food pyramid
wo weeks ago I reported on the upcoming June 28 Canadian election, and predicted that there would be a Liberal minority government, with the NDP holding the balance of power. Since then, groupthink has taken hold, and the anger that many Canadians feel about the incompetence of the federal Liberals to detect either wasteful spending or the ‘sponsorship’ fraud by some government workers, plus the anger of many Ontarians about the new Provincial Liberal government’s reneging on promises to avoid tax increases, has led another 8% of Canadians to vow not to re-elect them. This 8% swing has been predominantly older men in Ontario, who seem unwilling to believe that the Conservatives are as right-wing as Liberal Prime Minister Martin has portrayed them, and younger people, whose support for the Green Party has significantly increased.

The province-by-province projections now stand as follows — 155 of the 308 seats are needed for a majority:

Liberal Conservative NDP Green Bloc QuÈbecois
West – 95 seats 27 (28%) 55 (40%) 13 (22%) 0 (10%)
Ontario – 106 48 (35%) 51 (38%) 7 (21%) 0 (6%)
QuÈbec – 75 15 (30%) 0 (10%) 0 (8%) 0 (2%) 60 (50%)
Atlantic – 32 17 (36%) 11 (32%) 4 (26%) 0 (6%)
Total – 308 seats 107 (32%) 117 (33%) 24 (18%) 0 (6%) 60 (11%)

Next week we’ll hear the all-important leader debates, but they are likely to change nothing. The Conservatives are muzzling their own right-wing extremists, who are virulently anti-abortion, gay-hating, anti-gun control, anti-immigation, pro closer ties with the US, anti-Kyoto accord, and militaristic (Stephen Harper, the new Conservative leader and former head of a Western separatist party, wanted Canada in the Iraq war). The Conservative strategists are determined to portray Harper as a moderate, despite the fact that he is on record as having taken right-wing positions on many social, economic and environmental position. If this sounds a lot like Dubya, and the spin doctor white-washing of his extremism reminds you of ‘compassionate conservatism’ in 2000, it should, because the tactics are the same — say anything to get elected, and then trot out the real agenda of the people who paid for the campaign.

But it’s even more frightening than that. Small-c conservatives make up only 30% of Canadians, and the capital-c Conservatives are already above that point, with some of their voters coming from angry liberals. But if the figures above don’t change, the Conservatives will get 38% of the seats with 33% of the vote. And the Bloc QuÈbecois, the QuÈbec separatist party that runs candidates only in that province, will get 19% of the seats with only 11% of the vote. Add them together and you get a distortion almost identical to what happened in the US in 2000, where Dubya ‘won’ with only 46% of the popular vote. If the Conservatives and Bloc combine their seats in a strange-bedfellows anti-federalist coalition, they’ll have 57% of the seats with only 44% of the votes, while liberal-centrist parties will have only 43% of the seats, even though they will have received 56% of the votes. There is no other coalition that would have enough seats to form a government.

Problem is, this coalition won’t hold for more than a few months. The Bloc is a left-wing, Francophone party, liberal on all social, economic and environmental issues. The Conservatives have diametrically-opposed views on every issue but one: their dislike of federalism. The cost of Bloc support would be to grant QuÈbec limited sovereignty, kind of ‘independence light’. The very idea of this is repugnant to core Western Conservatives. And the Bloc has already said that it would not support any Conservative government that tried to recriminalize abortion, and has made it clear that it would not tolerate abandoning Canada’s support for the Kyoto Accord, or anti-gay laws, both of which are bedrock principles of the Western Conservatives. And Ontario Conservatives would quickly cross the floor to the Liberals to save their political skin if the Bush-style right-wing social agenda of the Western Conservatives was trotted out.

The role of the media in the final two weeks of the campaign will be interesting. Conservative media are likely to present Harper as the ‘heir-apparent’, the surprise winner and a fresh new face for Canada. Liberal media will be torn over whether to simply relate the campaign stories as they are spun out by the parties, or to go behind the scenes and surface what Harper has said, in writing, in past, on many issues he is now trying to paint himself as moderate on. The current Liberal campaign has attempted to do just that, but it has backfired, being portrayed as negative ‘US-style’ electioneering, sour grapes or desperation politics, so the liberal media could be subject to similar admonishments if they get proccupied with the ‘secret agenda’ of the Conservatives. But media being what they are, expect Harper, the new frontrunner, to face increasing heat over unanswered questions from his decidedly non-moderate past. Not to mention some of his decidedly wacko neophyte candidates.

So what do I think will happen? The Conservatives will win a small plurality, and have to either form a coalition with, or try to manage with the tacit support of, the Bloc QuÈbecois. Paul Martin will resign right after the election, and the Liberals will choose a new leader not tainted by the recent scandals. The Conservatives will start to self-destruct right after the election, with hard-line right-wingers expelled or resigning, and moderates crossing the floor to the Liberals, especially after it selects a new leader. The new government will last 3-6 months, accomplish nothing, and fall when the Bloc QuÈbecois withdraws its support. Then we’ll have another election, and perhaps even a third, until the 70% of Canadians with moderate-to-liberal social and political views get a government they can live with.

Ontario and QuÈbec have 60% of Canada’s population, and no party has ever successfully governed the country without healthy support from both provinces. Stephen Harper is on record as opposing bilingualism, although he is now waffling on what his precise position on this is, which makes him unelectable in QuÈbec. And his previously stated positions on many other issues will, if they become widely known, make him unelectable anywhere. It’s going to be messy, and stay that way for quite awhile. And if the Martin Liberals hadn’t been so politically stupid, it could all have been avoided.

Cartoon by Tom Cheney — buy his stuff at Cartoon Bank.

