Requiem for a Minority

So, once again, it’s election time in Canada, or as our Prime Minister Stephen Harper calls it, “a dangerous and unnecessary exercise”…apparently, because the only source I have on this is Rick Mercer, but I’m going to go with it because it sounds like something he’d say. I’m sorry Stephen, but in case you were unaware, Canada is a democracy, and in democracies, we have elections, especially when the government is found in contempt of Parliament.

I’m not surprised Mr. Harper would say something that asinine, because he’s a politician. You see, all politicians are the same, they want power. When they don’t have power, they try to get it, when they have it, they want to keep it. If this wasn’t the case, they wouldn’t be politicians. Okay, maybe some get into politics to do some good, and do what they think is right, in fact it’s likely most of them are. But the ones that get into power, don’t get there by accident.

But no one likes to lose power. It’s for this reason King John of England signed the Magna Carta while someone held a knife to his fucking throat. So those in power try to subdue any opposition, assuming they can get away with it. This is why Republican politicians will criticise Obama for being too secretive, when he’s doing the same damn thing Bush did, which they gave him a pass on. So, predictably, this isn’t the first time Harper has tried this, only last time he was a bit more ballsy about it.

It all started in November 2008. The three opposition parties effectively band together and plan to bring down the government in a no-confidence motion and replace them with a Liberal-NDP Coalition with the support of the Bloc Quebecois. Not an all-together new idea. At least, internationally. During World War I and II the United Kingdom formed coalition governments for the sake of what I assume is national unity in a time of crisis, and Japan, France, and Australia have all had coalition governments and oppositions, in the case of Australia it’s been one or the other. Now true, in these cases the coalitions were known to exist during the election, and these countries tend to have a dozen major parties, so it would make sense to have a coalition. However, more recently, in the UK, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrat Party formed a coalition government, while coalition wasn’t on the ballot, because the alternative just wasn’t stable.

Now, In the case of the Liberal-NDP Coalition the biggest complaint was: No one voted for a coalition. My response: Well, that’s because it wasn’t on the ballot. Also, 54.4 per cent of the electorate didn’t vote for the Conservatives either. They voted for one of those three parties, the Liberals, the NDP or the Bloc. So what exactly would supporters of those three parties have against a government composed of an alliance of those three parties? Nothing, because the people who were against it were all Conservatives…I think. It’s impossible to tell for certain. But I don’t see why a supporter of the Liberals or the NDP would have been opposed to the coalition.

Besides how are the Conservatives more deserving of a government than the Liberals? Oh! Right! They won the last election! Except that they didn’t! They only got 36 per cent of the seats in parliament. In case you suck at math, that’s less than 50 per cent. So how is that a win? I once had a classmate in J-School explain that first-past-the-post voting (where the most votes win even if it’s not a majority) is part of our system. Well, do you know what else is part of our system? Coalition Governments!

Anyway, if the Liberals and NDP had succeeded, it would have meant Harper would be out of power. So, what did he do? He closed down Parliament for the holidays, it’s called proroguing, or, as I like to call it, the taking-my-ball-and-going-home approach.

The Liberals and NDP tried the same thing a year later and Harper responded the same way. The bizarre thing is, the Governor-General actually approved this, and didn’t say “no” under the grounds that it was stupid, childish and undemocratic.

Of course the issue of the coalition has come back. We see ads saying, if Stephen Harper doesn’t get a majority, the Liberals and NDP will form a reckless coalition. Okay…reckless? How? I would love to have that explained to me. It’s not reckless Mr. Harper, it’s democracy. If the majority of Parliamentary representatives want Stéphane Dion, or Michael Ignatieff as their Prime Minister, then it shall be. The power lies with the Parliament in our system, not the Harper. Deal with it!

Perhaps if the Liberals and NDP just came out with it and said: Yes, if the Conservatives do not get a majority, we might form a coalition. Then we would hear the public liking the idea, and voting for either party, while shutting Harper the fuck up.

Meanwhile, on the topic of shutting people up. What the hell are these!?

For all you foreigners who think that all Canadians are overly polite…yeah, that’s not exactly true. Which is a shame, because it’s probably the one stereotype we don’t try to dispel. How is this, in any way, dignified? After watching those ads, I don’t want to vote for any of them, not because they are the subjects of those ads, but because they are the creators.

Here’s an idea, make an ad about your party’s ideas and what you will do to make this country better, not how the other parties will make it worse. When I was a kid I remember watching an ad, featuring Jean Chrétien sitting on a desk, talking out the side of his mouth in his usual accent, saying how he will make this country better. I think, I can’t remember the exact words. It ended with the Liberal Party logo on a white background and afterwards, I doubt anyone felt depressed or scared.

