A Spring of Discontent
So, here we go again!
Given that I started this blog in December 2002, I am now looking forward to commenting on the fourth federal election since aMMusing has been around. That’s a lot in a parliamentary democracy that used to yield majority governments that could remain at the reigns of power for up to five years. But, unlike other people, I am not complaining about having to go to the polls yet again; I have far too many other things getting on my tits during this election campaign.
In no particular order…
Heavily on my tits are the people who complain about having to go vote again. That totally slays me. We currently have people dying in massive civil unrest throughout northern Africa and the Middle East (not to mention the sad, sad situation that’s been going on for months in the Ivory Coast) to obtain or uphold the fundamental right to vote in order to effect significant change for citizens, and people here are complaining about a detour of at most one hour (depending on where one lives) in order to cast a ballot. It’s sickening, puerile, and quite frankly ungrateful and I can’t bear hearing it any longer.
Having said that, I understand that, for many people, elections in Canada seem like an exercise in futility. Some argue that the differences between the two parties most likely to form a government — the incumbent Conservatives and the Liberals who were outsted in 2006 — are not terribly significant, or that, in the end, all politicians are cut from the same cheap and crappy cloth and have only their own interest at heart. But that kind of facile cynicism and intellectual laziness also gets on my tits. It makes it sound like we’re a nation of damsels in distress, car broken down alongside the highway, hoping some knight in white armour will come along to save us. Many, it seems, are quite happy to simply pick only one or two items that suit them from the smorgasbord of promises laid out by the party leaders while ignoring all the other items that are fundamentally bad for everyone else, including themselves.
In my very first days of blogging in 2002, I linked to the Political Compass. website. Eight years later, the CBC / Radio-Canada made available an adaptation of it called Vote Compass, developed by the Department of Social Sciences at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the Centre for the Study of Democratic Citizenship. What emerges from either tool is that almost nobody can be 100 percent aligned to a single party or political view. That said, both tools have had their share of criticism for being biased: the former for skewing to the left, and the latter for either favouring the Liberal party or suggesting that staunch NDP supporters would in fact have a better political home with the Green Party.
As a matter of fact, I’m one of the many who leans NDP who got Green as my result on Vote Compass, with NDP second and Conservative the furthest away from my core political values. But, a SINGLE word in a question can make all the difference. In my case, the word “violent” in the statement that “Violent young offenders should be sentenced as adults” made all the difference and — gasp! — placed my squarely among the Conservatives’ camp! Remove the word “violent,” however, and my answer might be sufficiently different to place me back into my more traditional political house. But for sake of argument, let’s say that this matter was very important to me and I agreed with that statement (with or without the word “violent”) as well as one other position embraced by the Conservatives (whatever that might be), wouldn’t it behoove me to look at the party’s other positions to ensure that they more or less aligned with my beliefs in other matters? I don’t agree at all with the NDP’s position on Afghanistan, but in the final analysis, I find more pros than cons in that political house, including on policy matters that would either not benefit me or cost me more.
Meanwhile, setting aside the bogus argument that all politicians are crooks, voters can be forgiven to some extent for believing that their vote doesn’t really count. I’ve said it many, MANY times at aMMusing that I believe that’s partially a derivative of our antiquated first-past-the-gate system that leads to false majorities and literally leads to millions of votes nationwide not yielding a seat in Parliament, or each seat won “costing” far more votes to one party compared to the others. It kills me that mixed-member proportional (MMP) schemes have been rejected in two provinces, in large part because they’ve been presented as “SO complicated” and “SO unsexy” (by its name). Again, friggin’ damsels in distress! Can’t wrap their pretty little minds around having two ballots to fill out instead of only one. Poor dears.
So here I am now, living in a federal riding that withstood the Progressive Conservative tides of 1984 and 1988 and remained Liberal. Here, the Liberals could run an inanimate object as the candidate and it would get in. That means I can vote NDP (as 23% of us did in 2008) and not worry about splitting the left-of-centre vote and consequently giving the seat to the Conservatives. Similarly, if I lived to the east of where I am now (e.g., either the riding where the Village is [and also Torn’s neighbourhood] or the riding where Cleopatrick lives), I could do the same since they’ll go Bloc Québécois no matter what and not give the Conservatives the seats. However, if I lived in the Québec City area and the race in my riding were between the Conservative and the Bloc Québécois, you could bet your right nut (or tit) that I wouldn’t hesitate to vote BQ even if I am not in favour of Québec sovereignty. In short, strategic voting — that is, voting for one’s second choice to prevent vote splitting in favour of the candidate and party one completely opposes — is only a factor in places like my hometown of Moncton as well as other parts of the Maritimes, the “905” area code surrounding greater Toronto, the city of Vancouver and Vancouver Island in British Columbia, and the region around Québec City. And, of course, there’s an underlying assumption that the Conservatives would keep the ridings they already hold.
In that sense, there is SOME validity to the claim that one person’s vote doesn’t make a difference. But that’s a systemic problem. Interestingly, mere weeks after the 2008 election, the Conservatives threatened to do away with the per-vote subsidy to parties and nearly brought down the newly elected government in the process. Now, it is being clearly stated as an objective of the Conservatives should they be re-elected. Instituted by the Chrétien Liberals in 2003, this policy is:
- credited for giving some value to votes that may not have yielded a seat in Parliament (e.g., the Green Party with its nearly 1 million votes in 2008), and
- intended to limit reliance on funding from well-financed lobbies, corporate interests, and unions.
When fierce opponents of the Bloc Québécois (especially outside Québec) find out that the subsidy represents 80% of the BQ’s funding, they become outraged and argue that Canadian taxpayers’ money is being used to subsidizes “traitors.” The argument falls apart quickly, though, when one considers that ALL parties reaching the 2% threshhold of popular vote nationally receive this $2 per vote subsidy, and last I checked, voters in Québec are still Canadian voters during a federal election. Moreover, the Bloc existed for 13 years without the subsidy. I repeat: I still don’t have an affinity towards the Bloc’s main plank, which is full sovereignty for Québec; however, in its 20 years of existence, the Bloc has managed to support legislation that has benefitted not only Québec but the rest of Canada as well. Yes, the primary focus of Bloc MPs is on Québec, but people I know who have met with Bloc MPs on various matters such as post-secondary education have reported that they are extremely well-prepared and do their job as MP right.
On a totally different register: My tits start to bleed when I hear that Harper’s Conservative government fell on a motion on non-confidence over the budget.
It. Did. Not.
The government fell on a motion of non-confidence due to being the first in Canadian history to have been found in contempt of Parliament. But the opposition is too damn feckless to make this the big deal that it is. And at that point, my tits go from bleeding to falling off my chest.
The result: Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff may very well be committing political suicide before our own eyes. Damsels-in-distress voters may buy into the argument that seven years of minority governments is enough, so let’s realize Mr. Lego Hair Harper’s wet dream of a Conservative majority. (I apologize for the truly revolting image created by the juxtaposition of “Harper” and “wet dream.”) And next thing you know: the 60 percent of us who will have opposed this nasty, divisive, secretive, dishonest, American-style conversatism will enter with great dread a very unsettling political Dark Age.