Left Wing Reaction to the Canadian Election

I can’t figure it out.  The NDP just scored a gigantic victory in yesterday’s election.  They went from a minor, anti-everything coalition of the disaffected to a bold, new national force in Canadian politics.  They gathered votes from just about everybody who wants to change the way we do business in this country.  They more than doubled their best election results to date and nearly tripled their parliamentary power.  They increased their popularity from a paltry 18.2% to 30.6% — which means nearly one in every three Canadian voters now supports the NDP.  And that’s not all.  Of overwhelming significance, Jacques, Le Tueur de Geants (Jack, the Giant Killer) did what no politician has been able to do for twenty years.  He separated the Sovereignistas in Quebec from the allure of separatism and convinced huge numbers of Quebecois to join in a federalist dream.  Not bad for a guy with a bum hip and a failing memory!  Yet, in the middle of it all, even before Mansbridge could choke out “C-C-Conservative majority,” the Internet was bulging with I Hate Harper tirades.  Did I miss an e-mail or something?  Is this the way one is supposed to celebrate the greatest night in the history of “progressive” politics?

In less than twelve hours, the anti-conservative forces in Canada went from bright-eyed political activists, working flat out for change, to a pack of snarling Harper-haters, spitting sour grapes.  Of course, hating Harper has been a leisure activity in Canada ever since he kicked Stockwell Day to the curb in 2002, but election night was way over the top.  It started with Mansbridge saying something like, Stephen Harper’s most cherished dream was to destroy the Liberals, and it just soared into the stratosphere from there.  There were the usual George Bush and Adolf Hitler comparisons, of course, but then it just got bizarre.  Harper was going to outlaw abortion, gay marriage and bright colours.  Harper was going to change all the hospitals into pay-per-view clinics.  He’s going to steal everybody’s Old Age pension cheques and buy fighter jets with the money.  He was going to shoot the homeless, abolish daycare and burn the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in front of cowering orphans and weeping widows.  As the night went along, Hell itself couldn’t hold half Harper’s nastiness and even Satan was sending the children out of the room.  Most of it was unprintable.

The last time anything like this happened was when the Republicans in America finally realized that Palin was an idiot and Obama was actually going to be President.  The venom was unbelievable.   Did that just happen here?  Are the “progressives” in this country taking a page out of the Republican playbook and starting down the yellow brick road to some kind of Canadian Cappuccino version of Tea Party Crazy?  Is there a left wing Canadian Glenn Beck waiting to emerge?  Do we even know where Harper was born?  Hold it!  Let’s just stop for a second and take a deep breath.

First of all, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government isn’t worth the name.  If you don’t believe me, take a look at what Blogging Tory Adrian MacNair has to say about it — here.  Harper and his crew are probably further left politically than “progressive” poster child, Barack Obama.   Hyperbole doesn’t work when you don’t know what you’re talking about.  Secondly, we didn’t just elect Louis XIV for God’s sake!  Despite CBC’s continuous assurance that the people of Canada have handed Stephen Harper “absolute power” he’s only the Prime Minister.  Nothing gets done in this country without the bureaucrats and the special interest groups taking their cut, so I wouldn’t worry about anything called rapid change.  Thirdly, last time I looked, Jack Layton was the only guy who didn’t campaign with a handful of mud.  He kinda wanted to talk about the issues during the election.  I would think the party faithful would follow his example and demonstrate that much-vaunted “progressive” tolerance we’ve all been hearing about, ad nauseum.

And finally, you lost.  It’s that simple.  You can yip all you want about shadowy corporate conspirators subverting the will of the people — or media bias — or abolishing reforming the electoral system.  Hell, you can even say Harper is a Manchurian Candidate born in Kenya if you want to, but that doesn’t change the facts.  More people wanted a Conservative government than wanted an NDP one.  Even though 60% of the voters didn’t vote Conservative, using those numbers, 70% didn’t vote NDP: case closed.  If the “progressive” message is so alluring, Jack Layton is now a Prime Minister in waiting, and he’s got four years to prove he can do a better job.  Get after it!

The vast majority of people in this country want to change the way we do things politically, and many of them demonstrated that by voting NDP.  Let’s leave the venom and the rhetoric alone, calmly sit down, compare blueberries and oranges, and see which Canadians want.   Then all we have to do is figure out how to pay the bills and learn to live with the result — without resorting to American-style nutsy.