In fact, there was a time when making an ad like that got your party burned at the stake.

The PCs catastrophically lost that election. Went from 169 seats…to two seats. Nice work. But why isn’t releasing ads like this considered political suicide any more? Is it because they don’t attack inexplicable illnesses these days? It should still be a bad idea.

On the topic of childhood memories, I also remember seeing ads for the US election in 1996, saying how Clinton sucks, and how Dole sucks. I remember thinking, why don’t they all just vote for Perot, he’s running and he seems to not have any flaws at all.

I got news for both the Conservatives and the Liberals, when the Conservatives say The Liberals suck, and the Liberals say the Conservatives suck, and the NDP say they both suck, and they both say the NDP sucks. Well, that doesn’t leave many options, except for the Greens. You see, these guys have it right.

…that’s not an endorsement. I’m not endorsing them. I’m not endorsing anybody this year. I never will. Think for yourselves people.

Of course when both parties continually talk about how the other parties suck, it get’s some people to think: All the parties suck, so what’s the point of voting? I know at least one person who thinks this way, and I’m going to sum up my view on this in a few simple words: That’s not the point.

I’ve talked about voter apathy before. But I figured I’d elaborate on this a bit more.

I know a few people who don’t vote because they don’t believe their vote will have any impact or make any difference. Okay, two things: one, imagine everyone thinks that, or just five per cent of eligible voters. That’s 1.7 million across the country. It’s also enough to swing the last election in my riding. Also, in the riding of Egmont, if only 100 people who didn’t vote, voted for the Liberal candidate, they wouldn’t have lost their seat to the Conservatives. In the riding of Kitchener-Waterloo, the Liberals lost by less than 20 votes. Now, how many Liberal supporters in Kitchener-Waterloo who didn’t vote, do you figure were kicking themselves after the results came in? At least 20, I’m sure.

Now of course some may say: Well it’s not going to be that tight in my riding.

My response: Oh, right, I forgot about that time machine you built in your basement that you use to predict the future. Speaking of which, where the fuck were you on September 10th, 2001!?

We don’t know what the election results will be, nor how close they will be. To say otherwise, is simply lying. We have hints thanks to polls, but we don’t know. We can’t know!

The second point: that’s not why you should vote. That’s not why I vote. I vote to try. I vote because even if it has absolutely no impact, at least I tried to have an impact, at least I tried to make a difference. If we only do things if they will definitely have an impact, and have the ideal result, we paralyse ourselves. It’s called the Nirvana Fallacy, and it’s a problem because there is no perfect solution, or perfect politician. On that point, I’d like to mention, I don’t agree with any of the political candidates or leaders 100 per cent. I agree with each of them on at least one issue and I disagree with them on at least several issues. But I will tell you this, I have a hard time believing anyone agrees with any of the parties, 100 per cent, on all the issues. If we only vote for the ideal candidate, well, no one would vote. We paralyse ourselves. This is just irrational. Also, while we are on the topic, I don’t remember anyone ever interpreting someone spoiling their ballot as an insightful political statement. People tend to interpret it as a sign of incompetence or immaturity or pure apathy on the part of the voter. At least that’s how I interpret it.

Now, while we are on the topic of public desires, there was something that I kept on hearing a while back when I followed this more closely, and for some reason, I’m still hearing. Canadians don’t want an election. They don’t want an election during the winter, they also don’t want an election during the spring, nor the fall, and the summer is just a terrible time for an election. Then when can we have an election? I think I know the answer: never.

Here’s the thing, there are many who hate elections, I’m not one of them. But regardless, we need elections if we are going to have a government by the people, for the people. It’s not fun, it’s mandatory. As I’ve insinuated before, elections are what makes a democracy, a democracy. Without them, we wouldn’t have a democracy, but a monarchy. I know I, for one, will never give up on democracy…ever.

Besides, how much of an inconvenience is an election? One hour on one day. Not really a big problem…is it? If you are really busy that day, don’t forget, there are advance ballots, mail-in ballots, and your employer is legally required to let you have an extra hour off to vote.

However, there is the standard cost of the election. After the last election, there was a lot ire directed at the government, because nothing really changed.

