We Live in Interesting Times

Stephen Harper

Anybody who thinks that the title above is just a Chinese insult clearly isn’t a political reporter or blogger.

Am I disappointed? Of course I am. I’ve made my views on this government quite clear and it saddens to see bad behaviour rewarded. However, that’s the way democracy goes: sometimes you’re on the winning side, and other times you aren’t. I myself haven’t voted for a winning party, or even a winning candidate, since 1997. You learn to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move on. That’s life.

And I can’t help but roll my eyes at all the doom and gloom out there in some progressive quarters at the mere concept of a Harper majority. Yes, he now has a free hand to enact his agenda, whatever that is. But who says democracy stops at the ballot box? If indeed this Conservative government tries to roll back same-sex marriage, reproductive rights, the CBC, our national health care or whathaveyou, you have other options. You have the option to march.

It seems to me that history shows that most of the social and political gains we’ve made in this country have not just come through the ballot box, but through the hard work of average individuals like you and me going out there, pounding the pavement, speaking loudly, and engaging the unengaged to convince them why what they have is important, and why what is possible is worth fighting for. If people laugh at you, ignore them. If people shout at you, speak louder. If people push you, push back.

The reason why many NDP supporters are ecstatic on this morning is because Conservative commentators haven’t clued into this fact: the likelihood of a majority New Democratic government in 2015 has just jumped to 50-50. Ontario itself was just a few percentage points of colouring itself orange last night. Whether or not that happens next time depends on the individuals who are disappointed today channelling that disappointment into anger, and channelling that anger into action, and that channelling that action into change.

We used to march a lot more often than we do now, I think, and democracy is worth marching for. Certainly our parents and grandparents knew the importance of marching for democracy, and they were marching on the battlefields of Europe. We owe it to them to march again.

Random Election Thoughts

  • So, what do the Liberals do now? Are they doomed to die, or merge with the NDP? I don’t think so. In my opinion, the Liberals should learn a lesson from the Ontario Tories of 1987, who were demolished and reduced to third party status during the Petersen landslide. As they had been the natural governing party of Ontario for 42 years, the temptation to just give up and accept oblivion was probably strong, but did they? No.

    What the Liberals need to do, especially now that Ignatieff has resigned, is to appoint an interim leader — someone who himself has no leadership aspirations. Ralph Goodale or John McCallum would be my choices. Bob Rae would be a good choice, but only if he commits to not running for the leadership in two years’ time. Why? Well, because the job here is very specific: focus on the Liberal voice in the House of Commons. Make sure it has a presence. Motivate the caucus and keep it active, and let those Liberals hold their place while the rest of the party focuses on the rebuilding.

    I was shocked to learn that the Liberal party has not had a policy convention for almost ten years — partly the result of the Chretien-Martin civil war in the early part of the decade, and partly the result of the rapid succession of leaders that followed. As a result, the Liberals have almost no fresh policy, no major new direction in which to offer Canadians compared to the Tories and the NDP. It’s time to have a policy convention — the bigger and more diverse the better. Embrace radical centrism again, and poach a few Libertarian ideas while you’re at it. Maybe consider a national minimum income to replace old age security, the child tax credits and social welfare, perhaps? Be bold. And once you’ve had this huge debate, and a bold new policy platform on which to stand, then hold a leadership convention.

    The front runners at this point would appear to be Dion, Rae (if he isn’t interim leader) and Justin Trudeau, but by allowing two years to pass before a leadership convention allows someone completely unexpected to step forward and possibly take the party in interesting directions. Trudeau himself would be an interesting choice, especially as part of a long-term rebuild of the party. The Liberals really do need to re-embrace their youth.

  • So passes into history the once mighty political force of the Bloc Quebecois. Would the last BQ MP please turn out the lights as they leave? With just four seats, they have lost official party status, they have lost their leader, and they’ve lost much of their raison d’ĂȘtre. I cannot see the party contesting the federal election of 2015, and I wonder if these MPs will sit as independent MPs, or cross over to one of the other parties (either Conservative or NDP).

    This does not mean the end of the separatist movement in Canada, however. Far from it. The Bloc were formed not to bring about separatism in and of themselves, but to run interference against the Chretien government as the Parti Quebecois in Quebec brought forward their referendum. Really, the BQ lost their raison d’ĂȘtre the day after the referendum, and they’ve been acting as placeholders ever since, speaking up for Quebec interests but having limited influence on national party politics.

    The NDP surge in Quebec crosses federalist-sovereigntist boundaries, but I strongly suspect that the sovereigntist voters of the BQ switched to the NDP for two reasons: one, to screw with Canadians’ heads and, two, to park their vote with a non-mainstream federal party (at least as the NDP were in Quebec) while they concentrated on bringing about sovereignty at the provincial level. The next Quebec provincial election is due in 2012, and it could easily topple Charest’s Liberals and bring in a majority Parti Quebecois government interested in bringing forward a third referendum. If so, it will be interesting to see how Harper handles this. Only if Quebec swings hard to the social democratic Quebec Solidaire will we be sure that the sovereigntist movement is really moving on.

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