Not sure how you want to vote for the federal election? Caught between a rock and a hard decision? Or perhaps you think it is an easy decision but there’s some lingering questions in your mind. Fear not, I have a new methodology that is sure to help. Simply ask yourself who you would prefer to have over for dinner. Yup, that’s right. Dinner. It’s a nice summer evening, you’re going to bbq some steaks and veggies, there’s some brewskies in the fridge, and you have to have one of the potential Prime Ministers over. Would it be Stephen Harper? I would consider that option, but only if I could rely on Grady throwing peas at him. That would be fun to see him flinching from flying peas, stiff as a board, awkward as hell and staring at his watch, waiting until it’s time to leave. Jack Layton could be fun too. I bet I could get him really drunk and have him tell some outrageous stories about Buzz Hardgrove. How about Elizabeth May? Hmmm, not so much. I’m sure she’s charming, and I also suspect that she is boring as hell. When it is all said and done, I think I’d want Dion over. He and May seem like the most “real” people of the four. More than that, Dion just seems like a good guy. I’m always disheartened whenever I read that people see Dion as being a weak personality. The fact is that they are correct, and that is sad because he is likely the most honest and good hearted of the big three and possibly has the best policies between the Conservatives, Liberals, NDP and Greens. Another disappointment in the “Come over for beers and steak” test is Liz May. From what little I’ve seen, she’s kind of bland. No, make that really bland.
Before Canadians sit down and really think about who they want to be the next Prime Minister, a good exercise for everyone to do is answer the question, “Does Stephen Harper deserve to have a majority government?” I think this question is fundamentally different from comparing parties, policies, and personalities, which is typically how the run into the election will be covered by the media.
I’ve been trying to take stock of the achievements of the Harper government, and what they mean to me and what they might mean to Canada. I am quite critical of how Harper has concentrated power in his office and manhandled his ministers. Rhonda Ambrose anyone? Similar to this, Harper’s disdain for interviews, the media and the public in general is also undesirable. His obsessive control on the media was typified by today’s little showing in Richmond. Similar to this is his bundling public diplomacy, such as his no-show at the China Olympics. On the other hand, Harper does come across as a very intelligent guy and I don’t think anyone would mistake him for a wimpy pushover. Overall I would say that his human interaction skills are terrible and it would be difficult to imagine even a hardcore Conservative supporter being pleased with this aspect of Harper and his government.
When it comes to the economy I think the Harper government is probably around the 50/50 mark. The down side includes the reduction in the gst and the $100 family allowance cheque. In fact, don’t get me started on the $100 cheque, it drives me insane. Here’s the summary of the $100 allowance. Families that can afford to have only 1 working parent love it because they now get $100 per child, as opposed to them getting nothing while other parents would get some affordable daycare. Meanwhile, back in the land of everyone else, families struggle to make ends meet and therefore need to send their kids to daycare, which is really tough because there aren’t enough spots. On the positive side of the economy I can say that the Harper government hasn’t ruined it. I have no doubt that a crappy federal government couldn’t step in and royally screw things up, so that’s why I give the Conservatives credit. They didn’t sink the ship (yet). I believe there are a lot of criticisms of the economy (ie slowest growth of the G7), but let’s just call it 50/50. And that’s being generous.
Okay, here’s an easy one. Everyone that thinks Harper has done a positive job when it comes to social issues, raise your hand. Just one of you? Oh, you just wanted to go to the bathroom? Alright…
Other remaining issues that we can judge Harper’s current performance by include the military, government integrity, and health care. Health care is probably another 50/50 proposition. I could be wrong, but I think the provinces have most of the leverage when it comes to health care. The feds dole out the money and can try to mandate programs but overall I’d say that it’s a provincial matter. I’m not sure Harper has done anything terribly positive or negative for health care. As for the military, I would say that Harper is on the backside. I really don’t know much about his fascination with the arctic, and the debacle in Afghanistan admitably is not of his origin. Make no mistake about it though, if Harper had his way 6 years ago, there would be many more Canadians dead in the Central Asia, only it would be in Iraq and not Afghanistan. As for government integrity, Harper has done poorly on this too. If I was comparing him to other governments (such as the Liberals) it wouldn’t be so bad, but this article isn’t about a comparison. Harper has that whole hyprocasy thing going for him. Some prime examples are Emerson’s defection, Michael Fortier’s appointment, and the Grewal affair when Harper refused to meet with the Ethics Commissioner.
