Wednesday, 4 May 2011
Canada, meet your laid-back, easygoing, chilled out Conservative Majority
So the Conservatives did it. They watched and waited while their fearless leader got trashed and disparaged non stop on the comment boards for five weeks by a bottomless pit of detractors, then came out last night to do what victors do: celebrate, and jubilantly rub in your face just how wrong all you people who think Stephen Harper's a vindictive douchebag got it. Well, it must be conceded. 167 seats indeed constitute a parliamentary majority and Harper, with a fresh vote of confidence from his party and our electoral system, will be free to do whatever the hell he wants for the next five, six, or seven years (Do you think a country that didn't care about two prorogues will be monitoring how long he rides this out? I mean, what's to stop him from saying "The economy's too fragile" until he's 90?).
About that bottomless pit of detractors, let's make a note that it is real and it is greater in numbers than the blue faithful who emerged victorious from the woodwork to greet it. Amazingly, 60% of voters still could not muster any trust or support for the guy with his hands on the steering wheel of the economy (Yes, the economy actually has a steering wheel, to hear the Conservative propaganda in your mailbox tell it). But...this is a Westminster, first past the post parliamentary democracy, so let's accept what's done and get on with the analysis. No point in getting angry or frustrated at a fait accompli that we are all going to have to get used to whether we like it or not.
In fact, what we are about to witness is the "hidden agenda" of the Conservative party. It may be grizzly, and a lot of shit may get destroyed in the process, but who knows? Maybe the calm, serene photos (like the one at the top) and coached debate performances were just a preview of what's to come under this government. You know, just let us bankrupt the country on bullshit, make sure the oil patch and Bay Street have free reign to reap all the profits there for the taking (and access to taxpayer capital if they slip up), put people with one weed plant in jail, and make sure the entire civil service is loyal with patronage appointments. Also on deck, the full sullying of Canada's international reputation via fervent climate change denial and a middle eastern policy slightly to the right of Gaza jewish settlers.
It's not so bad, is it? At least they are going to look nice and relaxed when they are doing it instead of pissed off and frustrated.
Are changes to gay marraige laws in the works? Abortion? Capital Punishment? We shall see. That would be driving a well oiled machine off a cliff, and Harper is not the reckless type. On the other hand, they have at least four more years, and our electorate seems to be afflicted with both a short memory and a bad attention span.
Now for the autopsy of the Conservative carnage, and the truth is they are not solely to blame. For the first time since 2003, election night produced winners and losers, and there were two definite winners (Conservative & NDP) and two horrible losers (Libs and Bloc) (My thoughts about E May are outlined in a previous column, but way to go for taking down a CON minister). And Canadians rewarded the two parties who stayed true to themselves and spoke to voters about things that resonated with them, which allowed them to expand on already solid bases.
I'm not happy about a Conservative majority, but the truth is it was already 95% assembled (only 12 seats short last time). Travel around Canada outside Quebec, and the majority of rural areas, small-medium sized communities, towns, and suburbs are now Conservative. People with traditional values, overworked commuters, resource workers, and old people tend to dominate. Look at the map, and from the interior of BC to Ontario its solid blue with a couple red and orange islands in cities. From Ontario east, its a three way battle regardless of the community. But in the types of areas I've just described, still mostly conservative.
The metropolises of the country are of course, having none of it, but you don't have to wait long when leaving them to get in either a) rich areas or b) suburbs, where Conservatives are immediately competitive. Thus the key to this majority was the 905 suburban area around Toronto, where I am amazed the Liberals hung on by their fingernails as long as they did, and the Cons bulldozed through this time.
And those Liberals is whose feet the blame for this Conservative majority lies squarely at.
