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Canadian Election Results

by DeAnander Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 10:45:11 AM EST

Well if no one else is going to, I will venture a semi-informed comment on the recent unpleasantness North of the border, mostly by forwarding the analysis of a friend in Ontario.

Harper and the Conservatives, you will recall (if you were following the story) capitalised astutely on a recent series of scandals in the Chrétien adminstration (Liberal party) and upset the Liberal majority that had prevailed for a couple of decades. Harper "won" the election, with a somewhat shaky minority government. The question is:  is this the "Gingrich Revolution" for Canada, the opening salvo of a rightwing corporatist rollback such as the US has experienced to its cost over the last 20 years?  Or is it merely the voters delivering a slap in the face with a wet fish to Martin and the Liberals, and the opening of a political free-for-all?

Since I hope to become a Canadian at some point in the next year or so, Harper's election worries me mightily.   He is a good buddy of Dubya's and connected with radical Christian rightists.  I asked Canadian friends whether I was fleeing the frying pan only to land in the wood stove.  Here's one answer.

From the diaries - whataboutbob

I don't know how (if) last night's election has been covered in the US, but I think that this was the very best outcome possible.

I have been very depressed about the possibility of Stephen Harper and his Conservatives getting a working majority.  I believe that Harper is a mini-Bush  ('Harpo, you're doing a heck of a job' - local joke done in Bush voice).  He ends every speech with 'God bless Canada' which is a very bizarre expression here as we never use the phrase and are basically a godless country.  He is certainly an evangelical and has a long record of making speeches that are socially conservative, pro-US and that bash the poor and disadvantaged.

The Conservatives have a very thin advantage over the Liberals in the house, but the NDP, the Bloc and most of the Liberals are socially progressive so the Conservatives will not be able to advance their social conservative agenda one whit.  We will not be sending troops to Iraq, nor will we be joining Missile Defense.  However, we will probably be a lot more polite to Bush et al.  The NDP holds the balance of power and could threaten to ally with a new Liberal leadership to throw out the Conservatives at any time.  If this happened then it would not even be constitutionally required to call another election.  The Governor-General could ask a Liberal-NDP coalition to try to demonstrate that it could command the confidence of the house of Commons.

The current Liberal government needed to go, Paul Martin is a corporatist and while he was respected for being a good Finance Minister he was reviled for being a pathetic Prime Minister who was so desperate for the job that he would give in to any special interest group that might help keep him in power.

So the electorate was faced with the choice between 'fear' and 'loathing'.  Somehow we managed to choose neither.  Or more properly, we chose 'fear' but shackled the beast so severely that the only thing it can do is pull the cart rather than eat the passengers. The first time it growls at the children it will get put down.  Sweet.  In the meantime, the Liberals will get new leadership and I doubt that it will look much like the old one.  The NDP are resurging and the Bloc has lost ground.

Phew!  I am amazed.  It almost makes me believe in the intelligence of crowds theory - except for the last US election...

This  is a pretty good analysis I think

I wrote back with some questions...

what's his [Harper's] constituency, do you understand where his base is?

Very much a southern Alberta base - oil and ranchers.  Sound familiar? He was a university (market-)economist and a member of the so-called 'Calgary School' which was/is strongly influenced by Leo Straus.

For more background that will scare you see:

Harper and Bush

Here is a speech by Harper that will also disturb you:

Stephen Harper Speech

But, remember he did not get anywhere near a majority and can be thrown out at any time.

is he being supported by US rightwing money?  

  • I don't know but I doubt it.  There is plenty of right-wing money in Canada and it would be very risky for Harper to accept any form of direct help from US interests.  He is certainly getting moral support.
  • and what's with the RCMP and that rather neatly timed announcement of the investigation into the Liberals and someleak, etc?

  • Good question.  However, The Liberals made a strategic error because according to parliamentary tradition the Finance Minister should have resigned pending the results of the investigation.  Because he did not do so the issue suddenly had legs.   Well, he is gone now.
  • here in the US people laughed over the Martin govt bribery scandal because the amount of money involved was so tiny by Abramoff or Halliburton standards...

  • It wasn't even the Martin gov't.  The Royal Commission inquiry (roughly equivalent to a Grand Jury) exonerated Martin. It was Chrétien.  The irony is that if Chrétien were still in power he would have trounced Harper with one hand tied behind his back - even with all of the scandals.  I did not like Chrétien much, but he was one tough bastard.
  • Think there is any chance for a rousing Social Democrat or populist to appear on the electoral stage?  OK maybe someone a bit less flamboyant than a Lula or a Chavez and more, well, Canadian...

