Election Night Blues

Well, and so the Liberals finally have both their own Robert Stanfield and their own Kim Campbell in one person…but none of the people who voted for either of them, voted for him, and the result has Canada doing pretty poorly, after all the fuss dies down. As I write this it is just barely possible that Stephen Harper will not be able to quite gain his projected majority…but there’s no betting on that. Even I wouldn’t bet on that.

[EDIT: I woulda lost my shirt.]

I would certainly have bet on Elizabeth May being elected as a Green Party MP (hmm, and probably should have), since if you knew Saanich like I know Saanich, you had to know she was going to get in tight with those people. No better place for her. But to tell the truth I no longer feel like much of a betting man when it comes to elections here. The ruthless handicapping and carnival barking by TV talking heads makes it tough to watch anyone who isn’t Chantal Hebert, Allan Gregg, Craig Oliver or Rex Murphy — everybody has some weird axe to grind, some nose for news to stuff vacant theories up. Better, of course, that they should put the nose on the grindstone and chop the theories into kindling…but I don’t hold out much hope, I’ll tell you. Especially since they are already planning their bold and dramatic take on the next election…or, if they’re at the CBC, I guess they’re brushing up their resumes. But as always they get it all wrong from the beginning.

So here is what’s going to happen, if the politicians don’t make the horrid mistake of listening to what pundits say. The Liberal Party will be back, and it will be the most remarkable recovery from a galling defeat that anyone has ever made in Canadian politics. Of course as the pundits would be swift to point out (but they are not as swift as all that, so it took them a couple hours), the Tories got whittled down to two seats back when Chretien gave the big boot to the Mulroney Machine…and they came back, right? I mean, just look at ’em now…!

But, this is incorrect. They didn’t come back. Instead, they were destroyed. Nowhere in the land will you find the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, because it simply doesn’t exist — all its eminent heads stormed out in a huff throwing curses behind them. Peter McKay gave them away to the Reform Party, and that was that. Well…that was almost that. Because I wouldn’t have bet very much on an unsuccessful Harper Conservative Party (and don’t make the mistake of believing that isn’t what it is) being able to fully digest the Big Blue money-printing apparatus it was permitted to swallow, if they hadn’t won this election the way they wanted to. Eventually some rich Ontarian cottage-owning alien would’ve burst from their still deep-down Western Separatist chest, and put all back to normal, if not exactly to rights…because (as I may have mentioned before) this absorption of small party by large party is what gets popular talking-points into faster circulation, in Canada, but to do it the large party has to actually absorb. Stephane Dion wanted to absorb the Green Party, and it was probably a brilliant idea, but in the end he couldn’t do it — he disappeared. And I still miss him, but maybe it was still better for me to suffer FIVE GODDAMN YEARS of Harper in minority, and unless something dramatic happens another FOUR HELLISH YEARS of him in majority, rather than have the Green Party not really exist as an independent entity by this time next decade. But on the other hand it is not all stinking roses, because this win tonight makes it a lot less likely that the real Tories — those bastards — will ever be able to come back to where they belong. Because if what you believe in is pretty much just “conservativeness by any definition and at any price” then a blue-bleeding Tory just isn’t what you are; rather, you’re a U.S. Republican. Donald Savoie (I believe I also mentioned recently) has floated the idea that there are no parties anymore, only leaders who inherit bumper stickers from other leaders, along with their old station wagons…Michael Ignatieff, bless his little heart and his great big Muppety head, certainly deserves my thanks by running as though his party was more important than he was, though if his supporters within his party had felt the same way it might’ve been Bob Rae in there instead of him, and might’ve been a win instead of a loss…but right now it’s an idea whose time has passed, for the moment. When the Liberal Party comes back, it’ll come back too, but for now it’s gone. A lot less gone than the old familiar Tories, but gone nonetheless. Boy, are those Tories ever gone! Still, here is the thing, and it’s about the exact opposite of the thing most pundits would have you believe: in Canada’s political landscape there’s always room for a Centre, because the centre is always the biggest part. Billionaires all over this land, from sea to sea to…okay, just from the one sea to the other, really, anyway all our very best billionaires want two big things over any number of smaller things: lower taxes and a two-party system. Well, but on the one hand taxes can only go down where the expenditures of individuals go up, because Canada needs money to pay for things (and I don’t know what our big billionaires need their money for, exactly, but I’d like to keep as much of mine as possible), and on the other it ought to be a maxim that extremes only suit extremists. And most of Canada needs what the billionaires want about as much as we need two extra holes in the head. As the electorate fills up from the bottom with younger voters, things are already changing, ridings voting differently, old stable patterns collapsing…it’s already happening, and it ain’t slowing down. Did I say this before too? The post-1980 political narrative is already deader than a doornail, but no one really gets it yet. Young voters don’t care about gay marriage, the climate change debate is over as far as they’re concerned, they don’t remember Rene Levesque or Lucien Bouchard, they’re not nostalgically ga-ga for Justin Trudeau just on the strength of his father’s name, they’ve never made a dime from trickle-down economics. Unemployment’s been pushing ten percent since they were born. Children of single-parent families, blended families, all types of familes that are not out of promotional stills from Leave It To Beaver or Tourism Alberta, or even the alarming, overwhelming whiteness of your average beer commercial (“young white people in Canada love the outdoors and maple-leaf kitsch and have money to burn!”), are not intrigued by get-out-of-guilt-free privatization mania, and for those of them interested in money there is always more down south than there is up here. But most importantly, they have not been raised in a two-party system, and consequently they don’t value it. It doesn’t do much for them.

