Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Guardian meets Canada's 2006 Election

A new article in the Guardian by Martin Kettle has some very interesting outsider observations about Canada's election.

Canada is not merely not a page turner but even a socially acceptable synonym for boredom among otherwise apparently open-minded people.

Synonym for boredom? Ouch. Thankfully for the British, they are quite interesting. And so are their stories:

Perhaps an anecdote is in order. There is no shortage of these about Canada: such as the one about the competition among American publishers to find the most unsaleable book title of the season, won by a volume entitled Canada: Our Friendly Neighbour to the North. Apocryphal? Maybe. But here's a story that I know to be true. Flying to Vancouver with his wife for a Commonwealth conference, the late Sir Denis Thatcher drifted down the plane to hobnob with the press. Standing in the aisle, a generous gin and tonic in hand, and looking out over the prairie below, the First Husband turned to the hacks and pronounced: "Y'know what Canada is? Canada is full of fuck all." Needless to say, no one reported a word.

(laughter). But take note of the author's analysis of the current political landscape:

This Canadian general election is interesting. We need to know about it. Not just because there is likely to be a change of government in a major country, but because the trajectory of recent Canadian politics has strong echoes for Britain.

Strong echoes eh? What kind of echoes? Let's continue to read. Now, in a nutshell, is Canada's election context in a nutshell. Nutshell, nutshell, nutshell. Nutschell:

...the meat of the January 23 contest is whether this marks the end of a 13-year period of centre-left rule by the Liberals - in some respects the equivalent of Tony Blair's Labour party. The Liberals had nine great years in government, led by the crafty Jean Chr├ętien, who won three general election majorities before he stepped down in 2002. Throughout that period Chr├ętien's presumed successor was his successful finance minister of nine years, Paul Martin. But when Martin finally took over it all began to fall apart. Seeking his own mandate, Martin could only scrape in at the head of a minority government in 2004. Now he has been forced to call a further election. The latest poll has the Liberals trailing behind the Conservatives. Back in 1993 the Conservatives were swept from power in a landslide that left them with just two seats in parliament. It was the end of the Conservatives, they said. But in January 2006 a new young leader called Stephen Harper is poised to lead the Conservatives back into power, possibly in a minority government with Quebec separatist support.

Do I make myself clear? I'd say that these are events worth a few minutes of any serious person's attention. But even if our press is not paying much heed to what's happening there this month, it's a fair bet that for our political parties Canada has for once become a page turner.

Stephen Harper gaining off Quebec separatist support? Does he mean with the BQ? Or does the writer mean with separatists who are going to vote for the Tories? Presumably the former, I reckon. For the day when separatists vote en masse for the Tories is the day Harper gets a majority government.

Overall, it is an interesting piece. One that you ought to read - even if it does take a while to get into it. Personally, I don't think the Canadian election deserves more than a footenote in the British press. I mean, why does it deserve more? However, come a Conservative government on Jan. 24, it will be big news. I mean, big news all over the world I am guessing. Bush and Blair will have found a friend - one to bring in the Anglo-conservative fold of current Conservative leaders. It may just be like the 80s all over again.


NL-ExPatriate said...

Thanks for the link I love reading what other countries think of us!

They alaways seem to make better judgement calls. I guess we are to close to the issues to be impartial.

Anonymous said...

I think the Canadian election deserves more attention than it is receiving since it seems to be a continuing trend setter. The Liberals used to run against two conservative parties and a separatist party. This would never happen here in the U.K. The Conservatives merge and the Canadian electorate now has another option. Mr. Harper could be scary.

Jonathan said...

Scary? Well, at least 40 percent of Canadians don't find him scary according to the latest Strategic Counsel poll.

Anonymous said...

Stephen Harper is a bigot. He's bigoted towards Quebecers, Atlantic Canadians immigrants and gays, to name but a few.

He has openly talked about what he perceives to be the "culture" of particular groups. For instance, Harper said a few times that Atlantic Canadians are basically lazy. Harper even likes to say that the only people who vote Liberal are immigrants or Eastern Canadian who are in his words "not integrated into Western Canadian society.". This is not made up people, it's the truth of how he feels! The Conservatives can only get elected by muzzling their radical MPs.

Harper wants to turn our government into a shell of its former self by privatizing services and cuddling up to Bush.
Since the Conservatives supported the Iraq war, I guess that people who support Harper are just little anti-gay, anti immigrant pro George W Bushes in the making.

These people want to turn Canada on its face. Conservative supporters don't know the meaning of standing up for Canada unless its sending warships up north to protect us from the Danes.

Harper promotes the values of the Calgary oil sector and conservative religious groups, thats about it.

The Conservatives will gladly join future wars and cut taxes for the rich while cutting environmental regulations and social programs.

I will be emabrassed if the Conservatives for a minority government.

To the people who think the Conservatives will be better: I have a bridge of gold to sell you.

Anonymous said...

While a Conservative minority government would be distasteful to say the least, it may be that in the long run it would serve Canada. This batch of Conservatives aren't the mainstream Tory party our parents voted for, but are (as has been mentioned) largely corporate stooges who would gladly gut the federal government to further the ends of the corporate elites. Harper is admittedly the worst of them but most of them are cut from the same cloth. However, if the Conservatives don't win this election then Harper will be gone, only to be replaced by Peter MacKay who could get elected with a majority government with the same group of backward types still running the party. Harper is, on the other hand, very personally unpopular and is much less likely to acquire a majority government now or in the next election (under the assumption that he actually gets a minority government this time). Also if he is hamstringed by a minority government he will be less able to do what he really wants to do in Ottawa, with any federal government pillaging in cahoots with the Bloc likely to restrict his tenure to a few months. Most importantly he, as sitting prime minister, would be forced to lead his party to take a bath in the next election and perhaps leave the Conservatives out of power for the next 10 years and at the same time purging the latent extremist elements of the Canadian Alliance that still control the party. Finally a Conservative minority would likely either make Paul Martin, another corporate stooge, either resign or cause intense infighting within the Liberal party. The NDP would then be faced with a further election against an unpopular Stephen Harper and (thanks to Paul Martin) a rudderless Liberal party. As such, a Conservative minority government may be, in the long run, desirable. The worry for the NDP must be that they are reduced to oblivion by tactical voters this election so that they are unable to take advantage of the next one. This all said, it's a crapshoot. However, for a country that has never elected a progressive federal government, the flux and chaos may ultimately not be a bad thing.

As for the British, the Tory party there would have been hard-pressed to run as right-wing a gong-show as Tony Blair has. What policy of Bush has there been that Blair wasn't a strong advocate of?

CuriosityKilledTheCat said...

Methinks a lot of folks are counting a lot of chickens before the hatching.....

It is only in the past few days that Harper has been forced out of his sanitized bubble so that the voters can see and think about what his fundamental policies really are.