Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Voice from the Wilderness

I have an admission to make: in 2006, I voted for the Conservatives. At the time I was tired of thirteen years of Liberal control of the government and thought that some time in the wilderness would do them good - but more importantly, at the time I did not know Stephen Harper. Given the way the last five years have unfolded, I find the prospect of my ever voting for them again to be unlikely.

While Canadians don't have the knee-jerk terror that was well exhibited in the British media leading up to the election of its Conservative-Liberal Democrat minority government - or, as the papers constantly put it, "hung parliament," since obviously the only way for a parliamentary government to do anything is for the majority to have near-dictatorial control of the procedure - it may be that after nearly seven years, some people are becoming disenchanted at the prospect of an eternal minority government. Personally, I like it. It's a necessary buffer in a system that gives far too much power to Prime Ministers with parliamentary majorities: since, thanks to the antediluvian and anti-democratic practices of party loyalty and party discipline, Canadian MPPs are essentially robots who must vote the way their party leaders instruct unless specifically told otherwise. Remember John Nunziata? I do.

Still, even though my views on this aren't shared by everyone, the Conservatives at least aren't taking the country by storm either; while Harper's big blue machine has recently pulled thirteen points ahead of the Liberals in the polls, they command only a plurality of public support... but in a country divided between five political parties, three of which battle for support in the liberal half of the population, a plurality is often enough.

I just have difficulty understanding it. I can only rationalize it in terms of people forgetting... because, to be fair, it has only been a year since the Prime Minister closed Parliament. For the second time.

Part of the crowd in Toronto's Dundas Square, demonstrating against Harper's second prorogation of Parliament on January 23, 2010.

I've been thinking about Harper's parliamentary shutdown again in light of recent events, specifically the flight of the Wisconsin 14 - the fourteen Democratic state senators who fled the state to stall Governor Scott Walker's antediluvian union-busting legislation. Specifically, I had to wrestle with the question of whether the two events were two sides of the same coin: was Stephen Harper just using the last tactic in his arsenal to forestall what he didn't want - that is, the formation of a Liberal-New Democratic coalition government? If that's the case, wouldn't it be hypocritical for me to support the Wisconsin 14 and go to the streets against Harper?

I thought about it for a while... and I have to conclude that these events, while outwardly similar, are not two sides of the same coin - they're more like a Canadian loonie and an American dollar coin. Wisconsin's Democratic senators decamped for Illinois because their only other option was to stand and be defeated despite a continuous outpouring of public opposition against Governor Walker's measure. By stalling the bill through use of parliamentary tactics, they're doing what they can to keep their constituents from having no voice in this struggle.

Harper, on the other hand - Harper represented only a plurality acting against another plurality - in 2008, the Liberals and NDP together captured 44.44% of the vote, and the involvement of the Bloc Quebecois or the Greens in any coalition would be enough to make it reflect the votes of a majority of the population... because, really, how many people are out there every election, casting their votes for parties that they do not want to win? Harper's case is of the government freezing out its opponents; in Wisconsin, we have the opponents freezing out the government.

It's something we should keep in mind, looking ahead. I can feel the electoral winds start to blow again.

1 comment:

  1. stall Governor Scott Walker's antediluvian union-busting legislation

    Read the legislation over. It also contains provisions that allow the governor to sell public infrastructure (like, say, water works) to private interests without bidding or further legislative oversight, and a clause that by definition such a sale would be considered in the public interest.

    It's not just unions he's going after (although that is getting all the press, and I cynically wonder why that is).