Monday, July 5, 20040 Comments
At first glance, the Liberal Party’s success in this election seems surprising. Most of the major papers and television networks across the country were predicting a Conservative minority government. I even figured Stephen Harper would pull a George W. Bush-like victory out of his cowboy hat and win with a lower number of actual votes than his main opponent. That certainly would have been a bit of a coup for fans of proportional representation, though the words “Prime Minister Harper” rightfully sound about as appealing as the words “root canal” or “Premier Harris”.
Thankfully, we came away with party that isn’t run by right-wing zealots and the Alberta oil lobby. Instead we get another term, however long that may be, of the Liberal Party of Canada. Paul Martin gets to live his father’s dream and be Prime Minister, for at least a little while longer. However, Mr. Martin should avoid counting his chickens this time around. His party will need to woo NDP and Bloc Quebecois support to get any of its legislation through parliament and that support will not come easily. It will likely mean a significant transfer of real authority to the provinces as the Bloc will demand it. Support from the NDP will likely mean real efforts in establishing some sort of national childcare program and possibly funding for tuition reduction. Neither proposal is outrageous by Liberal standards and Jack Layton’s New Democrats would be smart to accept a good proposal should one appear.
The Liberals would also be smart to recognize that on Monday, they got really, really lucky. They ran a brilliant negative advertising campaign which, to put it bluntly, scared the crap out many Canadians. Voters in Ontario were especially spooked by the campaign and in turn voted Liberal when many may well have intended to vote either Conservative or NDP. Just look at Guelph as an example – while the election of Kate Quarry suggested a leaning to the right from the city’s voters (especially those who see my hometown as a suburb of Toronto), Brenda Chamberlain and her record of underachievement still won by a landslide. This is without a doubt the result of NDP voters fearing a Conservative government and centre-right Conservatives still not ready to accept the fact that they really do like Harper’s agenda. After all, what would you tell the children?
Paul Martin swept the Province of Ontario and had candidates such as Tony Valeri and Tony Ianno keep their seats when they really should not have had a chance, especially after the Valeri-Copps fiasco and with Ianno running against the very popular Olivia Chow. In the end, many who would have preferred to vote NDP voted “strategically” for the Liberals and will now have to live with another term of ineffective representation. Here’s hoping that when we go back to the polls in about 18 months, voters feel confident enough to vote “for” a party and not against one. Here’s also hoping the system of proportional representation is one day implemented in Canada which will put an end to the foolish notion of strategic voting. If a country is to be truly democratic its voters should be able to confidently vote for their preferred representative. They should not have to vote out of fear of any single party, but that’s another column for another day.
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