Canadian election today
Today, when most of you get to work, the Canadian polls will open. Aux urnes! as they say in French. So, I've been in Canada for the past week or so, and I had grand plans of not only finishing off some posts which I owe some people, but writing a sort of last-days political travelogue of the Canadian election, as I've been wandering around southern and eastern Ontario. But not least due to the surprising spottiness of Internet access, I have failed. *hangs head*
So, some things are different from the last time I wrote. The last time, I thought that a Tory majority government was pretty much on track. Well. It turns out that a week or two really is an eternity in politics. What seems to be the expected outcome now is that we will likely have nearly the same Parliament we started with (Tory minority), and that this election would have been a pointless exercise.
What happened? Stephen Harper and his party made two political blunders:
- Alienating mainstream Québec: Stephen Harper had effectively managed to reassemble the old Social Credit coalition of the Western and Québec right-wing, which finds common ground in things like taxes and immigrants and the like. This is especially possible now that sovereignty is on at least a temporary back-burner. But the Tories' main base is the Reform incarnation of the Socred phenomenon in the West.
They decided to play to their base. First they boasted of their plan to tighten punishments of youth criminals. This does not play in Québec, where a punitive take on crime is just not the norm.
But worse, they defended their cuts to cultural funding (warning: Canadian media wingnut link) by mocking state-funded culture, which is resented particularly by the social-conservative Western base. In Québec, attacking public culture as such is anathema, especially to a cultural minority that specifically uses government to defend itself, and successfully so.
Both these things will remind even right-wing voters in Québec of the anglo-Protestant punitive austerity that is very alien to a very-lapsed-Catholic culture like Québec. So seats they needed for a majority that were in Québec seem to be evaporating. (And yes, there are parts of English-speaking Canada where cultural industries are important, and where we don't view artists as people who go to $200-a-plate gala dinners.)
- The global meltdown: It appears that Canada has not been as catastrophically affected by the financial crisis as the US and other countries have been. For some reason, Canadian banks are highly conservative in the dictionary sense: they didn't expose themselves as crazily to weird and risky derivatives (halfway down).
But that doesn't mean that Canadians are unaffected or unconcerned.
However, Harper appeared tone-deaf on these issues, with "let them eat cake" kind of answers. That left him open to attacks from the opposition leaders on his Bushianism, in a manner that actually seemed to resonate.
Now what will actually happen at the polls is anyone's guess. (We will all be marking paper ballots with an X, no crazy "hang the chad on the lever in the oval in the optical ballot" games for us!) The count should be done tomorrow night, and we'll know how many seats in Parliament each party will have. Chances are, roughly the same---with perhaps improvements by the NDP. But, like I said, who knows? This campaign has been a crazy roller-coaster ride, and it has been very volatile until the end, and I certainly expect the polls not to hold exactly true. Canada may not have dodged the neocon bullet, and a Harper majority is still possible, and a Liberal Party internet putsch (yet another) is also still possible.
For the record, I prefer the NDP to win as many seats as possible. Let's just put it at that.