The Canadian Election

It seems that the Iraq situation ended on Sunday … or so it seemed, what with the newspaper coverage in this nation.

I guess here on the 'Dope life carries on as usual. But I think we need at least one thread about the First Great Post-Chretien Election. Should be pretty interesting, this one.

I’ll provide a brief primer for those who haven’t been paying attention, and indication of my own leanings. I invite other Canadians to contribute, question, comment, berate, etc.

The players are:

  • Paul Martin, Liberal, incumbent. The party is usually considered, well, ‘liberal,’ pragmatic, and centrist. He hasn’t been elected as PM yet, he succeeded Jean Chretien who was PM for a whopping ten years (maybe more, I lost count after the second election), so he is seeking his first legitimate mandate. He was Finance Minister under Chretien for many of those years. His party has in many ways divided itself between Chretien people and Martin people.

  • Stephen Harper, Conservative. The ‘right wing’ party. The product of the merger of the former Progressive Conservative and Alliance (which was the former Reform) parties. Get it? They merged a few months ago (under a swarm of controversy, a lot of former PCs have abandoned ship).

  • Jack Layton, NDP (New Democratic Party). The ‘left wing’ party. Layton has been a popular city councillor in Toronto for many years and last year (?) made the switch to federal politics. He has been the leader of the party despite not having a seat in Parliament. For his seat in this election he’s running against a popular (if slightly unbalanced IMO) Liberal, and the leader of the Green Party (see below). My view of him is skewed because, as a lefty Torontonian, I have known (of) him for many years and I can’t really tell how he’s percieved elsewhere.

  • Jim Harris, Green. ‘Neither left nor right, but in front.’ Or so they tell us. Harris is a former business executive and current motivational speaker. The Greens’ best hope this year is from a gift from Chretien, who (before he left) changed the campaign financing rules. As of this election, every party which gets a certain percentage of popular vote (ten, I think, but I believe it keeps changing) gets $1.25 per vote, per year (until the next election). So, for the first time EVER, a vote for a losing party (perpetually the Green Party) is not a wasted vote.

  • There’s also the Parti Quebecois, leader Gilles Duceppe, but I don’t know anything at all about them, and can’t vote for them, so I’ll keep quiet on that front. Oh, and the communists, and the natural law party, and the libertarians, and so on and so on. You can do that research on your own if you’re interested.

My opinions (as if they’re not clear from the above!) :

I don’t get Paul Martin. Why won’t he sign off on ending the island airport bridge? Why is he focussing his campaign so much on how he’s NOT CHRETIEN, when the electorate doesn’t really seem to share his hatred of the man? Does he really think we’re stupid enough to believe him when he tells us he’s offering a change - he was the finance minister for a long time, does he expect us to believe that the sponsorship scandal, the decline in health care spending, etc, had nothing to do with him? Why does he think “cities” are now the same as “communities”? What gives?

Harper: I don’t know much about him. Maybe that’s one of his problems: I still see him as a regional politician, of interest to those in the West. I understand I’m probably not his target audience, but I do read the papers every day, and I haven’t found anything remarkable about him either way. Except there’s something very strange about his nose.

Layton: as I’ve said I’ve known him for a while, he’s a big lefty councillor and quite the publicity hound. I respect what he does but I don’t much like the man. I’d love for him to win his seat, partly because I think he’d be great, partly because Dennis Mills is such a fool. I’m also excited about Trinity-Spadina, where his wife Olivia Chow, also a city councillor, is running. Strangely, I was passing through that riding that morning and there were signs for her Liberal opponent, and for Jack, but none for her … I’d love to see her win, too.

Jim Harris is, unfortunately, running against Layton so I can’t really, truly root for him personally - but I think the Green party overall is fantastic, and they’re running candidates in every riding in the country. Mr Harris is most unfortunately named for Ontario. It strikes me as strange that he’s running in a race he clearly can’t win - against two very high-profile candidates. But the Greens have done this before. It seems the strategy is to distance themselves from the common perception that Green = Left, and correspondingly that the Greens and NDP will split the left vote. But I guess they’re facing this head-on and not pretending to strategize NDP-wise.

So … your thoughts?