Hey: it doesn’t do much for you and me, either.

Because this is a century of Difference, or it very well might be, and so whenever you see any “Unite The Right!” stuff or (shudder) “Unite The Left!” stuff, what you are seeing are the death-throes of the old political narrative. One last chance to get into that Fountain of Youth, and live forever…and it won’t work, because the past is the past, and we call it that because it’s the past. A two-party system? What the hell good would that do anybody? This isn’t the United States, where people come and go but Big Oil goes on forever! This isn’t the land of attractive politicians who are sane on the outside with a chewy core of nutcase on the inside, for heaven’s sake! No, we wear our bubblegum over our clothes here, like Superman. And in five years — sorry, damnit, four years! I keep forgetting! — in four years it won’t make any difference what the pundits are predicting tonight, because they are predicting all kinds of stuff that they think would be cool, and when you get right down to it they are the only ones who really care about that kind of future-cool stuff, where elections are like a really great episode of 24, or something. And the rest of us desire other sorts of things. It really is a shame about Ignatieff, I didn’t hate the guy, but he didn’t do anything in Opposition — but over a hundred seats for the NDP, you get the sense that’s the real shocker in the land of punditry. I mean, so shocking is it that they have not even managed, at least tonight, to articulate what it is exactly that makes it so shocking. “Canadians just felt like a change”?

No, that isn’t it. That’s never it.

Ignatieff is easy. “He just didn’t connect with Canadians, he’ll be gone by tomorrow morning”: the big media wheel spins on and on, never stopping, never resting, always looking for the next big story. Layton, on the other hand, is a tougher nut. Yes, he’s got all the charisma Ignatieff and Harper both lack (actually not all of it, since all the charisma those two don’t have is about enough to float an average-sized ark for forty days and nights), and yes he stole votes from Iggy while driving others to Steve-O…

But who among us can think, that that’s all that happened here?

Four fucking years. It is going to be tough, being stuck back here in 1984 for that long. I just thank God it’s too late for Harper to deregulate the banks or send us to Iraq, but don’t worry…he’ll find something. Don’t you worry.

But in 2015 it will be a completely different song that people are singing, and he won’t have heard it before. And then maybe all this will finally be over.

It’s gotta be over sometime, right?

Still, my party did get one in there. The party of Arts and Science, as I like to think of them.

How weird, it still seems to me, that there should be such a party as that…and weirder still that we should sort of need one.

Aw, screw it…I’m having a beer. Good night to Canada and Newfoundland and all the ships at sea.

Tomorrow there’s opera, and hockey.


8 responses to “Election Night Blues

  1. And then maybe all this will finally be over.

    It’s gotta be over sometime, right?

    It’s not over, Adrian. Nothing is ever over.

    I guess now we’re going to find out just how different Canada’s conservatives are from American republicans. Some people are worried that this is the end of legal abortions and gay marriage and what have you; I’m not so sure. Harper has said explicitly that that’s not going to happen, and while it’s possible he was lying, I don’t think it’s likely. My wife is worried about it being open season on the environment; I suspect we could see the end of net neutrality.