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  1. You’re forgetting the fact that the Conservatives will immediately bring in fixed-term elections, circumventing our parliamentary traditions, and thus legislating themselves into power for four years. It has a certain familiar ring to it… Good rant about that here:

  2. KevinG says:

    Boy, I hope you’re wrong – but I agree with most of what you’ve said. The rate of decay won’t be that fast though. Harper will keep the social conservative stuff off the agenda for the first 18 months (maybe even the whole term) for exactly the reasons you state. I think he’ll be able to manage the social conservative wing of his party for at least that long.He’ll have to do the same thing with Kyoto.In fact, to stay in power he may have to abandon almost all of the planks in his platform. He’ll may end up driving the Liberal machine for a while.

  3. Dave Pollard says:

    Renee: He may try, but to do that he has to get 155 MPs to vote for it, and I don’t think he will.Kevin: Heh…you mean we just might find that, at least in Canada, the cynics and young people are right and it really doesn’t matter who we vote for…

  4. No, probably not, but looking on the worst side of things finds me pleasantly surprised when they turn out slightly better. It’s also good for the blood pressure, the physical relief when dire predictions don’t come to pass. So I hear. :)

  5. KevinG says:

    Dave-In a way they are right. The difference between the Conservatives and the Liberals is like the difference between NW and NE on the compass. Maybe NNW and NNE. Without a majority government or a robust coalition they will both have to steer right down the middleThe net effect on the environment may be the same whether Harper or Martin gets the nod. Harper would (like to) abandon Kyoto but strengthen toxic pollution rules while Martin would give lip service to Kyoto and look the other way for the other important issues. Neither party, for obvious reasons, is prepared to talk about changing patterns of consumption.

  6. Darren says:

    Apologies if you’ve already referenced this, and for the following vulgarity, but I’ve recently concluded that polls aren’t worth shit.Check out It highlights the increasing unreliability of polling data, while the media continue to rely upon it as authoritative. Importantly, it indicates that refusal rates for phone polls are at 80%, suggesting that the remaining 20% aren’t really representative of Canada.Furthermore, there’s the problem of scale. This article describes the EKOS poll results: states that they contacted 2,117 Canadians across the country, and the results are accurate “within 2.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.” That’s for the whole set of results–when you evaluate a subset (as this article does), the inaccuracy increases dramatically. I’m not sure of the math on it, so I’m reticent to provide a new example, but the Tyee article provides the following:”Smaller samples mean larger margins of error and a sample of 100 carries a margin of error of plus or minus 10 percentage points, 19 times out of twenty. That means that if the “true” support for the Conservatives in B.C. is, say, 45 per cent, you can expect a well-conducted poll based on 100 interviews to give you a result for the Conservatives anywhere between 35 per cent and 55 per cent. Not quite as precise as the national results.”

  7. The #1 social policy nightmare in Canada is the American conducted War on Drugs. Help us in our social justice quest to end it!The 3rd Annual Drug War Vigil Film Festival by press release (10 Sept, 2004) This year’s event will be in a Vancouver theatreThe Drug War Vigil Memorial Group is a social justice think tank that was founded in the fall of 2000, dedicated to ending the War on Drugs.We recognize that the militarization of this medical issue and the criminalization of the chronically sick, terminally ill and chemically dependent have resulted in the needless loss of human life, and that this is the true crime.We promoted social justice journalism at the 2002 Cannabis Culture Toker’s Bowl Drug War Vigil Film Festival and again at the 2nd Annual Drug War Vigil Film Festival in May 2003, also during the Bowl. With spin-offs when 911 Media ( Washington State’s premier Media Arts Center and the BC Compassion Club Society (, a non-profit healthcare provider distributing cannabis and other holistic medicines, presented a DRUG WAR FILM FESTIVAL March 12 th in Seattle Wa. in addition to an earlier show here in East Vancouver.This Year we using a theater Venue and staging it as separate event from the Toker’s Bowl so broader spectrum of participants will be able to view.Our group is honored to be affiliated with this event and thank Marc Emery and Chris Bennett, and crew of Pot-TV for their extraordinary activism in action in sponsoring this event.Contest Details:Send us your films of 30 minutes or less on any topic related to cannabis, drugs and the drug war, and/or Harm Reduction.Only submit in plain old VHS tape or Hi-8 or digital-8.The films will be screened and judged by participants at the Drug War Vigil Film Festival Sept 24-25th as well as viewers of http://WWW.Pot-TV.NetThe film chosen for first place will receiveA Grand Prize of $2000 US.. 2nd place $1000.00 3rd place $500.00New Special 500.00Prize for best short, a short being 5 minutes or less.You must register your film for entry by to be eligible. Registration is FREE and only requires you email us at with your intention A.S.A.P. and projected length of your work.We will need to receive the finished film by September 10th 2004Watch the web page for further details relating to with confirmed dates and actually attending the event: cost, entertainment etc.It is our hope to inspire independent and amateur film makers to produce inspirational works. e-mail us at or visit our webpage at your entry in to:Drug War Vigil4301 Fleming StreetVancouver BC Canada V5N 3W4

  8. Susan says:

    Dave, I sure hope you’re right that after some messiness Canada will end up with a less right-wing government than I fear it will elect next week. These right wingers seem to be rearing up throughout the English-speaking world right now, taking advantage of circumstance to grab offices they really didn’t earn. There must be something about English cultures that leave this door open.

  9. Dave Pollard says:

    Susan the Human: I think it’s more the Canadian propensity to turf out the party in power whenever they misbehave, and elect any alternative that is bearable. It’s a consequence of our antiquated first-past-the-post electoral system. My dream is that a minority government, with less to lose, will introduce proportional representation.

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