number of you might remember that I used to supply the Quebec angle at certain other defunct places when I was an active blogger rather than comment section troll, since I read French reasonably well. I haven’t followed the Quebec media this time around very closely, but historically the problem for the NDP in Quebec is that, despite the leftist orientation of a lot of the Quebec electorate, any left party in the Rest of Canada (RoC) is viewed as inherently suspicious by the Quebec left.

    This is because a federal left party in Canada is expected to be a centralist one, attempting to coerce right-wing provinces into a social democratic framework by centralising social policy, which has historically been poison in Quebec. The BQ was seen as a good compromise, defending Quebec autonomy without taking a right-wing stance, but it’s also the reason why Harper once made inroads into some of the more right-wing parts of Quebec (particularly Quebec City suburbs where francophones are most culturally confident and hence more economically complacent and right wing). Harper is an Alberta decentralist, so there is a kind of left-right alliance of decentralist convenience. I always found this to be an awful compromise, effectively sacrificing the Canadian left out of a fear of something nonexistent (the NDP has no designs on Quebec social democracy or cultural autonomy) but that’s how it’s been.

    What seems to have happened this time around is that:

    1. A newer generation of Quebecois have grown up without the (justified) cultural insecurity of their parents, and hence the reflexive need to defend Quebec autonomy.

    2. Jack Layton has roots in Quebec and speaks “street” Quebec French very well.

    3. The BQ is tired and has low turnover, and people are tired of it.

    4. Jack has promised openness towards an asymmetrical approach to Canadian federalism (which I don’t care for myself, but that and $4 will get you an overpriced latte).

    5. The NDP decided to risk a Harper majority (this should please Ian) by focusing their attack strategy on Iggy rather than Harper. Iggy is fluent in French but in fake “Parisian” academic French, not “real” working-class French like Jack.

    6. Once a critical mass of Quebec voters warmed to the NDP, a mini-landslide effect seems to be taking place.

    We’ll see whether this holds up on May 2. I hope it does. The God-PM thing is very annoying about Canada, but an elected presidency is clearly worse: this sort of thing would be impossible.

  16. And a bit of bigger perspective: a lot of this Liberal Party weakness is about a long-standing, slow-evolving anti-establishment backlash from which, unfortunately, Harper has largely benefited. After Reform, a Western Canadian right-wing populist movement from the 90s but with roots much further back, swallowed the old Progressive Conservatives (who were actual British-style Tories), the Liberal Party has been the only vestige left of a political class that thought it owned Canadian politics.

    The NDP are also a Western populist party, originally, but Trudeau stole their thunder, and now social democratic politics are viewed in much of the country as the domain of the Liberal Party elite, sadly. As Iggy tried to swing to the right, this is being revisited; Jack Layton has turned out to be great at seizing the moment and the mantle of (ultimately) very popular social democratic policies and reuniting it with NDP populist appeal. They still won’t be the government immediately after May 2, but even the very fact that they can induce this heart-attack in the Liberal Party is catastrophe for Iggy and for a Liberal campaign elite that spurned advice from the party’s left(er) wing.

  17. someofparts

    Thanks for all of this Ian. Wonderful to get so much more information about Canadian politics and history.

    personal aside to Mandos – I’ve been refreshing my college French, thinking any approximate fluency I can muster will help my case if I emigrate to retire in Canada. Someone at work who has spent time in Montreal told me about the attitudes toward Canadian street French vs formal Parisian French. I have told myself it won’t matter for me, because I will probably mangle either version at first. I may also speak it with a Southern American accent, which I’m told is fairly comical. Any advice?

  18. Thanks for posting this. I have been wondering about the Canadian election.

  19. Julien

    Nice analysis Mandos. 🙂 Pretty much on the spot, as far as I’m concerned. I can’t speak for all my fellow Québécois, obviously, but to add to your analysis, here are a couple of elements I’m seeing play out in here Québec:

    1- Bloc fatigue

    The Bloc Québecois was initially conceived as the vanguard of the separatist movement in Ottawa and it’s mission was to signify Québec’s dissatisfaction with the rest of Canada (RoC), culminating in the 1995 referendum that would see Québec become a sovereign nation. As history would have it, it didn’t turn out that way. And now the Bloc is 20 years old (founded officially in 1990) and the last referendum is 15 years past, and polls consistently show a significant majority of people would rather let it go and move on, specially amongst my age group (early thirties).