    One question is, what do the politicians themselves think happened last night? Do the Conservatives really think that they’re a lot more popular now than they were in the last election, or are they taking the popular vote numbers into account? Do the Liberals still believe that they just have to keep their eyes closed a little longer and pretty soon they’ll wake up and it’ll be the Chretien years again?

    There’re going to be a lot of people calling for electoral reform because of this election (but I don’t think there’s much of a chance that it’s actually going to happen). Thing I don’t like about most of the ideas I’ve heard for electoral reform is that they take us from a situation where one person represents my area to the government to a situation where one person represents a political party to my area. I don’t like political parties. Although I could maybe see one of those deals where you rank the candidates on your ballot and keep knocking off whoever got the least amount of votes until someone has a majority. That might work, or, at least, I haven’t thought up a situation where it obviously wouldn’t work.

  2. I think it’s pretty unlikely that Harper would do anything that threatens the impression of having a limitless mandate…and anything to do with abortion or same-sex marriage just brings him into conflict with the Supreme Court in an unwinnable way. But open season on the environment it certainly is, and I’m sure net neutrality’ll be gone like the wind just as soon as they get a chance to try it twice. This is the big tactic, of course: try it, if there’s a big outcry wait a while and try it again, repeat until successful. Alternatively, break it and then claim it’s broken. I think we can expect a pretty hefty assault on the CBC and on Canada Post, criminalization of whatever isn’t nailed down that a hippie might do…serving business interests and keeping the base supplied with a regular dose of scoring off the bleeding hearts, I’m not sure there is exactly a vision for Canada in there anywhere — which is probably a relief — but clearly the word is “deregulation”, and if we had to have a Cons majority we’re probably fortunate to have an NDP opposition, because I can’t imagine Harper won’t go after health care. Also, of course, for most people the cost of living is going to pretty much soar. Oh, and the other parties will end up as kneecapped as Harper can possibly make them.

    I’m sure the Cons don’t think anything more about their victory than “we won”…“finally people are seeing reason! I knew this day would come!”…to go further down the road of thinking about it would probably be counterproductive for them. I’m sure the Liberals have gotten the message that if they want those Chretien years back they’re going to have to work for them this time…you don’t get two Mulroney auto-backlashes!…though I wonder if they’ll realize that the internal jockeying for power, all the super-tactical stuff, just looks really bad on them. Christ, they’re awful with that stuff.

    I think electoral reform has to start with the provinces — no way Big Red or Big Blue want to tamper with FPTP, I’m sure they see it as the only thing propping them up against the threat of minority. But I also think more minorities are coming, and wouldn’t be surprised to see the chances of coalition rising too. If no one does something stupid like “uniting the left”, then we’re either going to get way better politicians, or a way better electoral system.

    But it’s got to start somewhere, that’s the problem. I personally think AV would be a terrific fit for B.C. because it’d be politically expedient for parties used to governing, in the middle-longish term, and it could be sold. Once it’s in the provinces it’ll get to Ottawa.

    But I really hope no one tries to merge the Liberals and the NDP. I don’t really see how that would work, actually, since it would take two crap leaders instead of only one crap leader and an opportunist…but…

    Oh God, that is the time, isn’t it?

  3. I can’t imagine Harper won’t go after health care.

    Really? I figured that’d be the one thing he’d never dare touch. Canadians are sensitive about health care. It’s practically our national identity now.

    I’m sure net neutrality’ll be gone like the wind just as soon as they get a chance to try it twice.

    I wonder what that would look like. I came up with a couple of scenarios this morning, where let’s say I live in a small town and Rogers is the only ISP available, and I want to buy a book online. So I go to the Chapters/Indigo website, but it won’t load, because Rogers has a special deal with Amazon. So I try to order the book from Amazon, and they don’t carry it, so I’m out of luck. After four years I’ve had enough of this, so when the next election comes around I go to the Liberal Party’s website to see what their policies are all about, and I can’t, because Rogers is so grateful to the Conservatives that the Liberal website is blocked.

    …but that’s probably too farfetched. I could maybe see the Chapters/Amazon thing, except what’s more likely is that Rogers would be happy to give everyone access to the Chapters website as long as Chapters kicked back a little; it’s the little independent websites that’d be out of luck. But the thing about blocking access to non-ruling parties’ sites is the kind of thing that draws the attention of, oh, the UN and stuff. So I dunno.