Canadian Election: It’s Finally Over

Congratulations, Canada!  You’ve almost made it.  In a couple of hours, one of the doziest elections in our history will be over.  The signs will come down, the pollsters will put away their pencils and the politicians will crawl back into hibernation.  Tonight, Canadian Survivor gets one more 2-hour TV finale (just so we can actually see who gets voted off the public payroll) and that’s it – it’s over.  And, with any luck at all, Canadian politics will irrevocably change.  Thank God! 

As I said in the beginning, Decision 2011 — or whatever journalists are calling it this week — has nothing to do with the people of Canada.  This was a political election, pure and simple:  engineered by our politicians and for the exclusive use of our politicians.  This wasn’t an unnecessary election, per se, it just didn’t have anything to do with us.  Our politicians have been wandering around the banks of the Ottawa River, trying to figure things out, for quite some time.  For years now, nobody on Parliament Hill really knew where they stood in the political spectrum, and they needed to get re-aligned.  They solved the problem in typical Canadian fashion.  They held an election among the three opposition parties and today we’ll find out who won.  In that sense, I suppose, there is some drama, but we’re not getting very much bang for our buck, considering the money we spent.

Here’s what just happened; it gets complicated, so stick with me.  Ever since Stephane Dion got the chop for incompetence in 2008, the Liberals haven’t been quite sure how far left of centre they want their centre-left party to be.  Michael Ignatieff is about as close to a Red Tory as you can get without the name; whereas, Bob Rae and Ujjal Dosanjh both ran genuine socialist horde NDP provincial governments.  There’s so much political schizophrenia going around on Bay Street these days, it’s a wonder the whole party isn’t in therapy.

Meanwhile, in another part of the political forest, the NDP have been creeping to the right.  Jack Layton has introduced Thomas Mulchair, a former provincial Liberal, as deputy leader.  This move overshadowed Libby Davies, who is about to retire anyway and take her brand of left-coast-bad-girl politics with her.  Layton sees an opportunity to move the NDP from wacky wannabes into the sunlight as a reasonable left of centre alternative in Canadian politics.  This is especially feasible since the environment is no longer on the agenda and the Greens, now lost in the wilderness, aren’t chewing on his left wing anymore.  Jack set his laptop on “Find: Replace,” retooled his speeches to read “middle class” (instead of “working class”) called it change (a la Barack Obama) and plunged right into the fray.  Ignatieff, too proud to battle a “fringe” party like the NDP, set his sights on Harper’s Conservatives, blissfully unaware (until it was too late) that, without Quebec and the West, the Liberals have become not much more than an urban “fringe” party themselves.  Two political objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time, so the war was on.

All this would have been a minor skirmish, except Gilles Duceppe, probably the most competent politician of this generation, decided to take the month off.  He showed up briefly during the French language debate to scold Harper and rhetorically slap Jack Layton, but in general, he wasn’t there.  Duceppe is tired and wants to finish off his career back in La Belle Province.  He will get a good chance to govern as leader of the Parti Quebecois, when Charest’s Liberals collapse and he wants to take it.  Besides, he thought that the Bloc had little or nothing to fear until the old Rene Levesque-inspired sovereignistas start to die out in a decade or so.  Anyway, pension secured, Gilles went to bed early most nights and slept late.

And what about the guy who seems to be forgotten in all this hoopla — Stephen Harper?  After his five years in power, even the CBC couldn’t make the perennial favourite “secret agenda” label stick to him.  Harper’s diehard opponents still think he’s the living tool of Satan, however — just waiting for a majority so he can destroy Health Care, evict widows, stomp on kittens and sell us out to his American masters.  (Barack Obama?)   The truth, of course, is Stephen Harper isn’t the bogeyman any more than Joe Clark or Bob Stanfield were before him.  Conservative politics aren’t the manifestation of evil on earth, and most people can’t tell the difference between the day before yesterday and 2004, when Paul Martin was running the show.  Stephen Harper’s Conservative government is steady, and Conservative support might not be majority material, but it is deep and it is solid.  Besides, now that Danny Williams isn’t around to poison the well in the Maritimes, and if Harper can storm Fortress Toronto, he might just get a majority.  Regardless, tomorrow morning he will form the government.

