Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Dangerous Grudge-Match. . . .

There is no doubt that many people on the left of centre are in serious quandary concerning October 19th. Now I'm not talking about the diehard partisans here - those who are more motivated by some abstract partisan belief than by actual policies or events. Some people, even leftists, would NEVER vote NDP because of the actions of Jack Layton a decade ago, or because of the NDP has succumbed to Balanced Budget Fetishism, or because of the suspiciously Harperesque style of Anne McGrath and Tom Mulcair. Others would never vote Liberal because Paul Martin was the founder of Canadian-style austerity, or because the Liberals helped to keep Harper in Power for years, or because they gutted EI and legitimized the raiding of the fund for their short-term political gain. Some traditional NDPers have a naive faith in the Party, imagining that their childcare program or pharmacare allows them to maintain their socialist roots. Others think the Liberals really have changed their stripes and are now actually more progressive than the NDP which, whether we like it not, has shifted right.

I actually think that, as a progressive, you can make a coherent argument to reluctantly support either of the two major opposition parties at the moment. Leaving past indiscretions and failures aside, both parties are too far right and both are trying to capture the (sort-of) progressive vote. And if you are not caught up in grudges and hyperbole, both the parties could be supported at least from a pragmatically progressive point of view. Maybe they would both let us down in horrible ways, I suspect that they would regardless of which one we opted for. If they managed a majority (a possibility that seems very unlikely) the NDP might be able to institute a National Childcare program and maybe even a pharmacare program. And that would be good. They might actually bring in PR. That would be better. If the Liberals got elected they might spend billions on infrastructure. That would be a big help to many people as well as to the future of the country. On the other hand, at this point neither party seems very interested in actually doing much about climate change or actually addressing the terrible economic inequality of the country.

In other words, regardless of which way you jump, if you are a progressive there will be disappointment. On the other hand, if either party manages electoral reform, we will have reason to celebrate.

The problem, of course, is that while we are considering such imponderables, Harper could just come out and win a majority again, in which case none of this matters. If Harper wins then democracy in the country is totally finished. Another four years of Harper will mean the total elimination of those parts of our state that we once took for granted like the right to collective bargaining, an independent judiciary and national police force, any vestige of environmental controls, an economy autonomous from foreign corporations, nationally motivated independent research, and an independent electoral body. All these will be effectively gone.

And you can take that to the Bank. (Or to the voting booth, whichever you prefer.)

6 comments:

doconnor said...

As someone who lives in a riding (Parkdale-High Park) where the Conservatives have no chance of winning I do have the luxury of thinking about such things.

For a while I've thought allowed yourself to over overboard with fear of Harper. After the last election I predicted in David Olive's long gone blog that he would use the Notwithstanding clause and keep Parliament closed for long periods of time, but I was wrong. Even if he gets another majority there will be another election in 5 years or less, the rules may be marginally more in favor of the incumbent but his party will be even more mired in scandal, maybe the court rulings will go 7-2 against him instead of 9-0 and the Northern gateway pipeline will still not be built.

It's Trump you should be afraid of.

Kirby Evans said...

Perhaps you are right doconnor. But in recent years I have feared Harper's ability to do these things by stealth and in ways that future governments will take advantage of for their own interests. In other words, you don't have to destroy the charade of voting to kill democracy. And partisanship would become the real problem because all the parties will be tempted to take advantage of those parts of the democratic destruction that Harper has already enacted.

Re. Trump, you are certainly right there.

Pamela Mac Neil said...

It is possible for Harper to get a majority and you're perfectly right about the end of our freedom if he does. The Cons are not a political party. When you watch how they operate, it has nothing to do with governing. The institutions used to govern are pretty well nullified by Harper. Harper and his thugs act more like mafia bosses, and because they are actually a criminal cabal, they will do whatever corruption it takes to hold on to power.The exclusion of 2/3rds of Canadians from Harpers governing and communications, is one of the red flags for me that he has a strategy for winning and its about taking power and not governing. We have a government that has turned on us. Harper will not go quietly and he will not go without a fight. I also have another thought on what the outcome of the election in Oct. may be and that is that the silent majority will decimate and bring Harper and his Cons to their knees, like they did with Mulroney. That's more wishful thinking then anything else though, but wouldn't that be something if that's what happened?

Glenn Asthon said...

This week, history was made in Canada when Mulcair and Trudeau, leaders of two opposition parties that together command the votes per polls of around 65% or more of Canadians, emphatically rejected, in the middle of an election, that they would under any circumstances prop up a Harper minority government, should he win one on October 19. As most polls show that he is highly unlikely to win a majority government, THIS COMMITMENT BY THE TWO LEADERS GUARANTEES A CHANGE OF GOVERNMENT AFTER THIS ELECTION. And as the polls to date do not show either the NDP or the Liberals gaining a majority of seats (170 MPs) in Parliament, we will have a new minority government, dependent on the support of another party to carry out its programs. And finally, because both the NDP and LPC have publicly committed that this is the last election on the old FPTP system of electing our MPs, our way of being governed by our MPs is going to be dramatically changed, forever. We are on the cusp of becoming a modern democracy, like so many modern states in the European Union. A new age of cooperation and civility and respect for our democracy, is about to dawn. Celebrate this momentous week, and let everyone know that they need to vote, to ensure we get the democracy we deserve!

Owen Gray said...

It is vitally important this time around that progressive votes don't cancel each other out.

Anonymous said...

@Glenn Asthon - the NDP and Liberals have made commitments regarding proportional electoral systems. However, I doubt that they will be able to move to a new system by the next election if there is no majority government. Under a minority, the next election will probably occur in-or-before 2017. Not enough time to implement the changes.

Here's what Craig Scott of the NDP posted about it recently: All that the Liberals have committed to is a House of Commons committee to study and recommend what system should replace our "first past the post" system, BUT the Liberals' own policy is another winner-take-all system called "alternative vote" which, when used on its own as the Liberal Party wants, is an even worse system than the current system for generating disproportionate outcomes in terms of seat allocations in the House of Commons. In the Liberals' electoral 'reform' proposal to replace our current system by 2019, they place proportional representation and its opposite, alternative vote, on an equal footing as a possible outcome of the committee study. So, in sum, the NDP is seeking a mandate to work with Canadians and in Parliament to bring mixed-member proportional representation to our federal elections for 2019. In contrast, the Liberals are seeking a mandate to bring in an unspecified system, where their own favoured option can produce distorted results even worse than the present system. - source: http://craigscott.ndp.ca/if-you-wish-to-see-proportional-representation-in-canada-vote-ndp