Yes, it’s upsetting that we spent $300 million on an election when nothing really changed, at least when looking at the big picture. However, let’s put this in perspective. $300 million, split between 34 million people, that’s less than ten dollars per citizen. I know I for one am willing to spend ten dollars for democracy, especially since there are those in other countries like Libya, willing to die for the same right. I’m willing to spend that ten dollars even if nothing changed, because all it means is that we, as a people, decided we didn’t want things to change. The ability for us to say that, is worth a lot more than ten dollars.

Finally, there is the debates. The most even and objective forum for determining the right man/woman for the job. Ads are always one-sided, but during a debate, the candidates have an opportunity to respond to criticisms while presenting their own ideas. I always try to watch the debates because of this, specifically the local debates because we aren’t really voting for a party or a Prime Minister, but an individual to represent us in Parliament, and we don’t know, they may disagree with their party on an issue or two. That’s information I’d like to know.

But most see the national leaders debate as the most important, and during the last election many were upset the Green Party leader, Elizabeth May, would not be invited to participate in the debates. Of course many consider the Greens a fringe party, but the broadcasting consortium that hosts the debates are supposed to be objective, and their job is not to determine what’s a legitimate party and what’s not. The rule tends to be, if the party has a seat in Parliament, they get a seat at the debates. It’s a good rule, and because of this rule, it meant the Greens could not sit at the debate unless they got an MP.

However, a week before the election was called, Blair Wilson, a Liberal MP from BC who was kicked out of the party, decided to join the Greens. This meant the Greens had an MP, and should be given a seat at the leaders debate. At first it didn’t happen, and the Conservatives and NDP declared they would boycott the debates if May did get to debate. I would have loved to see that. The truth was, the Green Party filled the requirements, they had an MP, and that should have been enough to get into the debates. The consortium tried to stand their ground, but public pressure got them to change their stance.

So, in the end Elizabeth May, Green leader, got to debate the leaders of the other four parties. I remember watching it, and to say she held their own is an understatement. She did a phenomenal job, and owned every other leader at that panel. Good work May.

However, this time around, things have changed. The Greens no longer have an MP. Wilson lost the reelection, no other Green candidates won their ridings either, and no other MPs crossed the floor to the Greens. So, according to the rules that granted her a seat at the debates during the last election, she cannot be part of the debates during this election. I am a big fan of these debates, and I think the more the merrier, but that does not mean we need every wack-job party on the panel, then things would just get insane, so you have to draw a finite line. I am also a big fan of the Greens, but rules are rules, and they can’t be ignored for a nice set of discourse.

I’d like to point out, this does not mean the major networks are writing the Greens off. The CBC is running a Vote Compass quiz that is intended to help people determine which party they should vote for, and the Greens are placed on the same level as the Conservatives, the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc. By the way, I highly recommend this thing, it seems pretty accurate.

Plus, one station, CHCH, attempted to host a debate between all five leaders, like the 2008 debate, however only May showed up. So instead they just had three journalists, who don’t appear to like her, ask rude questions.

If you ask me, this is how all politicians should be interviewed.

Also, across the nation, or at least in my riding of Sudbury, whenever there is a debate, the major candidates invited include the Green Party candidate, and the Conservative Party candidate if they decide to show up.

So it’s not like the Greens are blackballed intentionally or anything, the consortium is just playing by the rules.

But there is one local issue I want to get to, and I want to know if it’s being replicated in other ridings. In the above debate, the Conservative candidate had a “previous commitment” so he did not attend. To be frank, Slade, I don’t care. It’s a debate, and you are in politics, running for MP, therefore, you go. You tell your “previous commitment” you have to cancel, because there’s a debate you have to attend because you are running for public office. That’s like an actor deciding to skip rehearsal. Which is probably something some actors do, those actors are known as arrogant douchebags.

Of course it might not be Slade’s fault. This same thing happened last election, when I was in college. My journalism class hosted a debate between the four candidates. Our professor decided to allow one of the other fringe candidates in due to what I think might have been harassment, but also likely due to one of the big four not showing up. Guess which one…I’ll give you a hint…he was a Conservative.

I doubt this is a coincidence. I figure the Conservatives are censoring their candidates to make sure they don’t diss the party. They are being especially vigilant in Sudbury because the aforementioned candidate during the last election, Gerry Labelle, ended up talking shit about his own party, and by “talking shit” I mean making reasonable criticisms. This is a problem, for you see, in the Conservative Party, all dissent is banned.

You know, I kinda want to ask this question to all candidates: Is there anything in your party’s platform that you disagree with? If so, what? It would throw the Conservatives for a loop, that’s for damn sure. See, as I’ve always said, dissent is a good thing, and if the party we are talking about attempts to quash any and all dissent, they don’t get my support. So it’s an important question to ask.


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