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The view from here

I know all of Canada has been waiting to hear what I had to think about Monday's election.... I can't say I'm terribly glad to see the Conservative Party win a minority government. I'm not inclined to be pessimistic, though. CBC's The National had two different commentaries that indicated the voters wanted a change, but not that much of a change, which showed why the Conservatives only won a minority government and the Liberals still had over a hundred seats. The fact that it's a minority government means that Stephen Harper, the new prime minister, will have to work with members of the other three parties, all to the left of his own. So that will place a limit on how much damage he can do, I would think.

It's interesting that in Canada, as in the U.S. in 2004, voters in the urban centers went Liberal, while voters in suburbs and rural areas went Conservative.

It's possible that Harper's government will last but a short while and then meet the same fate as Paul Martin's did. I did come up with one nightmare scenario, though. Suppose Harper does very well and builds his popularity. Then he calls an early election with the purpose of obtaining a majority— and succeeds. I've heard of this sort of strategy in parliamentary systems. I'm not sure that's likely, but the prospect is worrisome.

Just remember, though... Canada's conservatives aren't quite as reactionary as America's. At least that's what I've heard.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 25th, 2006 05:41 pm (UTC)
The Liberals definitely had the taint of scandal around them. A new one blew up over the Christmas holidays, when the politicians were taking a break from the campaign trail. It didn't directly involved the prime minister, but it might have been just one more straw on an already crippled camel's back.

One of the CBC analysts said that one mistake the Liberals made was that they didn't really start campaigning until after New Year's Day, figuring that citizens didn't want to hear about politics during the Christmas run-up. The Conservatives (and the other two parties) didn't hold back, so in January their engines were already hot while the Liberals were still warming up.

I've heard reports that the Conservatives toned down their rhetoric so as to not scare off the more moderate voters. If that's true, I wonder what happens next.
Jan. 25th, 2006 11:42 am (UTC)
I, too, watched parts of "The National" and thought it was interesting that part of Mr. Harper's campaign was the idea that with courts and civil service stacked by the Liberals the Tories would be limited in how much of their agenda they could push through.
Jan. 25th, 2006 05:36 pm (UTC)
I missed that when Harper said that, and only heard it during CBC's analysis last night. That is an interesting point; it might be kind of a check on what he might want to do, as much as having to work with the Bloc, NDP, and Liberals in Parliament. It could've been an admission that he doesn't expect to do as much as he wants, which is not exactly a confidence-inspiring statement. Or he was trying to stir up the same sort of backlash against liberal policymakers that Bush tries to here.

I don't recall Bush complaining that his civil service was stacked with liberals, though he has complained about liberal courts.
Jan. 25th, 2006 12:52 pm (UTC)
In theory, you're right. Canada's Conservative party is not nearly as far right as the present Republican party here. However, it has individuals who can easily be compared to Attila the Hun or Adolph Hitler. This is no joke. And worse, Canada has something called the "notwithstanding clause" that allows the legislative branch to enact laws that contravene basic rights (imagine the US Congress being allowed to suspend the Bill of Rights for certain people if it just felt like it) and which cannot be invalidated by judicial action. This has apparently never been used by the federal government, but has been used a handful of times by provincial legislatures.

Harper said he would hold a new vote on the gay marriage issue, for instance. Since that whole brouhaha was triggered by judicial decisions that gays had to be granted equal rights, a majority conservative body could simply state that gays do not have equal rights with respect to marriage, and stamp it with the section 33 imprimatur. No more question of judicial review.

The only safety valve is a requirement that such laws must be renewed every five years or they automatically expire.
Jan. 25th, 2006 05:51 pm (UTC)
I fear that the same-sex marriage issue in Canada seems less solid than other legacies of the Liberals. News reports at the time of the Parliament votes last year indicated that some Liberals weren't terribly happy with the idea of supporting it, but they voted for the bill because of the need to preserve the Liberal minority government. Is there enough across-the-board opposition in the new Parliament so that Harper could introduce a repeal of same-sex marriage rights? I guess we'll find out.

My prediction is that he will go through with the free vote, and will be satisfied regardless of how that turns out. Harper might go very gently into this, because this wasn't the main reason voters went Conservative. But that's just a gut feeling, not based on any kind of research.

It does seem kind of odd to hear extreme right-wing Canadians in the media, but they are out there. They may not be holed up with their ammo dump in a remote hideout like some of our extreme right-wing nuts, but they're pretty extreme.
Jan. 25th, 2006 06:34 pm (UTC)
Well, one poll shows that 61% of Canadian voters would prefer to let the gay marriage situation stand as it is now, but perhaps as many as 83% of Harper's supporters want it repealed. It's certainly on shaky ground.

There are other issues of equal or greater concern overall. Will Harper be able to push Canada into full-fledged participation in Bush's oil wars? Will he push for a renewed abortion ban? Will he allow some of his more right-wing supporters to try to dismantle or severely reorganize the national health program? How will the Tories treat immigration policy? Minority rights? Equality for women? It all seems to be up for grabs now.

Of course the NDP gained a few seats too and will probably oppose anything of this sort. The Bloc Quebecois isn't going to be a pushover either. But the Liberals may be rather disorganized after this defeat and I wonder how many will support Harper's programs in an attempt to regain some kind of popularity. Because Harper must join with the Liberals or the BQ in order to form a government it seems likely the Liberals will be the choice. And will the Liberals trade away gay marriage in order to get some other choice goal of their own?

All things considered, it isn't nearly as bad as what we have right now in the US, with one party calling all the shots on everything. On the other hand, hearing several Canadian friends refer to Harper as "Hitler" doesn't make me feel good, and neither does the "notwithstanding" loophole. In order to regain our balance here in the US, we do not need a Bush supporter rally north of the border.
Jan. 25th, 2006 06:35 pm (UTC)
Sorry, that was me. I'm getting really tired of having LJ expire all the cookies over and over again.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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