  • Jack Layton is no populist, he has a Ph. D. in political science, taught at Ryerson and was deputy mayor of Toronto.  He is not a Lula or a Chavez.  However, there is a touch of the street-fighter in him.  My own choice for the next Prime Minister would be Stephen Lewis, but he has decided that his mission in life is to lead the world in resolving the aids crisis in Africa and, frankly, that is more important in the grand scheme of things. Read this book if you can find it.
  • I mean, anyone with a bit more spine than Martin ever had.  

  • The key issue coming up is who will replace Martin.  There are no obvious candidates right now, but they had better get moving because Harper can legally call another election any time that he feels that it would be to his advantage.   The next govt will be more Harper or, more likely, a Liberal govt under a new leader.  We need proportional representation to get out of this rat trap.
  • Poll
    Do you think the US meddled in the Canadian election?
    . How could they? The Canadians sensibly use paper and pencil and hand counts. 36%
    . Of course they did, probably with Guckert/Gannon as the bagman. 0%
    . Why bother? Dick's planning an invasion for 2010 anyway. 36%
    . Oh, take off that tin foil hat already. 27%

    Votes: 11
    Results | Other Polls
    Generally, this is good analysis, but I think he has hyped up just how right wing Harper is. I think if he had his druthers, he'd govern further to the right than he would be able to. But it also should be made clear that he is not Bush, either by disposition or ideology. And, perhaps more to the point, his party isn't, although clearly elements within it are GOP style rightwingers. However, they are still mostly regionally confined to rural BC and Alberta. Most of the Maritime Tories, the Quebec Tories, and many of the Ontario Tories are considerably more "liberal."

    The nature of Parliament right now pretty much dictates not much will change in Canadian politics, although Harper will present a diplomatically more friendly face to the US. However, it is also likely on issues like Canada's "arctic sovreignty" and the dispute over softwood lumber exports, Harper won't really be any different than Martin.

    But more basically, polling on basic ideological self-identification as well as on questions of morality and religiousity show that Canada just is not the kind of fertile ground for Bushism. The reason Bush is able to do what he does even with the barest of margins is that he is working with a much larger ideological base, so even when he alienates 50 to 60% of the country, he can still rely on the undying loyalty of about 30 to 40% of the voters. Harper could probably count on about 15 to 20%.

    Harper has a decision: basically govern like an old Progressive Conservative and stay in power, or govern like a wingnut and last less than two years, potentially putting the Liberals back in power with a majority.

    BTW, Harper isn't an evangelical. He's right wing, certainly economically, but he's not particularly committed to social conservatism. All the social conservative stuff is going nowhere. Indeed, Harper'd probably wish it would all go away. But he's made promises to certain voters and MPs to keep shut during the campaign in return for a "free vote" on gay marriage - which will lose.

    by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Wed Jan 25th, 2006 at 10:24:42 PM EST
    You ask how this has been reported in the U.S.? That's easy: It's been ignored. There has been just a bit of discussion, but frankly, most people in the U.S. sincerely couldn't care less about Canada.

    Canada is a gigantic, cold, empty forest up north of Duluth. 90% of the Canadian population lives within 100 miles of the U.S. anyway--they're practically "Americans!"

    by asdf on Wed Jan 25th, 2006 at 11:19:35 PM EST
    Once upon a time I was standing in line at the DMV in California.  Ahead of me was a Canadian sorting out some detail of car registration or licensing.

    The girl behind the counter examined his driver's license and scratched her head.  "Canadian driver's license," she said thoughtfully, "I'm pretty sure you can use that in California.  I mean, Canada is part of the United States, right?"

    The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

    by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 01:53:47 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    <heh> That is funny! (But also sad...typical...)

    "Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
    by whataboutbob on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 03:52:46 AM EST
    [ Parent ]
    For those with the statistical syndrome (like me), the near-final results to chew on and compared to the 2004 elections (ordered according to popular vote rather than seats):

    * Turnout: 64.9% (up 4.0 percentage points [pp] from 2004 record low)

    1. Conservatives: 36.3% (+6.7pp), 124 seats (+25)
    2. Liberals: 30.2% (-6.5pp), 103 seats (-32)
    3. New Democrats (progressive left): 17.5% (+1.8pp), 29 seats (+10)
    4. Bloc Québécois (leftist French-Canadian nationalist): 10.5% (-1.9pp), 51 seats (-3)
    5. Green Party: 4.5% (+0.2pp), no seats
    6. Independent: 0.5% (+0.2pp), 1 seat (+/-0)
    7. Christian Heritage Party (fundies): 0.2% (-0.1pp), no seats

    Ah, shuks, but more than 60% still vote left. (I note the funny thing about the 2004 elections was that while the popular vote for leftist parties increased, due to the union of the two main conservative parties and thus single candidates, the Left lost seat-wise.)

    I was curious about the loss of the Bloc - checking provincial results, I find that that province was decisive. Major swings both from the Bloc and the Liberals to the cons (but also to the harder leftist parties):

    * turnout: 63.3% (+2.8pp)

    1. Bloc Québécois: 42.1% (-6.8pp)
    2. Conservative: 24.6% (+15.8pp)
    3. Liberals: 20.7% (-13.2pp)
    4. NDP: 7.5% (+2.9pp)
    5. Green Party: 4.0% (+0.8pp)
    6. Independent: 0.9% (+0.8pp)

    *Lunatic*, n.
    One whose delusions are out of fashion.
    by DoDo on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 05:22:35 AM EST
    Thanks very much for this. I've long been interested in Canadian politics, but don't always have time to keep up with it as I should. The CBC site is also excellent. On the interactive section you can run your mouse over the seats in each province and get the results.

    The one thing (just about the only thing) that I love about first-past-the-post systems is that you get all of those really cool names for the ridings/constituencies/districts. Look at some of the names: Western Artic, Bonavista-Gander-Grand Falls-Windsor, Thunder Bay-Superior North, Cypress Hills-Grasslands. Great local names that convey a real sense of communities coming together.

    by gradinski chai on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 06:21:14 AM EST
    Did Ignatieff win a seat, and if so does he look to become a more influential figure within the Liberal Party>

    A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
    by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 06:25:15 AM EST
    Yes, Ignatieff won. Check here:


    Party    Candidate    Votes    % Votes     
    Communist    Cathy Holliday    186    0.3    0.3%
    Conservative    John Capobianco    19,613    35.2    35.2%
    Green Party    Philip Ridge    2,853    5.1    5.1%
    Liberal    Michael Ignatieff    24,337    43.6    43.6%
    Marxist-Leninist    Janice Murray    104    0.2    0.2%
    N.D.P.    Liam McHugh-Russell    8,685    15.6    15.6%
    Total number of valid votes:         55,778
    Rejected ballots:         248          
    Total number of votes:         56,026

    What do you know about Ignatieff?

    *Lunatic*, n.
    One whose delusions are out of fashion.

    by DoDo on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 03:54:53 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Bloviation is the word that springs to my mind about Ignatieff
    by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 04:02:09 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Not much apart from his Wikipedia entry. I liked his 1994 book Blood and Belonging: Journeys Into the New Nationalism and then sort of lost track of him until he came to prominence as a liberal hawk on the Iraq war. I only recently became aware of his move into politics.

    A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
    by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 04:23:32 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Ah, that Ignatieff! Didn't knew that a$$hole is Canadian...

    *Lunatic*, n.
    One whose delusions are out of fashion.
    by DoDo on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 04:38:00 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Ok, so what do you know about Ignatieff?

    A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
    by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 04:44:22 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    His support for the Iraq war. I put him alongside liberal apologists like the NYT's Tom Friedman or The Observer's David Aaronovich.

    *Lunatic*, n.
    One whose delusions are out of fashion.
    by DoDo on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 04:58:49 PM EST
    [ Parent ]
    Another good site for info is


    Pogo: We have met the enemy, and he is us.

    by d52boy on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 11:59:54 AM EST
    It appears Harper is sensitive to accusations of being a Bush puppet and has started his career as PM with a cute little nationalist nose-thumbing gesture.

    Nichols writes Don't Cry for Canada, in refutation of rightwingnut crowing and posturing in the US ("Canada has seen the light and turned right" etc).

    Jury still out...

    The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

    by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Jan 26th, 2006 at 09:20:18 PM EST
    And here is a more alarmist view
    At a conference staged in Vancouver, November 11-12, 2005, the major opponents of Medicare, including the Fraser Institute and American and European insurance companies, openly discussed strategies on how to destroy the Canadian health care system. As a high level participant, Preston Manning, the Reform party's founder, presented a "substantive prescription" that could be summed up as: "Completely dismantle national medicare, have the federal government hand over more taxing power to the provinces and let them handle health as they please" (Toronto Star, November 26, 2005). In essence what they recommended was American style health care delivered by American multinational corporations in partnership with insurance companies.
    n the previous Parliament about half of Harper's members were "religious social conservatives," and perhaps an equal number or more were elected this time. Many of them, including Harper and the upper echelon of his party, have strong connections to the American Council for National Policy, an extreme right-wing Christian fundamentalist body that's been reputed to have poured in billions of dollars to right-wing Christian activists (Robert Dreyfuss in Rolling Stone, January 28, 2004). One of their objectives is to train a new generation of Canadian conservatives on how to bring religion into politics. It's to this organization that Stephen Harper said as a guest speaker in 1997 that "your conservative movement . . . is a light and an inspiration to people in [Canada] and across the world."

    I fear for my prospective country.

    The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

    by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Tue Jan 31st, 2006 at 05:02:02 PM EST

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