Lastly there is the issue of the environment. I really hope that I don’t need to explain too much on this one. The Harper government is not environment friendly or progressive in any manner. I’ve heard Conservatives give interviews in which they think the world is 8000 years old, and it’s this kind of attitude and belief system that perhaps poses the biggest risk to all Canadians of all different political and ideological backgrounds, for generations to come.
On his merit alone, Stephen Harper hasn’t done enough to warrant a majority government. Is he a better Prime Minister than what Dion or Layton would be? That’s a question for another time.
I’ve been trying to find some interesting Canadian political blogs so I can try and catch up on the skinny for the upcoming election (I’m wading through a lot of links and surprised at how many blogs haven’t been updated since 2007). It will be interesting to hear what other people have to say about the upcoming election, what the decisive issues are, etc. So far I’ve found a few promising blogs:
Inside the Queensway
more notes from the underground
Jason Cherniak – a pro Liberal blog but at least there should be some good anti-Harper nuggets in there
I’m also waiting to see if Andrew Coyne updates his blog, he’s always good for some insightful opinions.
Edit: it looks like Andrew is blogging more on the Maclean’s website.
More to follow…
There’s a lot of talk about an early election this fall in Vancouver. Harper says the current government is unworkable and ineffective, and therefore an election is needed. While this is probably true, I can’t see how these problems will be fixed by an election at this time. It is my understanding that neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives would win a majority government. I haven’t read or heard too many opinions on a possible election but my uninformed opinion is that it is a bad idea. My hunch is that Harper would like to play another round of the blame game. He is very good at this. He’ll stand in front of a microphone and dourly exclaim that Canada’s troubles are purely a product of the Federal Liberal Party. Of course he won’t let facts get in his way, that hasn’t been a problem in the past. So it goes with this upcoming election… It’s not Harper’s fault that the government doesn’t work, it’s the fault of everyone else that is in his way. Once another minority government is in place, that will also be the fault of others.
One thing that bothers me across the board is how political parties manage their opposing views. If the Conservatives say left, the Liberals will say right, no matter what the facts are. Everyone always denounces the other. And while the Conservatives, Liberals, and NDP of course have differing opinions on issues, their decisive stand on issues is often predicated on purely being different from the other. With attitudes like this it is no wonder that a minority government isn’t working in Canada.
According to John Gomery, the new government hasn’t acted on any of the recommendations given in his report. A CBC news article also tells of how the only thing to come of the inquiry is the federal accountabilities act, and this was legislation prepared before his report was even released.
It’s kind of funny that the Sponsorship Scandal was the defining issue for the 2006 election, yet the new government hasn’t done anything with the recommendations. Granted, the Conservatives don’t seem to be as likely as the Liberals to actually create such a scandal. If a political party is going to campaign and win an election because of an issue, you’d think they would at least follow up with some type of action. However, it is obvious that the Conservatives are equally capable of the unethical practises that they accused the Liberals of, such as patronage and bullying.
Leading up to the 2006 Federal Election, I wrote this post on Canadian Values which discussed what many consider to be a darker aspect of the Conservative Party. Luckily for Canadians (at the time), Darrel Reid lost in the election. But even losers can win. Environment minister Rona Ambrose recently appointed Reid as her chief of staff.
I can’t say for sure, but I bet Reid is one of those guys that thinks that the earth is 8000 years old. I don’t find a lot of comfort that a person like Reid is in a position of power when it comes to Canada’s environmental policies. I can only imagine the disregard he has for certain accepted scientific theories in favour of his Christian beliefs.
Rick Mercer summed it up in his “Rick’s Rant of the Week” from October 10.
Rick gave another scathing assessment of the Conservative’s environmental policy in his October 17 Rant of the Week.
You sure get the feeling that Harper appointed Reid as the chief of staff and that Rona is just doing his bidding.
In contrast to these two rants, check out Rick’s Skinny Dipping With Bob Rae. Rae certainly echoes values that are much closer to my heart.