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

The Writ Is Dropped and the Canadian Election Is On!

Prime Minister Harper has dropped the writ. The campaign is about twice normal length, with the election on October 19th, a bet on Harper’s part that his money advantage and superiority in third party money will matter more in a longer campaign.

Harper’s been PM for ten years, though only since the last election has he had a majority government. He’s changed Canada significantly. Economically, he ended the mixed economy policy which had been Canada’s strategy for well over 100 years, letting manufacturing wither on the vine, while doubling down on resources. He invited in record numbers of guest workers, and his government underwrote residential mortgages, leading to a housing bubble which is now, in relative terms, almost twice as large as America’s was when it popped.

The result of all of this is the worst economic showing of any Prime Minister in post-WWII history. Tying the Canadian economy so heavily to oil and other resources turns out to have been a bad bet.

Harper has also instituted what might be called the “paranoid style” of governing. Ministers are on a short leash, and scientists and bureaucrats are not allowed to speak to the press without going through the government.

All of the Conservative Party’s victories have seen cheating by the Conservative Party, with multiple criminal investigations. In response to this, Harper removed Election Canada’s mandate to investigate electoral fraud, and its mandate to encourage turnout.

In civil liberties, Harper has annulled about half of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, with the aid of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, the son of the late Pierre Trudeau, who ran Canada in the ’70s and into the early ’80s.

Justin was leading in the polls from the moment he was selected Liberal leader until he had his party vote for bill-C51, the bill which gutted Canadians’ civil liberties. That decision saw the New Democratic Party, the only one of the big three parties to oppose the bill, swing into first place, a lead it has kept in most (but not all) polls, marginally, since then.

Traditionally, the NDP has been the third party. In the last election, under the charismatic Jack Layton, it surged to second place, but after Layton’s death from cancer and the coronation of Trudeau, it has been solidly in the third place.

This is an important election for Canada. If the NDP wins, and especially if it forms a majority government, there will be changes that matter. One shouldn’t overstate them; Mulcair, the NDP’s leader, has gone out of his way to reassure the business community. But Mulcair has also been consistent in his attachment to the environment, in his dislike of the tar sands, in his understanding of Dutch Disease, and the mixed economy. He has promised not to raise the retirement age, and on a variety of other neo-liberal agenda items, he has been in opposition. He has also promised to abolish Canada’s unelected Senate, and to move to some form of mixed-representative government (some geographic seats, some party list seats.)

Canadians, overall, are tired of Harper, mostly because of the economic news but also in part due to his paranoid style of ruling (and it is ruling). However, Harper’s support is concentrated geographically in the West and southern Ontario, and it is certainly possible he could still win.

The current dynamic is mostly about Trudeau’s liberals shooting at the NDP, the NDP shooting at the Conservatives with a few shots back at the liberals, and the Conservatives mostly concentrating fire on Mulcair.

For as long as I’ve been alive, the Liberals have always told people to vote strategically: to vote Liberal to keep Conservatives out, because Liberals had the best chance of winning. It is delightful to see the shoe on the other foot now.

We’ll see how it plays out. I think the odds slightly favor the NDP, but there’s a long campaign ahead, and I expect the Conservative party to cheat. If it comes down to only a few seats, as it probably will, that cheating could make the difference.

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  1. anonymouscoward

    Please Allah, Dog and/or Jehovah, let Harper lose. Preferably to the NDP, or his leftmost opponents.

  2. Declan

    Judging by this editorial, the Globe and Mail remains firmly in the tank for the Conservatives. Day 1 and working hard on Conservative talking points.

    I see that the top-rated comment has been deleted, but judging from the replies, it must have been criticizing the Globe for such naked partisanship on day one of the campaign.

    I wonder what absurdly feeble mention of climate change will feature in their endorsement of Harper this time around (we must find humour where we can these days).

    For non-Canadians, I mention the Globe since they’re probably the most influential paper and because the positions of all the other media outlets in the country (outside of Quebec at least) are fixed (Toronto Star supports the Liberals, all other newspapers support the Conservatives).

    Sometimes I think that, given they have the large majority of wealthy Canadians, corporations and virtually the entire corporate media on their side, in addition to the usual cadre of aging, rural right-wing stalwarts, it’s amazing that the Conservative party can poll under 40%.

  3. Ivory Bill Woodpecker

    I would say the Canadian Conservative Party sounds a lot like the Reptilians in my USA, except a surprising percentage of the upper class in the USA actually seems to have defected to the Dinocrats. (I consider both major parties to be useless fossils, hence my nicknames for them.)

    I would guess that defection happened for two reasons:

    (1) The corporate Dinocrats succeeded in suppressing the actual left-leaners in their party to the point that the Malefactors Of Great Wealth now consider the DP to be safe for them.

    (2) The last time the MOGW engineered a Reptilian President into office, they got eight years of howling incompetence. The Chimperial Cheney @$$ministration did not just screw the pooch, they screwed the whole kennel of pooches, in positions the writer(s) of the Kama Sutra never heard of. Hence, those members of the MOGW who do not make the grave error of believing the same propaganda their Corporate Media feeds to the mass of palefaces (Disclosure: I am a paleface) defected to the more competent Dinocrats.

  4. Ray Blaak

    Judging by this editorial, the Globe and Mail remains firmly in the tank for the Conservatives. Day 1 and working hard on Conservative talking points.

    But consider this globe and mail article from Saturday, Aug 1:

    It really make Harper look like an intolerant, vindictive leader. Reading it made me think that the Globe has it in for Harper.

  5. Andre

    Am I right in saying that the election isn’t about Harper, but about the conservatives winning enough seats to keep Harer in power, or the NDP or the Liberals winning enough seats to put one of their leaders in power? Different than this country. But here’s a question: does the recent historic NDP win in Alberta bode well for the NDP, and what are the ramifications of that? So really we have three parties that are each some shade of conservative?????

  6. The Tragically Flip


    Technically you’re right, parliamentary system so the party leader becomes PM if enough MP candidates win their ridings, but Canada’s media and political practices have become much more leader-centric in recent years so mostly people are voting based on leaders and political party branding. Almost no one votes based on the qualities & ideas of the local candidates unless the person is already famous.

    Yes, the NDP win in Alberta helps in that it made a larger group of people who normally wouldn’t consider voting NDP take the idea seriously “If right wing Alberta could vote NDP, maybe I could…” Generally Canadian provincial and Federal politics do not march in lockstep though, Ontario has very often elected Liberals to one level and Conservatives to another within months of each other – currently ruled provincially by Liberals, but most Federal seats are Conservative.

  7. David

    After ten years, are there any “Red Tories” left in the Conservative Party ?
    Assuming Harper loses, who is likely to replace him ? Thanks

  8. Jordan

    @David: The most likely candidate I see to replace Harper as Conservative Leader is Jason Kenney, who’s been a high-profile cabinet minister throughout Harper’s tenure. If not him, I also think Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is a possibility if he decides to make the jump to federal politics.

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