Thoughts on the Canadian Federal Election, May 2011
Well, I’m drunk. And not in a happy way. We in Canada just elected Stephen Harper, leader of the Conservative Party, to a majority government. This is not a slur against those who voted Conservative. He’s just not my guy. And so I am unhappy and drinking.
And while I am tipsy, I thought I’d make a few observations before the alcohol drives me to my bed:
1. Two consecutive minority Conservative governments prevented Harper from embracing his social conservative agenda, lest he alienate the centrist voters whose support he needed to win a majority. Now he has that majority. I fully expect movement on two important social fronts: reformation of Canada’s immigration policy, i.e. its tightening; and the drafting of a new federal abortion bill. Canada presently has no functional abortion law, which suits pro-Choice people like me just fine. But I strongly suspect that there will be some attempt to codify the practice before the next mandatory election in 2015.
2. Jack Layton’s NDP are the official opposition, which is great news for progressives. The Liberals haven’t done an effective job in this role in quite some time. The NDP deserve their shot. However, one strong card that the Liberals always had was that the ruling Conservatives always considered them to be a threat to one day form the next government. At present, the NDP don’t have that kind of stature. Despite their impressive number of seats, I think the NDP’s potential to be an effective opposition is hampered by such derision, and of course by the mathematical barrier of the Conservative majority.
3. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, whom I have discussed many many times in this space before (most notably here, here and here), has lost his own riding and led his party to one of its worst defeats in history. This, despite having been hailed as the party’s messiah when he first arrived a few years ago. I think it’s safe to say that Ignatieff’s run as leader is done. Who’s next? The obvious choice is Bob Rae. Rae has all the skills: the intelligence, the toughness, the experience and the desire. But Rae has two great failings: he is persona non grata in Ontario, and he is not French. Many voters arent aware of the Liberal party’s tradition of alternating Anglo and Franco leaders. It’s a Francophone’s turn. So where does that leave them? Sigh. I fear it might be Justin Trudeau.
4. Elizabeth May and the Green Party have their first ever seat. Big whoop. On everything but environmental issues, their platform most resembles the Conservatives’.
5. So 40% of voters elected a so-called “majority” government. This nonsense continues to piss me off. This country needs something resembling proportional representation, and we need it now. The world, and this country, is increasingly urban. Cities run our economies, are the seat of most of our people and represent the values of most Canadians. Yet we have a system that disproportionately rewards a rural, or at least non-urban, way of thinking. I’m tired of the sparse suburbs dictating policy to densely-populated downtown.
6. The Bloc Quebecois was all but eliminated in this election. I won’t shed a tear for them. Gilles Duceppes was a formidable warrior in the debates, and I enjoyed his no-nonsense contributions. But Bloc policy and rhetoric were, frankly, racist. And I like to think that Canada is in a post-separatist era. The Bloc’s platform has no relevance anymore, either for Anglos or Francophones. It seems “Le Gros Bon Sens” is alive and well.
7. What does all this mean for science? I mean that in both a substantive and metaphorical way. The Harper ethic is notoriously unscientfic; dare I say “anti-scientific”. Their dismissal of Climate Change and unofficial backing of Creationist tendencies are good examples of this pattern. Will policies be even less evidence-based, now that a majority government does not require the cooperation of the other parties? Obviously, this is an issue close to my heart. Human civilization sits a precipice. The world is choosing whether to return to the Byzantine past of religious dogma and spirtualist ephemera, or to embrace a universe of observable and predictable results. Where will Harper take us?
8. There’s been much boo-hooing over the poor voter turnout in this election. I think it was around 30%. I’m one of those people who isn’t bothered by voter turnout. I’d much rather have a small number of committed and invested voters than a large number of ballot-casters who did not bother to educate themselves on the pertinent issues. As I’ve said before, who are these mystical “undecided voters” who can’t be bothered to vote? The dumbest motherfuckers on the planet, that’s who. Frankly, I won’t lose any sleep if they’re not picking the government that will rule me.
That is all for now. Gotta go cry into my beer.