It's a Spring (just don't tell Newfoundland) and that means it's time for an election!
The issues haven't changed much. It's being called "Historic!" because <gasp!> the government fell when the Prime Minister was found in Contempt of Parliament. But let the blood pressure drop: it was on a party line vote that wouldn't have seen the light of day under circumstances we usually call normal. Corruption there may have been, but it still doesn't come anywhere close to HRDC (look for the name "Pierre Pettigrew" in Jane Stewart's wikipedia article) or the Sponsorship Scandal.
One thing is certain: this election will not be decided in BC or Alberta, probably not even in Québec or the Maritimes. Nope, 905 will continue to dominate. We're sure to have another hung parliament with the Conservatives at the front, unless those Conservatives can capture the vote- and riding-rich outer Toronto area. I predict. I do not prefer. Here's my take on our leading politicians (in alphabetic order by surname).
Gilles Duceppe, Bloc Québecois: The senior of the current four leaders, he has run a well-informed and serious caucus. They have been notable to me in that when I have written e-mails to my MP, a cabinet minister, and the shadow ministers from the other three parties, the critics from the Bloc have sent me the most cogent, replies. My message to Québec (chanted): Nous avons besoin des vous; vous avez besoin des nous. So I oppose the ends for which the Bloc stand but with a shadow cabinet like that, I would be tempted to vote for them notwithstanding.
Stephen Harper, Conservative: After all this time, he's still a wonk. You have to admit that he has managed his minority parliaments very skillfully. But his facial expressions still look unnatural. One headline in the Vancouver Sun this week asked if he had maneuvered the opposition into calling this election for him: with popularity rising and not having to pay any price for foisting an election on people who don't want one this time, one could argue he has nothing to lose. For my part, though, he looks too much like Margaret Thatcher to suit me and I fear that Canada's enviable social safety net will only suffer more if he is granted a majority government. Campaign finances are also likely to become more American as a Conservative majority is likely to do away with proportional funding from taxes and may with the same stroke take spending limits off, too.
Michael Ignatieff, Liberal: He may have been born here but he has spent the bulk of his adult life in other countries, especially the USA. The Conservatives have driven this point home in repeated attack ads but it sticks because it's true. He has written to Americans as though he were a fellow American and then, after spending all but fragments of his childhood in Canada he returns and asks us to vote for him as our Prime Minister? If the were the US, his lack of residency would disqualify him from running for president. 'Nuff said.
Jack Layton, NDP: After all these years, he still feels like an over-achieving Toronto City Councilor. The NDP were on the ropes when he took over their leadership and he hasn't helped their fortunes much. In my view, he is too closely allied with big labour (which can be just as oppressive in its own way as big business) for me to view him as a fit guardian of my interests. Also, he hasn't a hope of gaining more then twice as many seats as he currently has -- which would still leave him in charge of a still-all-but-invisible rump.
Elizabeth May, Green: Desperately trying to get even one seat with a popular vote equivalent to the one that gives the Bloc 50 ridings in Québec, she's come out here to BC to try getting into parliament from one area the Greens might actually succeed from. I'm not in love with Green policies, either, but in my Sock-puppet-for-Conservative riding, I have voted for her party as an investment in a more diverse legislative future.
I am a disillusioned voter. I see confrontation and multiple dualisms ("my way good; their way bad") going on and all the while the legislators have forgotten that government should be there to protect the little guy from the big guy, first and foremost: from the large multinational company with enough money power to enrich or impoverish at will, without concern for the results, from the large labour union that has become more concerned with power than protecting the worker, despite their noble beginnings (if you've never belonged to a union as a Canadian worker, as I mostly have not, you owe it to yourself to visit the Crowsnest Pass area between Fernie and Lethbridge to see what it meant for the unions to look out for the workers' interests, for instance), from criminal gangs and other bullies, and even occasionally (but only occasionally) from ourselves.
But if we don't get involved, if we don't at least vote (with or without clothespin attached to our noses) we resign what little chances we have to affect our country as we might want to see. What policies would I like to vote for?
How about these for a start?
* more commitment to education
* more commitment to scientific research into a much wider array of energy alternatives (not just the current fads like wind and solar, how about a Canadian project investigating polywell fusion? or more support for Burnaby's General Fusion?)
* stronger commitment to the Canada Health Act -- and strengthening it into the future
* re-direct the Gas surtax back into Transportation infrastructure (especially mass transit) within the general area where it is collected
* stronger commitment to peacekeeping and independence from American agendas, including going back to a made-in-Canada refugee policy
* aggressive trade development with nations other than the US -- nothing against the US, but our trade surplus becomes a deficit when you remove our sales to the US and that makes us unacceptably vulnerable to every downturn they experience: This is nothing more than a sensible hedging strategy
* national security of supply -- if we are not self-sufficient on our own supplies for dailyl staple commodities, especially food, we may become vulnerable to nonlocal price shocks, and in any event, our resource-use footprint will be higher than necessary. Also, our resources should go first to supplying our own needs and foreign capital should not be permitted to have a controlling interest in any vital supply chain from our resources to our citizens: water, food, energy (all forms), telecommunications and so on
One party is beholden to big labour, others to big business and none will support this kind of hybrid platform. If they did, I could support them gladly. Until they do, I have no clear choice for any election.