Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The 2011 Canadian Federal Election ... What the %^&$?!!!

              Today is June 1st, 2011, marking almost a full month since Canadians went to the polls. For some there was jubilation as our Conservative Party finally won that coveted majority. For some, there  was reason to celebrate a historic breakthrough for the NDP, not just in Quebec but across Canada – forming official opposition. For all of us who consider ourselves federalists, we were overjoyed with the destruction of the Bloc Quebecois, however I am sure many Conservatives and Liberals wished it had benefited their party rather then the NDP. For others, like myself, it was a blow to the stomach – knocking the wind out of us and replacing it with dread, disbelief, and devastation.
               The Canadian election of 2011 saw many firsts, one being my party of choice, the Liberal Party of Canada, being reduced to its lowest seat count, and popular vote, in its history – to a mere 34 seats, and obtaining 3rd party status. Many great people, in my personal point of view, lost their seats that night while many friends, who worked as parliamentary assistants to these MPs, lost their jobs as well. In my own riding of Peterborough, our candidate came in 3rd – the first time for the Liberal Candidate in the history of this riding. As I watched the coverage of election night and witnessed Liberal MPs who I admired fall to the ‘orange wave’ and the ‘blue iron curtain’ I felt my heart sink. Liberals such as Todd Russell, Mike Savage, Marlene Jennings, Anthony Rota, Rob Oliphant, Martha Hall-Findley, Gerrard Kennedy, Ken Dryden, Glen Pearson, Anita Neville, Ujjal Dosanjh, and Larry Bagnell lost their seats that night – MPs who worked tirelessly to protect Canadians and the unique differences we all have. I had so many thoughts going through my mind; How and why could/did this happen?  What will become of the Liberal Party of Canada, What will happen to my First Nation community, what will occur to my treaty rights, and/or will I even be allowed to still marry?

                These questions kept with me for that first week after the election – leading me to avoid discussing what occurred that May 2nd with people in my community, on my blog, Facebook, twitter, etc.  The reason I secluded myself was because I did not know what to think, nor did I have the logical answers to why it may have happened.

Why did this Happen?

                There are various answers to this question. My personal view will be based on my education in Politics which allowed for me to look further behind the scenes and notice different strategies that were oblivious to the average voter. The fact is the 2011 election results were exactly what Harper had been working towards since he emerged as the new Leader of the then Canadian Alliance. Harper knew he had to bring the C.A and PCs back together if they ever wanted a right leaning government to take control of Canada again. Once the merger happened he began to tweak the new Conservative Party of Canada to one that would bring back former PC voters while also cozying, as close as possible, to the right of centre. This was going to be done to snatch away centre and right of centre voters from the Liberals. The fact the Sponsorship Scandal occurred while he began to implement this plan helped it occur far more quickly.

                Harper also began to push the NDP to do the exact same on the left side of the Canadian political spectrum in hopes of snatching away other centre and centre-left voters from the Liberals. This in turn would suffocate the Liberal Party of Canada – a party traditionally in the centre of Canadian politics, where most voters usually stand in political systems. It was in 2011 that the NDP actually opted to try this idea and began looking for, what they termed, the ‘Layton Liberals.’ These Layton Liberals were left of centre Liberals who the NDP could sway to their side. While this was occurring the two, traditional, front runner parties continued to attack and focus their energies on one another. Both, especially the Liberals, tried to completely ignore the NDP – expressing the NDP have no chance in hell of ever forming government.

                There was problem with this logic in my personal point of view, and I expressed this to many party members and MPs – Canadians like the underdog in politics – specifically ones the other parties may bully. Layton was made to look like the geeky kid no-one would allow to play tag with during recess time. This was very apparent in the televised debates, which is when most Canadians begin to solidify their support and listen more intently to the media. While Layton went for the throats of all party leaders, Ignatieff ignored him. This was very problematic because the NDP strategy was specifically to lure away Liberal voters. No one thought it would work, but Ignatieff’s unwillingness to fight back against Layton was fatal. Instead of rebutting accusations by Layton, Iggy simply ignored him. Can we really blame him? How many of us as general Canadians who somewhat follow politics, actually ever took the NDP seriously until now?

                This new found love and choice in the NDP can mainly be attributed to the decision be Quebecers to elect ‘something new.’ Layton did very well in fighting back against Duceppe, allowing Quebecers to consider other options to that of the BQ. After the debates the NDP support in Quebec began to increase. As it increased, and began to move forward at a fast pace, Canadians across Canada began to react. The dramatic and quick surge of NDP support in Quebec allowed to a major blip in national polls. General Canadians did not realize this was being attributed specifically to the NDP’s soaring support in Quebec. Thus, many other Canadians in BC and Atlantic Canada began to sway to them as well. There was even a small up tick in the Prairies as well. However, it was not until the last week of the election that this new found love for the NDP began to impact Ontario.  Media began to discuss about the possibility of a Conservative minority with an NDP opposition … perhaps even an NDP government with the Liberals supporting them.

