Saturday, March 26, 2011
The government just fell in a no-confidence motion, and Canadians will be having an election sometime in May. A fairly non-partisan observer myself, I've considered voting for each and every party in the political spectrum at different times. I was a big Chretien fan for example but a bigger Preston Manning fan in the early 90s, and my first vote in a federal election was for the Canadian Alliance as Manning was still an MP at the time, even though I didn't like the new leader at all. Due to being a Chretien fan I also supported the Conservatives in their first election victory as the way in which Paul Martin became the leader of the party was a backhanded one that damaged the party, and he needed to go. The election after that (the most recent one) nobody attracted my vote, and this time around I will probably vote Liberal.
Two reasons for this are fringe reasons:
1) the Liberals are the only party with an MP who has been to space. Marc Garneau was the first Canadian in space, and headed the CSA. He has been the science critic in opposition and one imagines that he would become the minister of Industry, Science and Technology in a Liberal government. Canada is a nation that does not pull its weight in the exploration of space ($332 million per year is pathetic, even considering the population discrepancy between Canada and the US), and Marc Garneau in such a position could only improve things.
2) Ignatieff spent a great deal of time abroad. As an ex-pat Canadian myself, I'm not impressed by the ads that have been run against him, the "just visiting" attack ads. If the Conservatives are able to turn votes away from the Liberals due to him being abroad for a long time, it will make other ex-pat Canadians considering returning home to benefit their country more cautious about doing so, and the country will suffer as a result.
Interesting fact: all three presidential candidates in the last US election (including the Libertarian Party) had a great deal of experience abroad. Barack Obama spent a lot of time going to school in Indonesia, John McCain was born in Panama and moved around a lot, and Bob Barr graduated high school in Tehran (seriously). So let's not make Canada the country where experience abroad somehow makes one untrustworthy to voters.
Now in terms of more general policy, I like Ignatieff's infrastructure plans for the country. Their plans for high-speed rail are good (and long overdue), concentrating on three areas: Quebec to Windsor, Alberta in between Calgary and Edmonton, and Vancouver down into the United States, through Seattle and into Oregon. Canada is not simply 30+ million people scattered throughout the second largest country in the world, in terms of where the population is located it's actually more like Chile, very long but not all that wide. High-speed rail would not work across the whole country, but in select places it needs to be done. In most other areas of policy I prefer the Liberals to the Conservatives at this time too. I would love to see the GST brought back to 6% (lowering it once was good, the second time was too much) but I don't think the Liberals will touch that issue.
Finally, I suggest not voting Green unless you really think the candidate in your region can win. I have been a strong supporter of the party until around the last election, when Elizabeth May deviated from the traditional "we're not left or right, we take good ideas from all parties and attack none" approach to a strictly anti-Harper one, including one very odd op-ed about Harper taking a communion wafer even though he's not Catholic. Add that to her decision last time to run against Peter McKay and her political instincts are obviously lacking. That said, she has finally chosen an easier place in which to run and I do hope that she wins her seat, because I would like to see the party in Parliament for the first time ever (the MP that defected that one time doesn't count) and hopefully she will either change her tactics or eventually a new leader will replace her and in the meantime the party will be in fairly good shape.