Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Canadians get the government they deserve ...

... but clearly not the government they wanted. Many conclusions can be drawn from last night's disastrous election results right now, some of the implications for Canada won't become clear for a while. One thing is clear right from the start, this election, as others before it, has not served Canadian democracy well. Compare the result under the current electoral system to a system using Proportional Representation:

CON: 39.62% of vote, 167 seats - under prop. rep. they would have 123 seats
NDP: 30.62% of vote, 102 seats - under prop. rep. they would have 95 seats
LIB: 18.91% of vote, 34 seats - under prop. rep. they would have 58 seats
BQ: 6.05% of vote, 4 seats - under prop. rep. they would have 18 seats
GRN: 3.91% of vote, 1 seat - under prop. rep. they would have 12 seats

Perhaps not the neatest result, but a fair and democratic one - not a result to Harper's liking, of course, because he can only get along with himself (see below).

Only three democratic countries still use the 19th century "first past the post" system which evolved in a two party system but clearly can't be considered democratic in the 21st century. Before you think that this is about the fate of any particular political party, think again. This is about the democratic future of Canada. What will Canada look like four years from now, when we go to the polls again? Will we recognize it? How far will Harper go to dismantle the reasonably progressive country we've built during the past 50 years?

Before I go on, here's a bit of cheerful news, amidst the gloom: Progressive forces have taken over the entire south end of Vancouver Island where more than half of the population lives; no Blue Harpocritters remain here (alas, no Liberals either). And my riding, Saanich-Gulf Islands, which had been deep blue for 14 years, elected Elizabeth May, North America's first Green Party MP. Now that's no mean achievement!

But to go on: Harper with his unearned majority will now be able to do anything he wants. He's now a virtual dictator (that's how our system works). And he will act like one, because that fits his personality. "L'état c'est moi!", as Louis XIV used to say, "I am the state!". We know that's how he acted as minority prime minister, with his majority no one can so NO to him. So, what will now happen to public health care, to employment insurance, to drug costs, to a woman's right to choose, to pensions, to culture, to scientific research, to the CBC, to public funding of political parties, and to dealing with global warming, climate change, and the environment? Hold on to your hats, folks! Remember, we're dealing with right wingers here, anti-intellectual, anti-professional, many of them fundamentalist protestant believers.

And then there's the new NDP. Based on their platform and previous behaviour, not quite ready for prime time, but now the official opposition party. They can grow up, I certainly hope so - after all, they've run and are running successful provincial governments. But there's a serious new wrinkle now: 58 of their elected members are totally inexperienced new Quebec MPs. These MPs have replaced the Bloc, but they will hold similar views. Not only will that tend to tilt the NDP towards Quebec, but also, if they don't deliver, chances are extremely good that these seats will go elsewhere in 2015. And then what?

The progressive parties had several chances during the past two years to prevent what happened yesterday, they were urged to do so by their elder statesmen, men of stature, experience and ability. Both the Liberals and the NDP chose to keep to the status quo. They, and more importantly we, have to live with the result! For now the creation of a new centre-left party has to stay on hold, at least until the dust settles.

The probable result of this election was pretty certain from the beginning - either a Harper minority or a majority, depending on how the progressive vote was split. It was certain from the beginning that the majority of progressive voters would not be intelligent enough to cast their votes to defeat Harper. The Harper majority is the best result of two undesirable outcomes. Now Harper will be solely and totally responsible for what happens to Canada. The blame for anything negative that occurs will be no one's but his.

There will be a provincial election in Quebec in 2012. The Parti Québecois will likely win and, then, Canada will be be faced with another referendum on Quebec independence. How will Stephen Harper deal with that? A man with no mental finesse, a man whose only political goals have always been absolute power for himself no matter what, and the destruction of the Liberal Party (those are his words not mine, that's why he spent millions of dollars demonizing two Liberal leaders). We'll see how he'll deal with that. But will the result be the destruction of Canada?

One thing is certain right now though: With Harper's contempt for democracy and international institutions, Canada will continue its slide into mediocrity and international irrelevance. Not a comforting thought!

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