That’s it: six weeks later; no big ideas exchanged; no national vision debated.  We can only hope that the politicians have finally sorted themselves out — because if they haven’t, and there’re any loose ends dangling about, we’ll all be back at it, in a year or two.

Election Polls:In My Opinion

As the clock keeps ticking, I am rapidly approaching the exalted state of old bugger.  In other words, I’ve been around for a while, and I’ve done a few things.  I’ve seen a number of elections come and go — some good, some bad, some indifferent.  However, I’ve never been asked or harassed into giving my opinion to an election poll.  The telephone has never cut across dinner, somewhere between the string beans and the ice cream; the deadpan voice of Nanos, Ekos or Ipsos Reid has never asked me for my opinion.  This doesn’t bother me much because, honestly, if I was bored that night, I’d probably lie.  But I do wonder why.

First of all, in times of non-election, the phone rings all the time.  I have any number of people concerned about me.  They want to know every detail about my personal hygiene, how I get to work, or how many adult beverages I drink per day, on average. (One?   Two to five? More than five?  More than five!)  I even get calls from Tammy, the robot who insists I’ve won a free vacation in Fort Lauderdale and some guy who wants to solve my credit card debt, among other things.  The only thing I’ve ever done to deserve this kind of attention is subscribe to a couple of magazines and park my posterior in a target demographic.  Yet, when my country wants to renew its commitment to democracy, nobody gives a damn what I think.

Secondly, I’m the guy they want.  I always vote.  I’m aware of the issues, such as they are.  I’ve always been in everybody’s target demographic – Undecided.  I usually make up my mind around half-time in the election cycle, and despite my obvious conservative leanings, I’ve voted Liberal enough times to qualify for a red scarf.  You’d think that every pollster and most political parties would definitely want to know what I thought about Health Care or F-35 jetfighters, not to mention which way I plan to scratch my ballot.  Nope, not a bit of it, and this isn’t the first time — it’s every time – since Trudeau swept me off my feet when I was a child.  What’s the probability of that, with a margin of error plus or minus 3.6 percent?  I’m beginning to think these polls might not be the be-all, end-all political weathervane they claim to be.  In fact, I’m beginning to seriously question their methodology.

I understand that polling is not an exact science.  Political parties and the media use polls to follow broad trends, not to predict elections.  But it strikes me that daily polls are taking polling beyond the point of absurdity.  Personally, I think pollsters hire a bunch of unemployed telemarketers and turn them loose.   They track the answers of the relatively few people who don’t hang up on them and present the raw data to the number crunchers.   The number crunchers (Nobody has ever seen them, by the way) apply some kind of voodoo mathematical formula to the whole mess, and voila.  The polls pronounce the Liberals are falling out of the race in B.C. or the NDP are gaining ground in Quebec — or vice versa.  These folks talked to approximately 2,400 people, chosen at random, and they’ve got the cojones to make statements like that?  It beggars the imagination.  There are 308 political ridings in this country; divide that into the number of people they talked to, and you get fewer than 8 people per riding.  In some places in this country, you can talk to eight people and never step outside the family.  Our country is so big it makes the poll numbers useless.  For example, according to one poll, the NDP have 20% of the vote and the Bloc Quebecois have 7.8%.  But in the end, the NDP are only going to win about thirty-five seats, whereas the Bloc will take over fifty.   In Canada, it doesn’t matter who likes you, or how much: it matters where they like you.  The polls don’t reflect that.

Then there’s also this idiot plus or minus margin of error, which can be as high as 6 percent.  Three questions?  How do they know what the margin of error is?  If they do know it, why don’t they fix it?  And finally, how come it keeps changing?  Has anybody ever gone back 20 years, looked at the polls and then compared them to the actual results of the election?  That would certainly give an accurate measure of the margin of error.  Then, there’s that whole “correct 19 times out of 20” business; I don’t think anybody knows what that means.

Polls are a strange exercise in diagnosing political thought.  In reality, at least in Canada, they’re practically useless; at best, they’re only ever close.  I can’t say for certain, but sometimes I think pollsters get a little beyond their per day, on average consumption of adult beverages.  They say, “Screw the phones!” and go into the back room and start throwing darts or rolling dice.  That’s the only explanation I can come up with to explain the mystery of why two polls from the same time and place can be so different.

Of course, it doesn’t matter what I think: nobody’s asked me for my opinion, anyway.