Is the Green Party actually significant? Can they win even a single seat? As far as I can see their only possible impact would be to spoil a couple NDP victories.

I will admit to not having a clue as to how things are going to turn out this time. Heck, I haven’t decided on how I’m going to vote myself. This will not, however, stop me from opining on a few matters.

I do believe Martin didn’t have anything directly to do with the sponsorship scandal. That was Chretien’s pet scheme, and we all know how much those two liked each other. Martin probably knew something fishy was going on, but wouldn’t have been in much of a position to stop it short of going public and blowing the party into outright civil war. In any event, I haven’t managed to work up much outrage over it. I see it quite cynically as the sort of corruption you’ll inevitably get from any government.

Every seat will be important, but I think Quebec will determine most of the outcome. The New Tories will likely pick up a few more seats in Ontario than last time, but whether we end up with a Liberal majority, minority, or Conservative minority, depends mostly on how many seats the Bloc picks up in Quebec.

A Liberal minority that has to make sure every bill is agreeable to at least one other party (not necessarily the same one each time) would be a perfectly fine outcome to my way of thinking. A Conservative minority is probably doomed, since I can’t see either the Bloc or the NDP helping them out at all.

Not a chance in hell. They won’t affect a single race. I don’t even know why they made the OP’s list. A discussion of a Canadian election that includes the Green Party but excludes the BQ is like discussing who’s going to win the Stanley Cup without mentioning any of the teams in the Eastern Conference.

The BQ’s success directly impacts the chances of the Liberals winning a majority, since they and the Liberals will split every seat in Quebec.

I’ll be curious to see what kind of campaign the Conservatives run; they (e.g. Reform, or Canadian Alliance, whatever) ran one of the worst campaigns in memory in 2000, and are doing a horrible job so far.

Yeah, the Conservatives aren’t lighting the world on fire. They must have a terrible organization.

A liberal minority is the most likely, and even preferable form of government after the next election. We might even get some accountability that way.

The BQ might have an impact, but as a Maritimer I think we’ve over looked a huge area. NS and NB are almost entirely PC both federal and provincial. But that will not at all translate into Conservative seats.

I for one see the new Conservative party as the old Reform party. The PC party was very close to centre, which the East coast liked. The Reform part was waaaaay too far right, which worked for Alberta. So in merging, and moving further to the right, the Canadian Allian party will get about as many seats as the old Reform party did.

I can’t say for sure who they will vote for, but I can say with some certainty that the Conservatives will lose a significant number of their seats in the East. There was also a nasty incident a few years ago where Harper made a comment to the effect, “People in the Maritimes have a defeatest attitude…” Left some bad blood.

I don’t think people are dumb enough to vote NDP. Unfortunately they just don’t have a platform that works. It hasn’t worked provicially, it won’t work federally. I put them on par with the Green party. Do they even have official party status?

So my prediction is another Liberal majority. The sponsorship scandle won’t mean a thing, like Gorsnak said peope view that as general government corruption. The Liberals will lose some seats in Ontario and Quebec, but make up for them in the Maritimes.

They’ll lose some seats in Ontario and Quebec.

Weird, it chopped off the bottom of my post.

As I was saying, the Liberals will lose some seats in Ontario and Quebec, but will gain a bunch in the Maritimes and make up for it. Sis weeks from now the country will look pretty much like it did six weeks ago.

I have to disagree. A minority government requires forming a coalition. For it to function the Liberals would have to have a party that would work with them. Otherwise they’ll never get a bill passed (ie the budget) and end up with a vote of non-convidence. I can’t see the Alliance or the Bloc teaming up with the Liberals, and the NDP wouldn’t have enough seats.

A minority government means we go back to the polls in a few months, and I can’t take much more of this.

Uh, yes. We do. We’re also the only party that increased its numbers since the 2000 election. Between by-elections and people going members going independent, the other parties have shrunk. We’re neck-and-neck with the conservatives and rising, last time I saw a poll.

Which is only natural. The Liberals and the Conservatives are almost indistinguishable, and neither one represents the things Canadians care about. Martin announced he was going to put 9 billion back into health care? Oh, goody. Where’s the other 25 billion he cut? He warned that Canada, under the Conservatives would become more like the US? Well, one of the reasons I wouldn’t vote Liberal is because I think it’s obvious that Martin would take us down the same road.

