Crossposted with BlogsCanada
So, we may have an election in the next couple of months.
Not that this is all that surprising. With the four parties in parliament divided so evenly, the two most likely blocs command almost exactly 50% of the seats, each, and with grave philosophical differences between the three opposition parties (not to mention between the opposition parties and the government), it would have taken an almost superhuman willingness for Stephen Harper, Paul Martin, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe to set aside childish antics and govern together for the good of the country.
What gets me, though, is the latest reason the government may fall. As you know, Justice Gomery has been investigating the ins and outs of the corruption scandal over advertising deals in Quebec uncovered by the Auditor General back in February 2004. The commission has been tainted with accusations of bias and some rookie mistakes by some of the lawyers involved, but it continues to generate interest, even as the cost to hold the inquiry approaches 25% of the total fund the commission was originally established to investigate.
At the end of March, Justice Gomery imposed a temporary publication ban as it heard from three individuals who may face criminal charges when all is said and done. The ban was imposed to ensure that these three individuals got a fair trial. As expected, the testimony delivered by these individuals has been explosive. How explosive? Explosive enough that the Liberal Party has sought (and received) official standing at the commission to cross-examine the witnesses. Explosive enough that the Conservatives are seriously considering tossing out the government and running the next election on an anti-corruption platform.
Thing is, we can’t tell you what the witnesses have said because of the publication ban. When Canadians look to the opposition parties, all they get is: “we’re thinking of throwing out the government.” / “Why?” / “Because of recent testimony at the Gomery inquiry” / “Why? How big were the revelations?” / “Big.” / “How big?” / “Trust us: BIG!”
Conservative bloggers, including some who supported the publication ban in the first place, joined a feeding frenzy of speculation over the political moves that would happen in the coming weeks. Even more chum was added to the water when American bloggers, not subject to the publication ban, started posting details of the witnesses’ testimony. Some braver Canadian bloggers started posting links to the information before deciding that discretion was the better part of valour and pulling their content. All of this, the speculation, the innuendo, the risk of running afoul of the law, all served to supercharge the right end of the blogosphere. I’m sure that some Conservative bloggers feel they’re on the cusp of a revolution, complete with the risk that the Feds will come down on their ears for making a principled stand against the publication ban.
How disappointed are people going to be when the publication bans lapse and the Canadian public just shrugs its shoulders?
That’s what’s going to happen, folks. For a number of reasons; not the least of which is that all the speculation over the fall of the government has raised expectations over just how bad the revelations are going to be. Reality hardly ever lives up to the hype.
Secondly, for the past two months, we have had four issues upon which the government was on the brink of falling, the Gomery revelations being only the latest. There’s the Kyoto protocol. There’s the same sex marriage law. There’s the budget itself.
And speaking as an average non-partisan Canadian, I have the sad task of telling the partisan bloggers of the opposition that the Canadian people see very few upstanding individuals in this mess of a minority parliament. When we broke parliament into four pieces, giving no one a clear mandate to govern, we did so because all four parties were equally unsuitable to the job. The Liberals were tired, the Conservatives were desceptive, the NDP were out of touch and the Bloc Quebecois were separatists.
Actually, there has been one leader in parliament who has conducted himself with intelligence and integrity, who could be counted on to lead Canada out of this mess and get us some good government. Unfortunately, his name is Gilles Duceppe, and he doesn’t want the job.
We’re all keenly aware of how tired the Liberals have become, and we are all keenly aware of the need to stamp out corruption, no matter how small it is in comparison to the totality of government spending. But Liberal corruption, when even Conservatives say its being thoroughly investigated by the Gomery commission, is not enough of a reason to toss the Liberals out on their ear without considering who to put in their place. And despite the nice centrist noises coming from the Conservative policy convention last month, they still refuse to accept the equality of same sex individuals under the law, they’re against the gun registry (which is still popular in some quarters), and they have Rob Anders in their caucus.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t Canadians out there which oppose same sex marriage and who want the gun registry revoked. But a number of issues on the Conservatives platform evoke passionate responses from Canadians and are the reason the opposition is so split with each party given very little room to grow.
In 2004, the Liberals got the lowest level of popular support ever accorded to the winning party of an election. The Conservative party received the lowest level of popular support accorded to conservative parties in Canadian elections since 1945. Nothing’s changed in the past year. All four parties are supremely undeserving of majority government, and the Liberals, holding down the centrist position though they don’t deserve centrist support, are the only party of the four which can make deals with the other three in order to govern.
So, Conservatives? Bloc? NDP? Be warned. You throw this parliament to the people, and we’ll throw it right back at you. The numbers that you saw on June 28, 2004 could be repeated very closely in June 2005. If you’re going to proceed with an election anyway, start thinking about ways the Conservatives and the NDP can work together long enough to prop up a cross-the-centre coalition government.
Or perhaps it’s time to remove your support of all four parties altogether and go Green.