                These media reports were exactly what Harper was waiting for. With the Orange wave rolling across Canada, Harper began to plead with traditional Liberals to abandon their party and ‘lend their votes’ to stop ‘the socialists’ from ruining the country. Guess what? Many did just that. In the last two days of the election traditional centre and right of centre Liberals fled to the Conservatives to prevent an NDP win. This led to many traditional, and ‘stronghold,’ seats to fall to the NDP and the Conservatives. The Liberals, to put it bluntly, were squeezed by two sides while being picked clean. Thus May 2nd ushered in a Harper Majority with a Layton opposition. People were shocked by this, but if more of us paid attention, and voted, many more would realize this was all strategic and chosen as a path for us. Politics is definitely a sport and strategy game – Harper played it well.

What Does this all Mean?

                Since May 2nd many commentators and general Canadians have expressed disbelief in what happened that night. Many now wonder what will happen in Canadian politics. Will the Conservatives move more to the right? Will the NDP be able to form government next time? Will the NDP and Liberals now consider a merger? To answer all three questions I would have to say No. Harper has worked hard to move the Conservatives from completely right winged to a party that is ‘considered right of centre.’ Right now he, as a good political strategist, that if he was to usher in a more right winged party he will likely fail to win in 2015. However, I do believe Harper’s long term goal is to mold Canadians into a more right-winged political ideology – but understanding this has to be done slowly in order to prevent any surprises for Canadians. It will also be done this way to make Canadians believe that it is them who are making the decisions to change.

                As for the NDP forming the next government, I would have to say it is highly unlikely at this moment. The reason I say this comes from numerous facts. First, Canadians traditionally love their incumbents (People who are already the Prime Minister, or their Member of Parliament). Incumbency ahs a major effect on how we vote and our choice only changes if the party they represent, or their leader, becomes unbearable to the general populace, such as Mulroney, or if the party the represented did something very stupid, such as the Liberals with the Sponsorship Scandal. Thus this will benefit Harper who is consistently looked at as strong, smart, and most ‘Prime Ministerial.’ The other thing working against the NDP at this moment is that over 50% of their new MP’s were not expected to win. I would suggest that at least 25% of their new MPs were also only added to the ballots in certain ridings to be a ‘filler’ (someone who lends their name to be a Candidate in a riding that their party has very little chance of winning). This would be the case for many Quebec NDP candidates, who ended up winning their seats – including many who don’t even live in their ridings, did not campaign in their no represented boundaries, or who are still University students. Questions are arising over whether some may even share NDP values per say, with some new NDP MPs having links to Communism, and/or separatist movements in Quebec. All I can say is it will be an interesting four years in analyzing and watching how Layton handles his new found power, which he was craving even back before he became Leader of the NDP.

                As for this idea of the Liberals and the NDP merging I again will have to state a big No. Although there might be some discussion about this, there are problems that arise with it.  First of all, The Liberal Party has a similar history and formation in democratic values to that of the Conservatives. It also believes in a capitalist system, like the Conservatives with Keynesian aspects and social responsibility (which the NDP support). However, the NDP has their founding in Socialist ideals, which still survives with much of its traditional base and long-sitting MPs). This is a major division that exists with the Liberals and NDP, preventing much ability to merge. With the NDP now having more power then the Liberals, there is little chance they would give up these founding ideologies – forcing the Liberals to revoke much of what they stand for. This would be unacceptable to many in the party. Thus if it was done, most traditional Liberals – from discussions I have had with them, would switch allegiance to the Conservatives. Thus, even with a merger the likelihood that all Liberal supporters would keep their memberships to this new party and actively support it is unlikely.

               The end result would lead to many Conservative governments with a, once and a while, NDP government in between. This is quite noticeable in the U.S where Republican governments consistently outnumber their Democratic rivals. To me, this would be concerning for those of us who believe in social responsibility and progressive policies for social issues. I don’t know any Liberals who do not believe in these policies, but few are willing to support socialist tendencies.

In Conclusion:

                After a month of analyzing, following the news, and coming to terms with what happened May 2nd I finally decided to discuss it. I worry what will occur to Canada over the next four years and how it will impact me, an individual who had to grow up on the welfare system for a time, who was born into a single parent family, grew up on a reserve, is currently a student, is multi-racial, gay, and a Liberal. It took me some time to figure out what I planned to do next with my political affiliations. My decision right now is to help in the rebuilding of the Liberal Party. I plan to stay involved while we begin to reach out to Canadians, upgrade, and reformulate ourselves to the 21st century. It will be a long and grueling task but must be done. It is time to return to the grassroots of the party (all of which I will discuss in a future post). So much work needs to be done and I am willing to be there to help do it. One thing is for sure, the Liberal Party of Canada must move away from ‘band aid’ solutions, petty internal rivalries and focus on rebuilding. If we do not, we face assimilation and disappearing from Canadian politics.

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