Do I think the NDP are going to form the government? Probably not, but we have a damn good chance at opposition this time around.

I think we’ll surprise you.

When is this election?

June 28

Personnally, I think we will be the “balance of power”. If the Liberals are going to form a minority government, like every polls seems to indicate at this time, with whom will they ally ? The Conservatives ? The Bloc ? Both are unlikely candidates. There is to much bad blood between the Bloc and the Liberals. The Conservatives are too unyielding doctrinally, so the lesser evil, from the Liberals POV, is the NDP.

I’m intensely interested in this election. But I’m very uncertain as to what’s going to happen.

First analysis: I’m close to RickJay’s stand. The BQ (despite the OP’s calling it “Parti Quebecois”, the party is called “Bloc Québécois”) is very important, even though they’d been seriously lagging a few months ago. They’re an interesting mix… they grew out of a collection (a bloc, if you will) of members of the old PC and other parties at the start of the 1990s with the goal of pulling the province of Quebec out of the federation. Today, they downplay that goal, and are more of a social-democratic, defend-the-interests-of-Quebec-and-provinces-in-general party. Mainly left-wing. They run candidates in every constituency in Quebec, which makes them a very significant party, capable of pulling a lot of support away from others (esp. the Liberals)… and they even formed the Official Opposition at one point (that is, they had the second-largest number of seats in the House).

The Green Party is far less significant in Canada than in places like, say, Germany. The best polls, I think, put them at about 5% support. In a wild scenario, they might somehow manage to get a single seat somewhere, say, British Columbia. But not likely.

What’ll happen? Here’s my guesses:

The Conservatives will convince some people that Stephen Harper (former chief policy guy for the Reform Party, leader of the Alliance, and president of the right-wing National Citizens Coalition lobby group) is moderate rather than way-right-wing. But a lot of people won’t be convinced. I don’t know where they’ll pick up seats… maybe a couple in the east, maybe a few backwater places like Lanark-Carleton in Ontario, likely hold on to most of the west. Any seats in Quebec? Probably not many.

The Liberals have everything to lose, and they’ll probably lose all over the place. They may hold on enough for a majority, but at this point it looks like not. They could pick up a couple here and there, and we’ll see how they fare in Quebec against a resurging Bloc. they may pick up a lot of votes from people who used to vote PC, but aren’t comfortable with the Conservatives, due either to a perception of way-rightness, or sour grapes over the merger.

The NDP will have far more of the vote than last time, but it may not translate into a bunch more seats. A few of their way-left voters may drift to the Greens. They may pick up a fair number of voters from the Liberals, what with Martin moving more rightwards than Chretien. Their support is sorta all over the place… east, west, centre; rural, urban… who knows.

The BQ may do well, what with Quebeckers’ reaction to the sponsorship thing.

The Greens will be really lucky if they get a seat. But they’ve got a better chance than anybody not listed above. (You know, the Marxist-Leninists, and their bitter rivals the Communists. Or maybe the Marijuana Party.)

Vote-splitting on the right may be abated, but may reoccur, to some extent, in a new form: between the Conservatives and the Liberals. For some, Harper is too scary. For others, Martin is too Liberal and therefore corrupt. Vote splitting on the left may occur to some extent between the NDP and Greens. Vote splitting on the Looney Wing has ended altogether, with the deregistration of the Natural Law Party. :wink:

My take on the parties:

The Martin Liberals are pro politicians. Just look at all the money they handed out and are now promising. But like in the Chretien era, a lot of things are vague and ill-defined. “We’ll fix that. We’ll give money to this. And we’re not Chretien, and we’re not Harper.” I believe them, somewhat, when they say they’re not like the Chretien government… Martin has doen a pretty good job of filling the party up with his own supporters… in a way that calls into question his stand on ‘democratic reform’.

The Harper Conservatives… are hard to read. No official policy document yet, as far as I know. A bunch of vague “We’ll fight for this and Strengthen that” sound bites on their webpage, is all. Best we can go on is what the Alliance used to say and stand for, with maybe some lean towards the PC’s old views. Harper’s record is very socially-conservative, and right now all he’s got is attacks on the Liberals and promises of big (perhaps unreasonably big) tax cuts.

