Ladies and Gents, we Canadians return to the Federal polls on May 2 or May 9. Tomorrow, Stephen Harper (who, based on Canadian politics, cannot be referred to as Prime Minister at this point) will go see Governor General David Johnston tomorrow to officially dissolve the parliament.
Today, the government fell in a vote of non-confidence, threatened constantly, but only used 4 previous times in Canadian history. This is historic stuff! But this time, specifically, the government has fallen because the Liberals, the NDP, and the Bloc believe the Conservatives are in contempt of Parliament. CONTEMPT! This is the first time this has happened! But you know what’s crazier, this could be the first time that a Government held in contempt of Parliament could be RE-ELECTED! And you know, it could be another minority too!
Here’s what I have to say about that:
First, when the government falls in this fashion, it’s a crazy time for Federal workings. For a couple months, we have no government. None. There is no leading party, the MPs don’t do any work other than campaigning, and we have no Prime Minister. The Governor General, as figure-head and viceregal for the Dominion of Canada, becomes our leader until the election. This is a crazy thought. It has been a really long time since we’ve operated without a government (prorogation doesn’t count) - this means if there’s a massive calamity or war, we can’t - legally - do anything about it. This puts us in a strange position as a country: Japan still needs assistance and the conflict in Libya requires our national attention. For 2 months, we are a self-governed nation of aimless wanderers, rushing head-long into an election the media tells us we don’t even want. So on to that…
My second thought: voters and voter apathy. The last federal election saw less than 60 per cent of the voting population vote. This is the lowest EVER. Our national partisan system leads to a wide spread of votes that has shown us that even more people DO vote, everything gets spread out: the Tories, the Grits, the New Democrats, the Bloc, and even the Greens spread votes. No leader currently commands the parliamentary attention (Trudeau, anyone?) and no party seems to be the best option across the board. The NDP foils the vote between the Reds and Blues in English Canada, and don’t go trying to touch the Bloc in most of Quebec. So people aren’t voting, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of incentive to make people vote.
Which brings me to my last thought:
People have said that we may have a consistent minority government for a long time. Basically we haven’t had a full majority since Jean Chretien was Prime Minister. I don’t agree with this: in the UK, there’s no such thing as a minority, the government becomes hung. This means re-election or, better yet, coalition. The last one was historic; the Conservatives and the Lib Dems (basically the UK equivalent of the NDP) coalesced to make what has been in less than a year one of the strongest UK governments in recent years. Clearly this doesn’t seem to be an option for Canada, since Harper just stuck his head between his legs last time a coalition came up as an option.
So I have this to say:
This is an important election. An extremely important one. We can’t let a government fallen in contempt be re-elected. We can’t let our government putter by in a minority fashion barely passing legislation. We need to vote. We need to get people to vote. And for once, I think the time has come to vote in a partisan fashion: maybe your local MP isn’t the absolute best for your community, but the colour of our nation needs to change. We need to have a majority - we need to have a government that can make decisions. I won’t tell you which colour to vote, but if the Conservatives are in contempt (in the words of Ignatieff: “spending money on jets and julias”) don’t re-elect them. Elect the party - the leader you believe in.
And above all else.
I don’t care who you vote for.