You can't be mad at Jack Layton. He's stuck to his guns for years, election in, election out. His party has never been taken seriously for a second by the mainstream media or corporate establishment. But he has charisma, he has integrity, and he has now given his party 3 times more seats than it has ever had, more than the "only credible alternative" liberals have earned in the last three elections, and formed the official opposition. Thanks for not being an out of touch douchebag, Jack. I wish I voted for your party
Instead, I voted for the incredibly collapsing idiot Liberals of Michael Ignatieff thinking they had the best chance of beating the Conservative candidate where I live. How did that work out for me? Instead of losing to him by 300 votes like she did last time, the liberal candidate lost by 4,000 votes. And am I ever annoyed with myself today for making this mistake, for the first time in my life, of voting Liberal. Never again. The party needs to change its name to Severely Delusional.
This election reinforced a point, which is that in significant portions of Canada, voting Liberal is a non-starter. That realization might kick in when viewing the whopping 4 out of a possible 70 something seats west of Ontario they hold. The NDP is viewed as the only credible alternative in any of those ridings.
If not, there is also Quebec, where the brand is permanently damaged thanks to the native son traitor Trudeau's brilliant idea to draft a constitution without the province's consent (which was asking for simple, symbolic things that have mostly been granted in practice since anyway) due to the rose-coloured glasses view of the Canadian federation that he alone held and was arrogant enough to think the entire country shared with him. Another 10 years of being slighted and run roughshod over by the bullying centralizing of Jean Chrétien, plus their terminally unpopular and hated provincial Liberal premier, and they have about as favourable an opinion of Liberals as you and I might of toxic waste or DDT.
But despite, despite it all, some pretty reputable people got involved with the party. Paul Martin, the last man who managed Canada's finances in a way other than constantly sinking them deep in the red, led for a time. Then a guy named Stéphane Dion came on for an election, with his central plank being that carbon emissions are destructive to the environment, and producing them should be further disincentivized with a tax.
Gee, there's a revolutionary idea. It's forward thinking, and it does something other than buy voters with their own borrowed money.
And how this was handled is about where you lose all sympathy for this party.
Dion leads them to 77 seats in 2008, Official Opposition to the last Conservative Minority. A Parliamentary Crisis ensues, and he proposes to head a coalition which Canadians were enormously favourable to. What do the Liberals do? They turf him because "that wasn't good enough" and make Michael Ignatieff the head of the party, a man who has never won an election or even the leadership of the party. The two things he is quickest to deep-six? The coalition and the carbon tax.
It seems like with the Conservatives already vociferously opposed to both, that ground was staked out, and with the "humiliating" defeat, there was nothing left to lose. But hindsight is 20-20. And the truth is, you cannot be an effective leader in a country you have not inhabited for 34 years, Not to validate all those awful attack ads, but its true. Even Wyclef wasn't allowed to run in Haiti, a country which might have its shit together just a little less than Canada. Asking for the top job after being away for that long? What about the millions of lifelong residents?
I don't have to explain anymore. Yesterday's 34 seat Liberal showing, the worst since Confederation, proved what an out of touch nimrod this guy was. The anti-coalition and anti-carbon tax people went with their real deal, the Cons, and the social program and anti-prison, anti-fighter jet, anti- corporate tax people went with their real deal, the NDP. Not only did the second last Liberal bastion of support, 905, (which managed to get behind Dion, who Iggy was so eager to stab in the back and replace) fall like dominoes to the Cons, parts of 416, including Ignatieff's own seat, did as well. Stéphane Dion still has his seat today in Saint Laurent-Cartierville.
Let that be a lesson not to place a party's fate in the hands of two of its advisors having wet dreams about some blowhard at Harvard, and to make sure the party actually stands for something. And for a party that has a couple seats in Toronto, Montreal and the Maritimes to stop pretending it is a "national" party. Ignatieff's parting shot and all those who echo it, that a Conservative majority and NDP opposition is going to send droves of teary voters back into the arms of a Liberal majority, is not only a display of his total arrogance but also an ignorance of geography and history not befitting of a professor.
Smug Harper is already smirking a lot less and smiling a lot more. It could be that he is calmed from worrying that his head was going to be on a stick, which it was, if he won a third minority. I think the vicious, bullying pitbulls we've come to detest are being replaced by indifferent shrugs, easy smiles, and laughs. Only time will tell how reprehensible the program that those gestures are providing the veneer for is.