The NDP… have a skilled but maybe a bit shifty leader. But they have the benefit of spelling out in detail what they plan to do, and how much it would cost. some thigns seem a little far-fetched, but for the most part, it looks pretty good to me. I like their clarity. I like the Green Transportation Strategy, and I like some of what they have to say on health care.

The Greens… have some good things to say, but still strike me as unclear, disorganized, and a little flaky. I read through their pre-election site a couple of months ago, and iit was… a little cloud-perched.

The leaders:
Martin’s a rich busniessman. He’s a good businessman, and a skilled party-politicker. But I’m not a fan of his rightward drift, of his vague and non-committal stance on everything. And of the way he’s selecting candidates and manipulating the party. He’d probably make an okay PM, though.

Harper’s an economist. And I strongly think he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing; a right-wing, socially-conservative, put-the-economy-before-the-people guy who’s trying to look less liek that so people in the east/centre will vote for him.

Layton’s a professor, and a city councillor. Maybe a bit sly, and a bit of a walking ad for himself, but it’s serving his party well. And he strikes me as pretty genuine.

Duceppe’s got nice eyes. He’s better at his job than when he started. I dopn’t live in Quebec, though.
Uh-oh, they’re kcking me out of the computer lab. gotta go… and I’ll be away for the weekend… Will follow with intyerest, though.

Can somebody put this all perspective for Yankee Dopers? We have only a two-party system here in the U.S. You Canucks have at least five parties that stand some fair chance of winning representation of Parliament, plus several minor ones that just might get a seat or two. (This, even though Canada, like the U.S., has a single-member-district system rather than a proportional-representation system. Which says something interesting about our respective political cultures.) Also, in the U.S. we have a separation-of-powers system, but in Canuckistan you have a parliamentary system – the prime minister is elected by Parliament, not by the people directly. This means that the multiparty coalition, a political formation completely alien to U.S. history, is possible and might even be commonplace in Canada. But I really don’t know how commonplace it is.

My own politics are distinctly left-of-center – which means, like all American leftists, I feel extremely frustrated any time I think about politics. But if I were a Canadian I would have the option of voting for the Greens or the NDP and actually having my vote count. So – if I were a Canadian – what should I do? Vote for the Liberal Party, as having the best chance of winning and dominating the government (as that party has, apparently, for several generations now)? Or should I vote Green or NDP, in hopes that a large Green or NDP caucus in Parliament would have a chance of forming a “coalition government” with the Liberals and pushing the general trend of national policy in a leftward direction? And, if the latter, which would be a better choice, Green or NDP? For that matter, has the Liberal Party even needed to rely on other parties, to its left or to its right, to make up a majority coalition?

What?!? I hadn’t heard this tragic news. :frowning: First the Rhinos, and now Natural Law? So now not only can’t I vote for a party promising to increase the speed of light in order to ease congested traffic in Vancouver, I also can’t support yogic flying.

Tis a sad, sad day.

No the PM is not elected by the Parliament. The PM is the leader of the party who has the most seats in the Parliament.

It would depends on your riding, but I would say that voting NDP would probably be a better choice than Green in this election.

The last minority governments that I recall were in the 70s and yes, the Grits needed the NDP at that point in time.

What’s the difference?

I assume “Grits” means the same thing as “Liberals”? And by “minority governments,” you mean “coalition governments.”

It’s happened a few times. The most interesting in recent memory (from a policy standpoint) was Liberal Prime Minister Lester Pearson’s minority government elected in 1963, where the NDP had the balance of power. That parliament brought in universal health care, the Canada Pension Plan, and Canada Student Loans, and decriminalized homosexuality.

The flipside is that a minority government can last a matter of weeks if they don’t find a willing partner.

I’m pretty partisan, of course. That said, here’s why you would want to vote NDP. :cool:

The Liberals, first of all, are not liberal. Okay, I’d rather have them in power than Stephen Harper, but they have a recent tradition of campaigning on the left and governing on the right. Over the last ten years, they abolished the national housing program, privatized student loans, and cut $25 billion from health care transfers (which is why their campaign pledge of $9 billion for health is something of a bad joke).

