Saturday, June 12, 2004

Canadian Election -- 28 June

Okay, I'm bored and I don't want to disappoint Eric, so here's the obligatory Canadian political entry.

There's an election going on in Canada right now. People all across Canada will be voting on the 28th to send an MP to the House of Commons. This should have been an easy ride for the governing Liberals, who over their past decade in power have balanced the budget, presided over a booming Canadian economy, and especially in the last few years managed to stay progressive on social issues. All in all, the Liberal party represents Canadian values quite well.

But years in power bring corruption. The Liberals have managed to misspend billions of dollars (Canadian) in the HRD scandal, the gun registry debacle, and the sponsorship scandal. This latter broke earlier this year, after Paul Martin became PM effectively through a coup within the Liberal party. Martin has claimed that he knew nothing about the fiscal malfeasance, since he has been a rival of former PM Jean Chrétien for nearly 15 years. But as finance minister during most of the Chrétien era, Martin doesn't have plausible deniability.

Martin is also being accused of hypocrisy in dealing with what he called the "democratic deficit" in Canada. He backbenched nearly every Chrétien supporter in the House of Commons and manipulated Liberal riding associations to deny former Chrétien supporters the chance to run for (re-)election.

Given all this, it's no wonder that many Canadians want to punish the Liberals. And that's being reflected in the polls, which showed the Liberals in firm majority territory when the writ was dropped, sliding through minority territory, and now possibly into a Conservative minority government. The latest poll has the Conservatives in the lead. Despite Conservative leader Stephen Harper's protests to the contrary, it is clear from comments by Conservative MPs that a substantial fraction of their caucus are against abortion, equality rights, bilingualism, and the lenient Canadian policy on marijuana use, as well as in favour of restoring capital punishment. While many of the Conservative party's (unofficial) stances would poll well here in the States, the Canadian electorate is much more progressive on social issues. Can their desire to punish Martin and the Liberals be clouding their judgment so much that they're willing to compromise the tenets they hold dear? Or are they expressing their outrage in polls now only to recant at the last moment and vote for a "safe" party like the Liberals?

This is already a long post, so I won't go into the NDP, the Bloc Québécois, or the Green Party. A great deal of interesting things could be said regarding them, but the election campaign has 16 more days to go, so I'll pace myself. :-)

2 Comments:

Blogger Eric said...

I think this is an example of the shortcomings of the electoral system used. (OK, so I don't know what system they use in Canada, but when has that stopped someone from offering an opinion?) The problem arises when people mostly agree on issues with the canditates from some party, but don't like the particular candidates who the party has put forward. (Sound familiar?) If a voting system such as instant-run off were used, then there wouldn't need to be have primarys, and people could simply choose new members from the party they mostly agree with to replace the current ones (e.g., if they feel the incumbants are tainted by corruption), without fear of "wasting" their vote.

Join the campaign for real electoral reform (not replacing punch card machines) by telling your friends more than they want to hear about the vairous voting systems for multi-candidate elections. :)

6/13/2004 01:47:00 AM  
Blogger Vincent said...

Several of the provincial governments are investigating proportional representation or other fairer methods of voting (CBC analysis). The likeliest scenario is that several provincial governments will experiment with PR (probably led by British Columbia), and if the results are successful, there will be more of a push for it on the federal level.

There are calls for other changes to be made as well: an elected Senate with real powers, redistribution of MPs and Senators to more accurately reflect current provincial populations, giving municipalities increased powers, etc. I am not a Canadian constitutional expert, but some of the proposals would require unanimous consent of the provinces, and if Meech Lake and Charlottetown have taught us anything, it's that unanimous provincial consent is a hard thing to obtain. Throw in the fact that the federal government (obviously) would have to consent to such changes as well, and you can see why Canada's system is a bit outdated.

Incidentally, BC are the experts at why the current system is broken. In the last provincial election (results), the Liberals won 77 of the 79 seats to the NDP's 2, despite the fact that the popular vote split 58%/22% between the two parties. That's a one-party legislature in every sense of the term: a party needs 4 MPPs to have official party status in BC!

6/13/2004 02:27:00 AM  

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