Canada's National Shout, 2011

So, the election is over and it turned out differently than I expected. I expected area-code 905 (outer Toronto) to be the big story and it did send Conservatives to Ottawa in record numbers, but 416 (inner Toronto) went Conservative even more. I often said that Michael Ignatieff can't fulfill a reasonable "residency requirement" to qualify as a Canadian Prime Minister (if such a thing existed) before the Conservatives started hammering the point in their advertising. Not too surprisingly, the ads hurt the Liberals far more than they helped the Conservatives, at least if popular vote is anything to go by. The Conservatives essentially matched their last popular vote total but gained enough more seats to form a majority government -- good for them but I hope my fears of neo-Thatcherism are overblown. I don't think they are.

Part way into the campaign -- and I don't remember if this was before or after I heard about their popularity rising in Québec -- the thought struck me that if Québec ever stopped voting for "sovereignty" they would be the most natural, consistent NDP voters the country has ever seen. The Parti Québecois is about as socialist-leaning as any provincial branch of the New Democratic Party. I get the impression that it's part of the political culture there that the government is supposed to be there for its citizens, like the "Democratic Socialist" parties of Europe. And that's the biggest story that happened on May 2 this year.

The Bloc Québecois, the herald of separatism in Ottawa, is all but gone, at least for the moment. If the newly elected NDP MPs come to the end of their terms without self-inflicted bullet wounds to the feet, we may have seen the beginning of the end of Québec's 100-year dalliance with departure. I hope so. And the beneficiary was... not the Tories, not the still-discredited Liberals. No, it was the other natural party of Québec: the NDP. And as Chantal Hébert pointed out toward the end of election night, Stephen Harper has an almost Chrétien-style majority. 40% or so of the popular vote, domination of Ontario and significant other areas, and yet, unlike Chrétien, not benefiting much from vote-splitting to win many of his ridings.

Two leaders were knocked out of parliament -- the senior of the four, Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc, an honourable competitor to the end and Michael Ignatieff of the Liberals -- but one notable new leader joined them: the ground game in Saanich-Gulf Islands elected the first member and the leader of the Green Party. The Greens' popular vote dropped across the country -- but not as much as might have been expected -- because the now Honourable Elizabeth May made the strategic decision to focus on her own riding. So at the cost of a few percentage points -- that may not mean anything if the now unstoppable Conservatives decide to end public funding of political parties -- the Green Party of Canada now has an elected Member of Parliament.

For my part, I have been voting Green for a few election cycles, partially in protest since I have never lived outside sock-puppet-for-conservative ridings, partially in support of a wider variety of voices. But my biggest reasons are twofold.

On the one hand, the big parties don't care about the little guys, none of them. Not even the perpetual third-brother in federal politics, the NDP. In my view, government's first priority should be protecting the weak from the predations of the strong, whether strong, rich individuals, strong, violent individuals, large ethical-compunction-free corporations or even, as they've often become bands of thugs as well, trade unions (although it was a long descent from their one-time important function).

My other reason is that wise husbandry of our environment is imporant -- not in fear of some still-controversial bogey like "Global Warming" which still has deniability in many quarters -- but just because taking good care of your neighbourhood is what good neighbours do. And we're neighbours, all of us. Of each other, as Canadians, of the other nations of the world, of our floral and faunal co-inhabitants, and we owe it to our neighbours not to wreck what we share. The Conservatives are beholden to the big forces of commerce. The NDP are too cosy with big labour. The Bloc just want out of confederation. And the Liberals only had a "will to power" left before the electorate took a lot of the wind out of their sails: self-evident with the presence of two former NDP premiers in their caucus (change of heart? or opportunisim?). Only the Greens even begin to consider the larger future for its own sake and that of  its inhabitants, our grand-kids. And that's a voice I want to have at our national table, though I had no hand in sending Ms. May there.

On environmental fronts, too much effort has been put into regulatory hammers to force choices this way or that. At the end of the day, those are just new tools to impoverish people by other means. What we need is better education, broader research and more cross-border co-operation to produce the kind of world-wide energy production and distribution revolution that will make everyone, everywhere comfortable and secure in the supply of all the necessities for a livable existence for themselves and their children. I don't know if even the Greens have such a large vision but they're closer to it than anyone else on the Canadian landscape.

So... that's what happened in our National Election, from my point of view, and those are my hopes for what comes next. I'm not holding my breath, but for now, I think I'd be content if our new government went against its own grain and cut down the size of the Prime Minister's Office to pre-Trudeau levels and to re-empower the cabinet and the Commons committees to prevent their government from becoming a neo-Thatcherite nightmare. Are you listening, Mr. Moore? Mr. Harper?

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