Election Watch #9: The Desire to Stay in Power

Misfiled last month

Regional strategies aside, once in a while Canadian voters actually make an intelligent choice. Years ago, when they gave Stephen Harper his first minority government, for example. He wasn’t the proper guy for the job, but the Liberals had earned the right to be chucked from the game for a while, and the NDP were not a believable alternative. Since then elections have been decided by default, in that the Liberals could not find an acceptable leader, and then Jack Layton came along and threw everything out of kilter by demonstrating what a real leader could accomplish.However, now we are back in a situation where the voter has a chance to make a reasonable choice, and it’s going to be interesting to see how it comes out.

Historical Perspective

I have been researching the French Revolution for a historical novel I am writing, and I notice an interesting development in the politics of that time. The Revolution started out with idealistic people whose only wish was to do their best for their country. It devolved into a battle between power-hungry people whose only objective was to stay in power. It started out with “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité,” and ended up with “Protect the Revolution at all costs,” which really meant, “Protect our power, no matter who gets killed.” This is a pattern followed by many dynasties in recent democratic history. The longer a group stays in power, the less they remember their original intentions, and the more their objectives are aimed towards staying in power. While I may pick holes in the American system, their two-term limit on presidents has its merits.

This change is what has happened with the Harper Conservatives over the last ten years, and since they started out with a leader whose actions showed nothing but the desire to get into power, they have gone even farther in that direction. It seems that about 65% of the Canadian public have noticed.

The Conservatives have nothing left except their scare techniques: ISIS is on the doorstep, Trudeau is just not ready yet, and the NDP Red Menace is looming over our shoulders. Is the electorate stupid enough to believe them? Well, 35% at the moment claim to be more afraid of the Liberals and the NDP.

The NDP may have really blown it in their struggle for the “soft left,” by making the jump to try for the “soft right” instead. If they refuse to spend the money we need to get out of a recession, a lot of smart voters are going to look for the party that has the best chance of taking out the Conservatives and waffle us through until better economic times. Traditionally, that’s been the Liberals. And I sincerely doubt if there are any right wingers, even uncertain ones, that believe that the NDP are ready to deal with the economy as it stands. For once, I’m agreeing with a lot of people who say that this is not a time for new experiments. The Liberals at least have a track record, and they purport to have more depth on their team, rather than depending on a single showboat high scorer like the other two parties.

Best Choice for Canada’s Future Government?

Well, I’d have to say that the Conservatives richly deserve the third party status that they’re probably not going to be relegated to. I sincerely doubt if the NDP can muster first place, but their main asset is Thomas Mulcair, who, with his shrill self-satisfied indignance, is custom-designed for Leader of the Opposition. That would leave Justin Trudeau in the driver’s seat, but since he’s an unknown quantity, perhaps a Learner’s permit would be appropriate. Whether that takes the form of a standard minority government with Mulcair in opposition or a Liberal/NDP coalition is up to the voters to decide.

(But they probably won’t, because of the regional factors mentioned at the top, making us feel that our vote doesn’t count for much. And as long as we have a “first-past-the-post” or “50% + 1” election system, that’s as close as we’re going to get to voters feeling like they have any real effect on our government. But that’s a different argument, to be saved for another day.)

And the More Things Change…

Let’s watch the last three weeks as they develop. My guess is that a lot of people are going to hold their noses and vote Liberal. Since many Liberal votes will come at the expense of the NDP, that leaves the Conservatives in Opposition. Probably with Harper still in the lead. He has never shown any inclination to give up power in the past; I imagine he’ll “stay the course,” hoping to get back in the driver’s seat in an election that will come soon because of Mulcair and Trudeau’s inability to get along.

Terrible thought: he could be right.

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