    The backup plan for the Bloc was to present itself as a bulwark to protect Québec’s interests against the federal government’s interference, and lately, and specially, against the Conservative’s vision of government. However, the last few years have shown that, given the way our parliamentary system works, there’s very, very little the Bloc can do to stop even a minority Conservative government, much less a majority one.

    2- Coalition is a lovely word, but separatist is a very dirty one

    The idea of a coalition government appeals a lot to the people of Québec, but the Bloc is tarred by it’s separatist label. None of the other parties would include it as a coalition partner after the fiasco that was the last attempt. None of them can be seen associating with a party that ostensibly wants to “break up the country”. Likewise, none of the other parties would agree to let them have the balance of power and negotiate with them outside of a formal coalition. So the Bloc will never, ever have any access to the levers of power, in any way.

    That was fine for a while, especially if you expected it to be a temporary situation until independence, but now, it’s starting to look like a loosing proposition. Decisions are made by those who show up and the Bloc having a majority of Québec seats means the Québécois don’t ever show up. In fact, as a recent rash of articles in the french press highlighting a growing loss of influence showed,we aren’t even being invited anymore.

    3- Ethics

    The provincial government here in Québec has been embroiled in scandals after scandals of bribery, kickbacks, collusion in the construction sector, shady dealings. Several municipalities, especially in the Montréal area, have also been involved. The prime minister has steadfastly refused to open a public inquiry into the matters, despite just about everyone and their grandmother demanding one. One wonders what he has to hide, obviously, but it has also lead to a search for that mythical figure, the ethical politician.

    This brings me to the one NDP elected representative in Québec, one Thomas Mulcair. He’s tremendously popular here because, prior to being recruited by the NDP, he used to be the Environment minister for the provincial government. At the time, the prime minister was pushing for the construction of a gas-fired power plant that he insisted was necessary to safeguard our energy future, blah blah blah, etc. In a province that prides itself on it’s hydro-electric, low carbon energy infrastructure, it unsurprisingly raised a ruckus and the premier eventually backed down. Instrumental in making this happen was his own environment minister, Mr. Mulcair, publicly standing up to him. He was off course shown the door not long after.

    But the fact of the matter was that this man stood up for what he believed, at the cost of his job. And Jack Layton, the leader of the NDP, looks like someone who would do the same. I think in an era of cynicism and disappointment in the political class, they look like nice people who are doing this because they believe in something, rather that looking for an easy way to make a buck. The Liberals still carry around the stigma of the sponsorship scandals and the Conservatives, with their no-bid contracts for military hardware, ridiculous spending for the G8/G20 security submit and refusal to disclose important information, are far from palatable in that regard as well.

    4- The search for alternatives and rooting for the underdog

    So you’re tired of voting Bloc because it’s become clear that it’s a waste. But the Liberals are lead by a dull and lackluster leader, and it’s not clear what they stand for. Their organization in Québec has been divided by infighting and the Liberals of today carry the sins of their fathers.

    And the Conservatives just aren’t an option. Too much “control freak”, the smell of religion too present. (A cultural thing in Québec, where the catholic church repressed and bottled up the people for so long that we view religion’s presence in the public sphere with a lot of suspicion.)

    That leaves the NDP. Their platform fits well with the political philosophy here. Their leader is charismatic, approachable while still being articulate. Their one MP is a nice guy with a proven track record of standing up for his principle. And we like the underdog. (Again a cultural thing, since we’ve viewed ourselves for so long as the small minority fighting for survival against a powerful majority, so we relate.)

    And as the polls started showing the NDP gaining, then more and more people realized that, no, it’s not a wasted vote anymore, and the snowball starts rolling, and another poll confirms it, and so on…

    How many seats will this translate into, I don’t know. But a lot of my friends are excited by this electoral campaign in a way that they’ve never been before. There’s a feeling in the air, the people are fed up and they will not be denied.

    Now, the real challenge will come after election day. The NDP will need to organize and capitalize on it’s success, to make sure it’s not a one time thing. They will face a lot more scrutiny, they’ll need to be what the people are hoping they are if they are to continue being successful, once they,re not the underdog anymore.

    Personally, I’m expecting a consolidation of the left wing, much as the right wing consolidated under the current Conservatives. The Liberals need to realize that they are fading, as the old Progressive Conservatives did, just not as fast and as spectacularly. They have been acting as if they just have to wait this out and it will all go back to being them versus the Conservatives, just like old times. Unfortunately, that time is past.