    I really hope no one tries to merge the Liberals and the NDP

    Think about it this way. If you and I tried to merge the Liberals and the NDP, it wouldn’t work… but what if they did it on their own? If both sides (and the Greens too, maybe, I don’t know, why not, as long as we’re blue-skying here) really wanted to, and shook hands and buried the hatchet and pledged to set their differences aside and work together for the sake of Canada and what have you. They couldn’t be made to do it, but maybe if it was their idea. Oh well; unlikely at best.

  4. Dude, now you make me worry he’ll be less likely to go after Net Neutrality than health care!

    Harper’s base wants health care gone more than they want the CBC gone, never mind that they use it. For one thing, there are a lot more ways to weaken it. This isn’t chess, it’s Othello. This is the biggest way to stick it to the damn Commies that there’s ever been, the full diagonal stripe…! And without a doubt it is about National Identity, every bit as much as having a Continental ID is about it. And, oh shit, we’ll definitely be seeing that

    But on the Liberals and NDP (and even the Greens? but that will leave me no one to vote for but the Marijuana Party, Matthew!) merging, the problem is this: there’s a lot more room on the left, than there is on the right. The Libs and the Dips can only merge if they each give something important up — Chris Bird’s idea that a Liberal Democrat Party would only shed ten percent of support from what support it put together is fanciful: it’s based on the idea that Toronto is the model for the whole country. If unions don’t feel they’re represented by the NDP they will go somewhere else — heck, Chretien proved that. Smooth the Liberals and the NDP together and the only meaningful outcome will be the birth of a new party. Here in B.C. I care about salmon: and so do the Greens. If the Greens got absorbed into a bloatedly massive LibDem grouping, would the thing that draws me to them survive as an issue? If it didn’t, I might form my own party, and indeed that’s exactly how the PCs built a presence in B.C. in the 70s — by being environmentalists.

    It might win Toronto. Might even win Ontario. But the reason the “left-wing vote” (and you know the reason I scare-quote that is because I don’t believe the left-right polarity really even works in Canada) (or anywhere!) (I mean I don’t think it’s a valid lens for us to look through at all!), the reason consolidating the “left-wing vote” is a fucked idea is that it’s splintered for a reason. When the Reform Party and the PCs joined up, they let most everything go except “hate the Liberals, defeat the Liberals”…and that’s when the smart Tories all retired en masse. Okay: a right-wing party survived that exodus of the intelligentsia.

    But how does a party of social conscience survive it?

    Answer: they don’t.

    There’s a reason billionaires want a two-party system. And it’s old and it’s cold and it’s easy to understand.

  5. Harper’s base wants health care gone more than they want the CBC gone, never mind that they use it.

    I dunno… I think if they mess with health care, it’ll be like the Democrats in the South after the Civil Rights Act. They’ll get bounced out of office at the first opportunity and stay out for a long time. It’s too dangerous for them.

    It’s true that the left-wing/right-wing paradigm is… overly reductionist, for a start. And I think it’s a fine idea to have a wide selection of political parties, each one appealing to a slightly different band of voters. (In fact, I think it’d be even better to have exactly one political party per Canadian voter; we can call these parties “people” and set them the task of thinking for themselves.) But then you have the problem of how do you effectively oppose the existing big political party that’s causing trouble at the moment?

    Maybe the solution is to find a way to split the Conservatives up. There’s got to be some kind of contentious issue that won’t go away that they can start arguing about.

  6. Messing with health care has been a major plank of the Conservative platform since Kim Campbell was Last PM of the PCs. The only thing that stopped Gordon Campbell from cutting that shit to the bone in B.C. was the Chretien government’s decision not to help him out. The Reformers always wanted American-style health care.

    So what’s to know? There are lots of ways to make the system work less well than it does now…all they have to do is break its back, it isn’t like there’s much equity left in it after thirty years of steady cuts.

    And coalitions are an obvious short-term way to beat the Conservative Party…but as to splitting them, well, it isn’t like they don’t have a real serious social-conservative wing…

  7. Interesting to note here, too, that the NDP is sitting in the Mulroney seat at the moment. Eh? First in Quebec, second everywhere else, and picking up speed. Meanwhile the Recreds are first in Ontario and the West, and haven’t got anyplace else to grow into. Hmm…last time we were here, things tilted pretty decisively against the party-in-power…didn’t take much…

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