election map
On June 28, just a month from now, Canada goes to the polls to elect a new government. The situation is very volatile, with the ‘sponsorship scandal’ — a scam uncovered by the Auditor General that allowed a group of civil servants to defraud the government of millions of dollars, that has been going on for years under the noses of the asleep-at-the-wheel Liberals in power, is being exploited by the opposition parties, who of course are implying there was knowledge and complicity at the highest levels of Cabinet. The impact has been greatest in QuÈbec, where voters really only have two choices, the Liberals or the separatist Bloc QuÈbecois, and recent polls suggest the fickle voters there could deliver 80% of Canada’s second most populous province’s 75 seats to the separatists.

Current standings (see map above) are: Liberals 168 (of which 95 are from Ontario and 37 from QuÈbec), Conservative/Reform 73 (almost all from Canada’s four Western provinces), Bloc QuÈbecois 33 (all from QuÈbec), New Democratic Party 14, Independent or Vacant 13.

Based on the latest opinion polls, projected standings would be: Liberals 143, Conservative/Reform 85, Bloc QuÈbecois 60, NDP 20. A majority government will require 155 seats. Minority governments have been, in my opinion, the best governments in Canada’s history, since they have required the support of the left-wing NDP, which has used its leverage to force introduction of much of Canada’s socially progressive legislation. So ironically, the scandal, by weakening the Liberals, could actually produce a more liberal, progressive government.

The Conservative/Reform party, which recently merged two right-wing parties, is under the leadership of Stephen Harper, a (in my opinion) dangerous arch-right-wing ideologue who once advocated Western separatism, wants to dismantle much of the federal government and shift power to the provinces, and likes US-style privatization, two-tier social services and tax cuts for the rich. Like the previous Mulroney Conservatives, this bunch of nutcakes is ready to strike a devil’s bargain with the lefty QuÈbec separatists, who they loathe, but who share their desire to devolve power to the provinces. It is frightening to think that these two anti-federalist regional parties (the Conservative/Reform in Western Canada and the Bloc in QuÈbec) could get within striking distance of electoral power in a month, even though they would, combined, have less than 40% of the votes.

Because Canada, like the US, has the antiquated and unfair “first past the post” electoral system (rather than proportional representation like much of Europe), this could lead to a great deal of “strategic voting” in this election. A hugely unpopular, right-wing, misnamed “Liberal” government in British Columbia, which has 34 seats up for grabs, has galvanized angry opposition in that province around the NDP, which could see its 2 seats in that province jump to 20 or more, with a mere 10% shift in popular vote — showing the absurdity of this system. If Ontario, which has only 4 Conservative MPs now, is sufficiently appalled by the parochialism and extreme right-wing views of the new Reform-dominated Conservatives (and the horrible memories of Mulroney, who is actively campaigning for Harper) to hold their noses and re-elect almost entirely Liberals, we could end up with a totally fractured vote: Almost all Liberals in Ontario, almost all Bloc in QuÈbec, almost all NDP in BC and Manitoba, and almost all Conservatives in Alberta and Saskatchewan. The net result would still be a Liberal-NDP coalition government, but would leave much of the country virtually unrepresented in the Cabinet.

Because the Canadian television networks have again conspired (outrageously) to exclude the Green Party from the Leadership Debates, even though the Greens have about 5% of the popular vote and (unlike the Bloc) run candidates in every riding, the Greens will again be unable to get enough media attention (and hence public credibility) to elect a single MP. By contrast, if we had proportional representation in Canada, based on the latest opinion polls, the Greens would get 15 seats, the NDP would get 48, and the Liberals would get only 108 (the Conservative/Reform Party would get 78 and the Bloc only 45; other small parties would get the remaining 14 seats). This would give the Liberals and NDP combined only a one-seat majority, and they would probably need to include the Green Party in the coalition to provide some room for error. I would be so proud to live in a country with a Green Party Minister of the Environment!

Alas, this is not to be. Instead, we’ll be forced to vote strategically for the less offensive candidate (i.e. one of two in most ridings) who has a chance to be elected. In my exurban Ontario riding, those candidates are two right-wing small-town conservatives (the not-really Liberal has distributed anti-gay campaign literature, and the Conservative is a hard-core ‘family values’ nut). Tweedledum and Tweedledee. The Green Party candidate, Ted Alexander, is a great guy, with more smarts, ideas and business acumen than the two big-party peanut-brains combined, but he doesn’t have a prayer of winning. Hobson’s Choice again. *Sigh*.

Great Canadian Political/Election Links:

.PlanetVote Canada — complete election portal with a progressive slant
.UBC Political Library — detailed political profiles, links, histories, coverage of alternative voting systems
.Globe Election Poll — scrolling graphic trendline of weekly polls with commentary
.BlogsCanada Political Site — Jim Elve’s list of Canadian political blogs (I’m there!) and other useful sites
.Fair Vote Canada — Proportional representation advocacy site
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  1. Doug Alder says:

    I have been debating with myself whether to voter for the NDP or the Greens. Living in rural BC riding I can say for certain that there is absolutely no chance for anyone other than the Reform, er Alliance – damn – Conservative Party candidate to win in this riding (that would be similar to a congressional district for American readers). So my vote will do the most good going to the Greens. If the Greens get more than 3% of the total vote they will qualify for matching federal funding in the next election which will then give them a good shot at electing someone.

  2. Vancouver Island is misrepresented on your map: they voted in a Liberal MP, David Anderson.

  3. dustin says:

    There’s a new party on the scene as well: BLOC QUÉBÉCOIS DE L’ONTARIO

  4. Although I would not consider myself ‘left wing’ I would like to see the NDP do well in this election. Typically I have voted Progressive Conservative but Stephen Harper scares me particularly with the Canadian Alliance pro-American view of things. With George Bush recklessly causing problems all over the globe I feel we need someone willing to distance themselves from Bush’s global policy (we still need to work closely with them for North American regional issues though). I was leaning towards voting Liberal but honestly, I can’t trust them. I never liked Chretien and never believed a word that ever came out of his mouth. Martin is a little better that way but still, I don’t know whether to trust him. He is making all kinds of promises about health care spending and what not but it was only a few months ago he presented a federal budget that didn’t really indicate any of those major new spending programs would occur. Nothing really has changed in the past few months other than an election which mean a new opportunity to make hollow promises. On top of that I live in the riding with David McGuinty as a candidate. After his brother Dalton broke pretty much every promise he made during his election campaign I have to wonder if I can really trust him. The liberals in my mind are truly living up to the name fiberals. That leaves the NDP. I never liked Alexa McDonough. She always seemed to be so negative and extremely political when she spoke. I do like Jack Layton much better and I get the feeling he might actually believe what he says and be comitted to following through on his promises. That said, I have concerns as to the effect an NDP government might have on the country. Bob Rae’s huge deficits were devastating in Ontario. But I would like to see the NDP do well and hopefully bring the Liberals and espectially the Conservatives back to the center a little. All that said, I am still undecided who I will vote for. Whatever happens I am hoping for a minority government.BTW, I am not convinced proportional representation is the best solution to the problems. Personally, I’d like to see more power given to the individual MPs. The party leader should not be able to dictate how individual MPs should vote. The individual MPs represent the citizens living in their riding, not the party leader. Proportional representation would not necessarily solve that, although it would force more cooperation between parties.

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