  20. I’ve been refreshing my college French, thinking any approximate fluency I can muster will help my case if I emigrate to retire in Canada. Someone at work who has spent time in Montreal told me about the attitudes toward Canadian street French vs formal Parisian French. I have told myself it won’t matter for me, because I will probably mangle either version at first. I may also speak it with a Southern American accent, which I’m told is fairly comical. Any advice?

    I don’t speak or understand “street” Quebec French very well; it’s technically not that different from France French, not as much as some people would have you think, but I find it spoken MUCH faster and with lots of syllable-swallowing. Plus, lots of Quebecois are perfectly fluent in English and switch automatically when they detect an allo-raised-as-anglo accent like mine—so even living in Ottawa and listening to French-language news broadcasts didn’t help me that much.

    The correct solution, I’m told, is to spend a lot of time watching Quebecois sitcoms, particularly the viciously cynical “Les Bougons” about a family of frauds and grifters—you would never, as I understand it, get away with a show like that in English media. There’s a rich TV sitcom culture in Quebec in addition to the Denys Arcand films for which it is most known. I haven’t really had the time to do it.

  21. Thanks Julien.

    One thing that bolsters the (controversial) “binational interdependence” theory of Canadian federalism also plays out here. One of the NDPs weaknesses in the RoC is the perception that they are not players in Quebec and are therefore not a national federal party for real. An increase in Quebec NDP strength feeds back into their RoC strength in a mildly virtuous cycle.

    So even a relatively small gain of 5-6 Quebec NDP seats means that the NDP is a Player—and that is calamity for the Liberals, the nadir of their being.

  22. Albert De

    When Julien speaks about the PM (Prime Minister) he is referring to what we normally cal;l in Anglophone Canada the premier of a province, Premier of Quebec not to the PM of Canada.

    jean Charest is the premier of Quebec and he has been embroiled in scandal after scandal. (So has the Mayor of Montreal BTW). Mulcair is the MP from Outremont, the first NDPer ever in elected in Quebec after he as an MLA (member of Quebec Assembly) left cabinet. Charest was one of the two PC (Progressive Conservative) MPs left after the debacle in 1993. So when he became leader of the QLP (Quebec Liberal Party – the big Red machine), he supposedly moved to the left. In fact, the big Red machine has helped the Conservative Party in Quebec in the last three elections and they still are.

    Right now, the media in Quebec (especially the English-language CTV and the Gazette) are pushing hard for the Conservatives in a psy-war operation involving a political pro-Conservative analyst – Mulroney’s ex-speechwriter – masquerading as a neutral observer, influential personalities saying they will vote Conservative and articles about subjects showing the Conservatives in a favourable light.

    And nobody is talking about the environment,.the Conservatives’ Achilles heel.

  23. Notorious P.A.T.

    “I find it spoken MUCH faster ”

    What? There are people who speak French faster than the French? That boggles my mind.

  24. Albert De

    Yes, the Québécois speak French faster than the French do. They like Americans in English have their own words but they unlike Haitians use French grammar and spelling.

    Like women everywhere talking to each other, the Québécoises speak even faster. They also like women everywhere slow down when speaking to men.

  25. Mind you no one knows how this is REALLY going to turn out on May 2. The Canadian electorate is one of the most volatile and unpredictable. Canadian voters like to mess with politicians’ heads. Plus, Canada is running a “3.25+”-party system (0.25 for the Bloc, + for the Greens), with the parties slicing up the pie like an oddly-cut pizza. Even with heavy regionalism, there’s no model on earth that can tell us with any confidence how many seats the Cons are going to lose to the NDP because of Liberal->NDP defectors or any of the other combinations. We could end up WITH the polls being right overall AND the same Parliament, in theory—in fact, at least one prominent seat projection site seems to be predicting just this. The very fact that this is now possible SHOULD be a wake-up call to reform first-past-the-post and replace it with one of PR, STV, or any of the other ones that reduce the wasted-vote effect.

