Canadian election in two days, and...

Sunday, May 01, 2011

...this election is turning out to be far more interesting and less predictable than imagined in the beginning. The reason why is as follows:

That orange line there that suddenly shoots up about halfway through is the support for the NDP, Canada's traditional third party that always gets a few dozen seats but not a great deal of respect. The NDP is not too difficult to explain (neither are most of the other parties, mind you): they are pro-environment, unions, higher corporate taxes, and against operations in Afghanistan, corporations making immense profits if done at the expense of workers, jobs being shipped overseas, etc.

Their sudden popularity is hard to explain, but its origin is not: their support shot up in Quebec before anywhere else, and Quebec has a history of suddenly ditching parties it feels have done a lousy job, and giving a new party a chance.

I myself am pleased with the thought of the NDP winning more seats than before, but I wouldn't like to see them win too many. The reason is simple: as a smaller party, during an election they usually concentrate on a few key areas. The rest of the candidates thus end up running more or less in name only, and without any hope of winning a seat they are very often vastly underqualified. I would not like to see many of these candidates win seats, as not only would it result in underqualified people going to Ottawa to represent their ridings, but it could be bad for the NDP in the end too once they get into Parliament if a shoddy performance by them results in the NDP being taken less seriously than they would like.

So let's begin with my dream dream scenario given the current political reality, that is. It would look something like this:

Conservatives 125
Liberals 88
NDP 52
Bloc 42
Green 0 to 1

Such a scenario could happen, though the Conservatives and NDP are likely to end up with more than this.

To explain why this is a dream scenario, I must first explain why I want to see the Liberal Party do well (well = at least 10 more than the current 77 seats).

Reason 1 is easy: Marc Garneau. The Liberals will certainly not form a government this time, but if they do later on then Marc Garneau, Canada's first astronaut and former head of the Canadian Space Agency, would become Canada's Minister of Industry, Science and Technology. I want a former astronaut running Canada's space policy, plain and simple.

Reason 2 is Michael Ignatieff. During this election he has been the most media-accessible and least predictable leader, taking a huge number of questions and always speaking off the cuff. I do not enjoy stump speeches, and consider the ability to answer questions on the fly to be essential for a politician. The Liberal Party's policy is also quite good, a middle-of-the-road approach that keeps the corporate tax rate at a very competitive 18% instead of further lowering it.

One other reason for Ignatieff: he's an expat, like me, and if the party ends up doing badly under his leadership, it will show that the Conservatives' "just visiting" campaign has had an effect, even though he has been back for some six years now. If that happens, then fewer talented overseas Canadians will consider returning to run to serve the country in Parliament, as time overseas will be shown to be an issue that never gets cleared up, instead of a plus. Overseas Canadians, we don't need your talent or your insight - once you leave the country for a few years, you're not fully one of us anymore. This is the message they will receive.

There are a few other reasons, but these are the most important.

Back to the dream scenario: I'm not sure what would happen to the leadership of the Conservative Party under such a scenario, but I don't see the case being made for a majority government this time around.

The Liberals would certainly retain Ignatieff as a leader, and perhaps next time around he wouldn't need to answer questions about his patriotism. This campaign, if nothing else, has shown him to be anything but the stodgy intellectual he was portrayed as.

The NDP would gain more seats, but hopefully just in areas where they have candidates that deserve to go to Parliament. They would be able to continue to bolster their ranks, and in the next election they would become a truly national party, especially with all the seats in Quebec they are expected to win.

The Bloc Quebecois result is not really all that relevant to Quebec's future in Canada, since the popularity of the PQ (the provincial nationalist party) is the one that would decide this. The PQ's leader is distancing herself from the BQ already.

The Green Party: I'm a bit torn on this one. Elizabeth May has not been a good leader for the party, making silly decisions such as that to run in Central Nova last election, and that blog post on why Stephen Harper offended Catholics when he took a communion wafer and didn't eat it (who cares?). She also turned the party from its former "we appeal to both the right and the left" practical approach to a mostly entirely anti-Harper approach. I would like to see a Green Party without her (with David Chernuschenko or somebody else as leader), but if she fails to win a seat this time around they may fade from sight by next election. Then again, if she wins a seat then we'll be seeing a lot more of her, and I don't like the idea of that either. So I won't be entirely pleased or displeased with either result.

At least the election promises to be very, very interesting. During the final days we'll also get to see if the three-way attacks against the NDP has had any effect, plus whether their support will hold, or fade away as it usually does near the end. Also whether the "Jack Layton was at a massage parlor 15 years ago" story will have any effect. Since it's entirely irrelevant to a person's performance in politics I hope it doesn't, but what sways the votes of Canadians really does remain a mystery to me most of the time. Whatever happens, if the Liberals get at least 87 seats and Marc Garneau retains his (he might not), I'll be happy.


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