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article imageOp-Ed: Canada elects Harper, trashes Libs and Bloc — A foreign view

By Paul Wallis     May 3, 2011 in Politics
Canada is a mystery to other countries in many ways. Having grasped the fact that Canadians don’t like being considered Americans, (after all, Americans these days are just under-achieving Canadians) they seem to be following the US down Amnesia Lane.
Harper is apparently an acquired taste among many Canadians, with some very much anti him as much as any conservative agenda. Canada is still relatively very clean, not a garbage dump of tired old clichés from the hack machine in Washington dedicated to maintaining high levels of political illiteracy in public.
And yet-
Jack Layton  leader of Canada s New Democrats.
Jack Layton, leader of Canada's New Democrats.
The Liberals were demolished in an unprecedented rout. This is a large brick through the window of the left/middle, anyway you look at it. There’s no Canadian Tea Party or similar organism, either. This came from solid middle class Canada, not famous for throwing bricks at anyone. The NDP picked up a lot of these seats, perhaps a shift to a clearer dichotomy in Canadian politics. Prior to the election Canada, as Australia before it, was talking about Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and apparently also as in Australia, that’s not the preferred option.
Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe
Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe
Courtesy Bloc Québécois
The Bloc Quebecois was worse hit. Although some have labeled the Bloc as obstructionist and negative, that could be an evolutionary shift away from the Bloc’s core positions, created by a new generation. One-issue parties don’t do too well over time, as a rule. Cynicism may or may not be a problem, but relevance usually is.
The NDP picked up the biggest vote in its history. That is significant, and it means a future which was looking both tedious and tenuous is now a lot more credible. From third party to a decisive second is an obvious ground shift. Third party moves are historically a choice between up or out, and the NDP seems to have consolidated its role as a legitimate alternative government.
So where does Canada go from here? Harper’s government has been following a predictable neo con Thatcherite privatization and cutbacks route, guaranteed to get on the nerves of anyone not sold on those values. Many Canadians have been expressing concerns about the Rogers takeover of media and community service cutbacks, the standard fodder of Thatcherism which made the UK the only other cripple apart from the US among English speaking nations during the Great Recession.
(Ironically, in Australia, we’re seeing an opposite situation in New South Wales where a conservative government, elected by a true massacre of an unforgivably inept state government, is investigating the privatization of power utilities by a Labor government which has had consumers screaming blue murder)
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaking at event in the Greater Toronto Area.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaking at event in the Greater Toronto Area.
Politics is a highly reactive business. You’re either in or out, and partisan politics, as practiced by the US Congress, has shown a tendency to go nowhere for decades, in or out. Harper appears to have created a dichotomy and if not polarized the country, polarized the political process.
Many people see polarization as a primitive, infantile form of politics. We Aussies are now enjoying the spectacle of a minority government and opposition on their best behavior, trying to convince us, spectacularly unsuccessfully, that their spots have changed. They can be as polarized as they like, and it makes no difference. Seems if you make them work, you eventually make them think.
Some thinking will need to be done, sooner or later, in Canada’s case. Harper’s also won a deficit and a raft of budget issues. If he follows the cuts pattern, the result will be a progressively disaffected electorate. Economic stimulus is the more likely soft option, but it’s also the more expensive approach, and with a sick and queasy giant south of the border putting the dampers on trade, it’s no guarantee of success, either.
It’s likely to be a tricky bit of skateboarding. Let’s just hope that all this “zeal” doesn’t exclude the right moves for Canada.
Ottawa: Parliament Hill.
Ottawa: Parliament Hill.
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This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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