  26. kidkawartha

    Excellent, excellent summary. Passing it around to the people I know who are actively engaged in this election cycle. A few thoughts-
    1. I’d like you to look a little closer at the perception that Chretien told Bush to fuck off re: Iraq War involvement. That may be a bit of a “common wisdom” that fades under closer scrutiny. I, like you, was pretty happy with the Chretien governments, but they did, as Liberals tend to do, fail to push our economy into the future and kowtowed far, far too much to corporate ideals. I think that their tendency to do so- to have their pie and eat it too by both preserving the social safety net AND giving in to big business too much- is what is going to doom them. My perception of that “fuck off”moment has evolved quite a bit since it happened. I was very, very proud at the time, but I now believe Chretien would have gone either way- unlike Harper, he excelled at keeping his finger in the political wind and he chose the path he sensed would gain him a great deal of political capital with Canadians. Again, I’d like to see you visit it in more detail here.
    2. I detest the Cons here, but they aren’t doing anything I’m surprised at. Harper is a far-right ideologue, but he’s not stupid. He very crafty and sly and enacts as much of his agenda on the QT as he can, as he knows with a minority he can’t fuck with too much of the country. My problem is with the Liberals- their corruption in Quebec leads, in a direct line, to Harper’s ascendancy, with far too many older Canadians thinking that if the Liberals have lost their vote that the Cons are a viable alternative, which blows my mind in it’s blindness, but also tells you in fact that there’s not that much daylight between the two parties, which I think more and more Canadians are starting to realize.
    3. Here in Peterborough, the split on the left led, along with a weak Liberal candidate, to the very, very odious Dean Del Mastro being elected last cycle. He won with 47% of the vote, as the suburbs and rural surroundings of the city bought his bucket of warm crap. I’d like you to watch this riding, because if the very solid NDP candidate Dave Nickle can win here from a traditional 3rd place position, then both the Cons and Liberals are in deep, deep shit.
    4. The NDP shuns a lot of “traditional” election stuff- they don’t do much polling, the campaign headquarters aren’t flashy and depend on committed people much more than they do having a complex political machine. I’ve often said that a party with the NDP’s platform and the Liberal’s machine would be formidable vs. the Cons. We may be seeing a hard-to-measure effect of new media and young, idealistic voters for the first significant time in Canada.
    5. I’m counting down personally to the day when we hear that Ignatieff has approached Layton to talk about a coalition, and I hope Layton bends him over, but good. The Liberals not only would not share power to defeat Harper the last time, but have shunned even the idea publicly on several occasions this cycle. Fuck them. Once again the NDP is trying to clean up their mess, and I truly hope these polls translate into a NDP ascendancy. There is an opportunity, if played well, to really transform Canadian politics in a profound way this time around.
    Lastly, keep up the great work- it’s really, really nice to see a Canadian flavor here.

  27. Suspenders

    Quote from Ian;
    “What does this mean for the rest of the world? Canada was one of the first nations to go to a right wing government. Through the 2000′s there has been a wave of right wing governments in the West. The NDP doing this well might be a sign that things are beginning to turn. Again, the NDP aren’t the wimpy left, they are actually socialists, not a party like Labor in Britain, which is clearly right wing, just not as right wing as the nutbar Conservatives.”

    I don’t think it is a sign for the rest of the West, well Europe at least. Canada never really “went right” ideologically, it voted right because of the sponsorship scandal, and has stayed that way because of fairly weak leadership from the opposition parties and voter apathy.

    Europe seems to actually be moving right ideologically. Things like rising discontent with immigration policies and “multiculturalism”, and some serious EU and euro-related discontent seem to me to be related to much more fundamental cultural shifts rightward. With more instability coming, and with the E.U. being as “popular” as it is, it seems likely to me that europe will be getting more nationalist and right wing governments in the future, not less.

  28. Ian Welsh

    I know of no particular reason to believe that Chretien doesn’t deserve full credit for not joining the Iraq war. Be clear, Martin would have, he’s on record that he would have. So would have Harper. Canadian pols of that generation (and this one) tend to do what Americans tell them to. It is very unusual not to. By the time of the Iraq war, in any case, Chretien knew his days were numbered. If anything he did the right thing not because of fingers in the wind, but because, knowing he was leaving he wanted to do the right thing (just as he tried to get through medical marijuana).

    I have no hatred of the Libs (Ignatieff is a different matter, I hate anyone who apologizes for torture, no exceptions), and after tracking US politics for years, the Liberal corruption scandal makes me yawn. American pols wouldn’t even notice that amount of money, it doesn’t even qualify as pocket change. That’s not to excuse it, but I just have a hard time really caring that much at this point. They lost, they deserved to lose and I voted against them, but it was a long time ago, and I’ve come to be far more concerned with legal corruption.