As for the Greens – I feel really bad saying this, because I admire the Greens, I would be thrilled to see a Green MP in the house - but at present I don’t think they can win any seats. I really wish their leader weren’t running against Jack Layton. I believe that the NDP’s environmental platform is more than adequate to deserve the support of environmentalists.

Among the federal parties in Parliament, the NDP has not strayed from progressive values. If I was willing to run for them in Quebec in 2000, while we were still in the wilderness, you’d better believe I’m very excited at this point. Our polls have been encouraging, we have a leader the media deign to report on, we have a very tight platform, and I just spent the evening with 600 screaming Quebec New Democrats jammed into a hotel ballroom, which is not something I would have expected to see four years ago.

I won’t make any wild predictions about how well we’ll do, but I think New Democrats are in for one of the most interesting parliaments in quite some time. I think this is the best time yet for Canadian progressives to get behind the NDP.

There are only 4 parties with a fair chance of winning seats (Grits, New Tories, NDP, and the Bloc), with the Greens being the sole marginal party with a remote shot at some random seat somewhere. There are a few independents here and there who have an outside shot at being elected as well.

Coalition governments are not common. The last minority government here was that of the Progressive Conservatives under Joe Clark back in, umm…79-80? As I recall, it only lasted ~6 months before losing a confidence vote, but I was only 10 at the time, so my memory might be a smidgen off. Really, Canada has had a mostly two-party system for most of its history. For most of it, the Grits (Liberals) and Tories (Conservatives) dominated, though various minor parties occasionally made a few ripples (Social Credit, Progressives (who merged with the Conservatives to become the PC), and most prominently the CCF (later NDP), who are the only minor party to really sustain a reasonably significant presence for a long period of time. The recent proliferation of parties is due primarily to the self-destruction of the PC party under the leadership of Brian Mulroney, who managed take his party from a majority govt to just two seats (yeah, yeah, he retired before that election, but it was his doing). He managed to simultaneously piss off western conservatives, who splintered off to create the Reform Party (which has changed its name twice, to the Canadian Alliance and now the Conservative Party of Canada, both times pretending that they were merging with the old PC party), and Quebec sovereigntists, who split off to form the Bloc. This has led, in the past three elections, to regional parties in opposition who couldn’t hope to form the government, and the Liberals left as the only party who had a legitimate chance of winning seats nationwide.

So this election result is likely to be rather novel. The Reform>Alliance>Conservative party might finally win some significant number of seats east of the Great Lakes. Might. If they can hold on to some old PC seats in Atlantic Canada, and break through significantly in Ontario, they have an outside shot at forming a minority government - but they have no likely allies with any other party, and wouldn’t likely be able to hang onto power for long. However, the Liberals are in some significant trouble, and most analysts are suggesting that a Liberal minority govt is likely. Now, the Liberals do have a real shot at convincing the NDP to support them, though Layton is on the record as (IMHO foolishly) demanding proportional representation as a condition of cooperation. If Layton sticks to that demand, I would expect to see the Liberals do their best to limp along for a year or so and then go back to the polls hoping for a return to a majority. I really can’t see them accepting a move to proportional representation, since it is really against their own best interests.

Re: election of PM - the leader of a party is chosen by the party membership (not elected representatives, but all members, and anyone can become a member of any party just by signing up). The leader of the party with the most seats becomes PM. Members of Parliament have no direct input into the matter, except via their own votes at leadership conventions.

As I understand it, this system (“one member, one vote”) is only used by the NDP, and maybe by the Tories (it was used by the Alliance; I don’t know if they changed it); with the Liberals (and I assume the Bloc), the riding associations elect delegates, who in turn vote for the leader.

As I understand the CPC leadership selection method, all party members in every riding vote, and then the leader with the most ridings in his/her camp becomes leader, or some inane thing like that. I might have it wrong, because it sounds ridiculous to me, but it sounded ridiculous to me when I heard it explained on CBC during their leadership race, too.

Anyways, I didn’t think I was implying that leaders were selected by a simple party membership vote, but just that leaders were chosen by party membership via some mechanism, such as by selecting delegates riding by riding and then having delegates mud-wrestle at a leadership convention. :slight_smile: