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.