    One of the best things about the Canadian system is in fact that the PM is an elected dictator. You buy a PM early in his career, or forget it, because once you’re PM, you’ve got all the power you need. And there’s almost no one else worth bribing, because of party loyalty. Again, not say there’s no corruption, we know there is, but compared to the US, essentially trivial.

    If Ignatieff wants a coalition, why not, as long as he’s the junior partner if he has less seats? If the Cons are government, they will push through some nasty stuff, including getting rid of funding per vote. The opposition parties will not call an election over the first budget. The NDP would be shooting itself in the financial foot if it didn’t agree. Canada’s economy looks relatively healthy superficially, but there’s a lot of internal bleeding, and it needs to be dealt with. Years more of the Cons screwing up isn’t really tolerable.

  29. someofparts

    Thanks for all the advice and information. This has been such an interesting thread.

  30. Suspenders

    I agree Ian, Chretien does deserve full credit for keeping us out, and I don’t believe that it was simple opportunism on his part. As I remember, there was quite a bit of antipathy towards Bush in the Chretien government, which was a marked change from the camaraderie between Clinton and Chretien in the Clinton years. I think the “moron” flap with one of Chretien’s aides, Francois Ducros, and his refusal to accept her resignation (along with his not-so-convincing “I don’t think he’s a moron at all” rebuttal), was pretty indicative of his general attitudes toward Washington. No Tony Blairs here, folks.

    I think your analysis of Ignatieff is spot on as well. He’s the very definition of the “useful idiots” of the liberal class who were apologists for those war criminals in the Bush administration. As Chris Hedges has said, these types lent their moral credibility to a crime, and have a lot of blood on their hands because of it. Certainly not fit to be our “elected dictator”. The Liberals deserve what they get considering how desperately they canned Stephane Dion (the previous party leader) and replaced him with someone like Ignatief. As a party they’ve been way too complacent with the fact that so much of their support comes from strategic voters who would otherwise be voting NDP, and it would be nice to see them punished for that complacency.

  31. GT Dread

    Ian (and anyone else who might have some knowledge of the situation):

    Here’s what my crazy conservative Canadian uncle said in response to this when I shared it. I’m looking for any for of rebuttal, although he is rather short on specifics:

    “Others may disagree but an NDP government will royally f–k up the the Economic situation in Canada. THEY DID royally F–k up ONTARIO while Bob Rae (another NDP PRICK who was UNBELIEVABLEY-even to himself) elected Premier of Ontario.
    He left the province in a ROYAL mess financially and with MORE debt than ever. That same SOB is now in the Liberal party of Canada and a potential leader after they dump Ignatieff.
    If the NDP gets a majority, STAY WHERE YOU ARE….DON”T MOVE as you would then be BETTER OFF than coming to CANADA.
    The NDP so F—ed UP everything that they HAD to offer (as an example) a friend of mine and (another uncle’s) a $50,000 a year indexed pension and BENEFITS PAID for by the government until he turns at least 65(I think) for him to retire early. He was about 50 years old at the time.That’s 3/4 of a million $$ so far and THANK GOD for him,our friend is still alive.
    Ok you left wingers; JUMP ON MY ASS…This one I can defend with VIGOUR.

    Jack Layton and his wife, Olivia Chow, the other NDP BIG pricks spent $1.16 Million of my FU–ING tax payers dollars to “sustain” themselves as PARLIAMENTARIANS and it is THESE ASSHOLES that are so called “FOR THE POOR”.
    MY FU–KING blood boils just thinking about them.”

  32. If Canada goes socialist, I say we invade them, take their oil and water, and use Quebec for landfill.

    Kidding! Not.

  33. Jeff Wegerson

    An exchange fwiw
    I’m not Canadian so I shot a note to my friend Dick who knows more than I from living in BC for a while.

    How come BC isn’t showing more love for the NDP? Even Quebec is going great guns for them (or Jack Layton who supposedly speaks “street” Quebec French very well).

    Though Gordon Campbell is a Liberal, BC Liberals have always been
    dragged to the right by geography, they are a very long way from
    Ottawa, & demographics, Quebec’s leftish reflexes don’t sell well on
    the west coast. When Quebec moves right, depending on what furthers
    French Canadian goals best at any given time, BC tends to be dragged
    to the right with it. Separatism freaks out West Coast politicians at
    least as much as those in the rest of the country, mostly because
    there is a notable, if suppressed, separatist movement in BC.

    It’s important to bear in mind that on October 29, 2008, the BC NDP
    won two key by-elections with just months to go before the provincial
    elections. Jenn McGinn was elected in Vancouver-Fairview and Spencer
    Herbert was elected in Vancouver-Burrard, taking back a seat the
    Liberals had held since 2001. With the addition of McGinn and Herbert,
    the NDP under the leadership of Carole James grew to hold 34 seats in
    the BC Legislature.

    On May 12, 2009, 42% of British Columbians voted for Carole James and
    the NDP, the highest level of support in 23 years. James now leads an
    even stronger team of 35 New Democrat MLAs, all working to hold the
    Campbell Liberal’s feet to the fire.

    Right wing polls are suggesting the Conservatives are headed for
    another minority government which I think is anything but a foregone
    conclusion, but if it happens, I don’t think Harper will survive as
    leader. Clearly, Canadians are sick of life with an American cloned
    neo-conservative leading a minority government.

    It would help in the broad picture if the Liberals had an effective
    leader capable of speaking to the West Coast. Over the last couple
    decades, BC politics has been defined by actual coalitions (Socreds
    under that embecile, vander Zalm, a textbook example of how bad things
    can get), or de facto coalitions like Campbell.

    If you factor in the pervasive disillusion with Campbell’s Liberals &
    the growing strength of the NDP under James, the NDP is doing better
    than they appear to be at first glance, at least in BC.

    A bit of left-wing spin always helps me get through the day.

    How’s about I post this as a comment to the IanWelsh blog below just to see the response if any? Jeff

    Go for it Jeff, let’s see what happens. I haven’t been following Welsh, but I will from now on, it’s an excellent, very astute discussion of Canadian politics.

  34. Albert De

    Here´s the retort to the conservative uncle:

    That was Bob Rae, who f´d everything up in Ontario maybe and he´s now a Liberal but Harris was worse – nobody died because of Bob Rae but people died under Harris. Just ask the population of Walkerton what they think of Harris´ privatization of the water supply and the lack of oversight which led to seven dead in that town. Real NDP governments in other provinces have assured responsible financial management.

    In any case, if the NDP causes the Canadian dollar to fall it will benefit the Canadian economy..

  35. Julien

    @GT Dread
    To add to Albert De’s response, at the provincial level, there have been NDP governments in Saskatchewan, and Manitoba and Nova Scotia currently have one as well. They’re not running the provinces into the ground.

    While Bob Rae’s NDP government in Ontario did create massive deficits and substantially increase the debt load, it was still recoverable. On the other hand, the energy export-driven Dutch disease that currently afflicts eastern manufacturing, that’s a lot less spectacular but it’s having a much more serious impact on Ontario’s economy.

    And Bob Rae was premier 20 years ago, so maybe we can move on. 😉

  36. Julien


    Thanks Julien.

    One thing that bolsters the (controversial) “binational interdependence” theory of Canadian federalism also plays out here. One of the NDPs weaknesses in the RoC is the perception that they are not players in Quebec and are therefore not a national federal party for real. An increase in Quebec NDP strength feeds back into their RoC strength in a mildly virtuous cycle.

    So even a relatively small gain of 5-6 Quebec NDP seats means that the NDP is a Player—and that is calamity for the Liberals, the nadir of their being.

    You’re welcome. And that’s very interesting, I hadn’t considered that. If the NDP can cement and build on that perception, it could be the option a lot of Québécois have been looking for, for a long time (a national party that is left-wing and is not the Liberal Party).

    I walked over to this morning and had a look at their individual riding estimates for Québec. As you mentioned, First Past the Post means that the overall picture might not change much, seat-wise, but I was frankly surprised to see how in most Bloc Québécois-held ridings, the NDP is the only runner-up. The site is forecasting a gain of 8 seats, maybe a few more. But the really significant change is how many more where the NDP will come in second and the traditional Liberal alternative will just disappear. Heck, in some ridings, their even polling fourth.

    Just to underscore how major the whole change is, Gilles Duceppe himself, the leader of the Bloc, is being threatened in his riding by the NDP candidate. That’s never a good sign.

    My main concern is that a lot of this movement is rooted in protest against the established parties and we’re a fickle lot. I hope the NDP will use the time between this election and the next to build a decent organization in Québec, get some good candidates and lay the groundwork for this to be more than a fling.

  37. Ian Welsh

    I don’t like Bob Rae. He wasn’t a good Premier, but he didn’t fuck up Ontario beyond recovery. His big mistake, actually, was that when he got in power he kowtowed to Bay Street and became a “serious person”. When he left power, he was given his reward for his betrayal. Also, he’s a Liberal now. The overall track record of NDP governments in Provincial power is mixed. Some have been very fiscally conservative, some haven’t. Prairie NDP governments, in particular, tended to be very tight fisted (and yet, still managed to give Canada Medicare. Or perhaps they did because they were tight fisted.)

    And, as Julien notes, the current oil driven dollar boom is fucking Ontario so hard it’s a wonder they can see straight. And they want to vote for the Conservatives, who have done nothing of significance to mitigate the damage, let alone turn it around?

    However it is true that because of Rae, the NDP is hated in Ontario by many people. He tried to cut the kid in half, and pissed off everyone, pleasing no one.

    If the NDP does get in power, I hope they stick to their guns and do the right things. Being wishy washy doesn’t work in policy or politics.

  38. Ian Welsh


    thank you for the far more informed view of Quebec politics. My French is rusty schoolboy French, and essentially useless, so as I noted, Quebec is pretty opaque to me. I keep thinking about moving to Montreal, if I do so, I’ll make it a point to learn French.

    My grandmother taught French in BC. I laugh now remembering her disdain for Quebecois French, she taught Parisian French. So funny, why did she think she was teaching French? So her students could visit Paris, I guess. (Don’t get me wrong, she was a very very smart woman, I guess everyone needs a bit of snobbery to get through.)

  39. Cellulose

    His big mistake, actually, was that when he got in power he kowtowed to Bay Street and became a “serious person”.

    He had already become one quite a bit before. He saw his leadership of the party as something of a swan song, and had for some time been writing morose essays about how the party had lost touch and needed to “get with the times”, and was more or less left embarrassedly scrambling to account for the impossible when it happened.

  40. Suspenders

    That disdain for Quebecois French seems to be a curious predilection of all French teachers; all of the ones that taught me French through middle and high school, as well as private lessons I took, all had little nice to say about Quebec style French. Always thought that odd…

  41. Hello, just a comment on British Columbia, the Western-most Canadian province.
    The NDP is killing the Liberals on the HST, here, which is a sales tax introduced just last year. The provincial government was given 1.6 billion dollars to cover its deficits to accept the new tax, but it was never a provincial election issue (the winning provincial government had stated they weren’t considering it but introduced right away the first new session begun), which enraged the electorate. While the provincial and federal Liberal parties aren’t one and the same, it’s hurting them anyhow. It’s also affecting the Conservatives, but not to the same extent. However, alone of the three parties, the NDP’s promised to not force BC to repay the bribe should the BC electorate vote down the HST in the upcoming HST referendum, and should the NDP form the Canadian government. That the NDP is now up in the polls, this promise is looking mighty enticing.
    However, such isn’t likely to turn strongholds over to the NDP, but swing districts will probably see stronger turnout than usual turnout possibly giving the NDP extra seats from BC. Whether it’s a high or low count remains to be seen. Could be three. Could be twelve.

  42. Ian Welsh

    Yeah, Ontario adopted the HST too. Hate with a sickly passion.

  43. Marcia Almey

    Very interesting analyses. I especially appreciated Julien’s comments on Quebec.

    Here’s a further response to check out:

  44. kirk murphy

    Ian, thank you for educating me! As ever, I’m most grateful for your knowledge and willingness to share it.

    (as well as for your helpful commenters’ generosity and knowledge)

  45. Daniel De Groot

    Ian, the anecdote about Layton is nice to hear. I’ve been quite mixed on him, he gives me kind of a used-car salesman feeling, but I didn’t want to make some vague intuition or bias decisive in terms of how I judge him, but we can’t really just ignore our biases.

    I voted for Dion in the last Liberal leadership race both as part of the “anyone but Ignatieff” Liberal base revolt, and because I thought (and think) Dion was a decent human being and could have been a good PM (though he was a weak politician, and probably not good at the backroom shit any successful Liberal probably needs).

    The Liberal party really hurt themselves ratifying Iggy as leader in 2009. What were they thinking? The base had made a point of rejecting Ignatieff (and Rae). The reaction from the base was glum acceptance, and the lack of a cheering section for the leader is at least party responsible for Ignatieff’s anemic favourability ratings. Harper’s attack ads would have been aimed at anyone, but at least if your own people can’t get excited about you becoming PM, that’s a big problem (see: Kerry, John).

    Aside from the torture thing, Iggy’s support of the Iraq war both hurts him (since Layton and Duceppe rightly use it against him) and prevents him from hurting Harper (which Dion and Martin were able to do in 2004, 2006 and 2008).

    So between Iggy and Layton, I’d have to say I’d rather have the latter as PM. Here’s hoping Layton can both exceed the Liberal seat count, and that the Liberals hang on enough in Ontario to not give Harper a majority (still a real possibility).

  46. Ian Welsh

    Layton does seem congenitally cheerful, doesn’t he? Normally I’d find that disturbing on general principles, “an optimist and a damned fool are the same thing” being the family motto, and all, but he seems to understand that all is not roses and that there are real problems. I think it really is mostly congenital, one of those people whose brains excrete extra happy drugs, or somesuch.

    Iggy was a huge mistake, and I thought so at the time. And since I also heard, though I cannot, of course, prove, that the Lib faction behind Iggy pushed the GG to allow the pro-rogue, well, let’s just say that I despise him even more. I assume the Liberals will ditch Iggy post-haste. For their sake, I hope they also pass on Rae, but for the NDP’s sake, I hope they go with Rae. They need to be able to say, with a straight face, that they are the sensible party who can actually run Canada and the only real Federalist party (since, yeah, the NDP are going to slide on soft sovereignty for Quebec.) You can’t do that if Rae is your leader, just not credible.

  47. Carbon Nanotube

    And since I also heard, though I cannot, of course, prove, that the Lib faction behind Iggy pushed the GG to allow the pro-rogue,

    It would certainly validate the ghastly Kabuki-Democrat vibe I’ve always gotten from Iggy. (Frankly I despise that lot more then any other American faction, far more than even the Republicans.)

  48. Hey Ian,

    Apropos of your discussion of tar sands, pipelines, etc, I did a couple of bits on current goings on, one at Newshoggers, and a follow up and my jabbering site.


    the glut and the glory

    [beware: latter is rife with profanity, narrative drift, no caps, weird spelling, phonetic concatenation, and other foibles.]

  49. Ian Welsh

    Good pieces, but please capitalize.

  50. Great piece. Thanks for this. I voted (being in grad school so far away I made sure to vote early), though Libby Davies is sure to win Van East again. I hope the NDP gains more seats and has an upset, lord knows we need it.

  51. 1. I wish I could credit Chretien (and the tens of thousands of people out on the streets) for keeping Canada out of Iraq, but the fact is that we were already fully extended, militarily, in Afghanistan, and the Americans knew it and didn’t expect us to help in Iraq.
    2. The long-form census tells us everything we need to know about Harper. As D.P. Moynihan said, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but NOT to their own facts. Harper, by making sure that the census data won’t be valid, is free to make up his own facts.

  52. Schooner

    but the fact is that we were already fully extended, militarily, in Afghanistan, and the Americans knew it and didn’t expect us to help in Iraq.

    They could have provided a token force just like most all the rest of the “Coalition of the” *pthooi* “Willing”, but did not. The point always was to publicly legitimize the invasion, not to materially contribute to the fighting.

  53. anon2525

    Waaay off-topic: Now that bin Laden is dead and they have his body, the U.S. will withdraw its military and contractors from Iraq and Afghanistan and start downsizing the military and weapons makers, right? And the decreased expenditures should substantially reduce the deficit that the right-wing is “concerned” about, and there will be enough funds to reverse the cuts to services to the poor, right?

  54. Ian Welsh

    No Elizabeth, Bush didn’t give a shit if we sent troops, he wanted to be able to say we were part of the coalition of the willing. We could have sent one platoon, what mattered was us saying we joined (and later, of course, we could send more, it’s been a long war).

  55. Formerly T-Bear

    @ anon2525 just above

    Yours is the wet dream of the still sane. The use by date on OBL had long ago expired, the ability to justify the continuing carnage became threadbare, hardly a shadow was being cast by even the simulacrum followers the mighty empire was vaingloriously opposing in its longest war (here-to-fore) ever.

    Now that an old man has been murdered and disposed of, the next order of business for the propaganda machine is to replace the old icon of hate with a new icon – Gaddafi prepare yourself, the empire is fresh out of living targets at this juncture; abandon all hope that justice will vouchsafe your continuing existence, the law itself has been cut from its roots and is devoid of viability, the empire thirsts for new blood to sustain itself, the empire will continue on (until it is stopped).

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