William Matheson (nova_one) wrote,
William Matheson

Election '08: Opening Speculations

In 2000, the Alliance was not a threat. It was my first federal election as an eligible voter, and I felt free to vote as I pleased; in the end I voted for the NDP incumbent, who’d appeared for a candidate’s debate at my university in place of then-leader McDonough, and rather than being disappointed that McDonough couldn’t make it (it was understandable; she was a party leader, and we were in the heat of the campaign), I was impressed by his gentle confidence and his erudite disposition. So I voted for him, but he lost to the Liberal, but that was OK, too, because our Liberal is well-connected and has a well-deserved reputation as a hard constituency worker. (Now if only he had a blog…)

Despite voting NDP, in this election I was rooting for Joe Clark’s Tories. Actually, I was probably just rooting for Clark. Aside from Clark, the party was all but dead, and it was hard to stir up enthusiasm for their no-name candidates just to support a terrific but long-shot leader. Still, it was a respectable last hurrah, and Clark won his seat in Calgary Centre.

It should be noted that 2000 was an odd situation – there were no Liberal incumbents in my province: in 1997, not one Liberal was elected from Nova Scotia! In the wake of John Savage (who had to make many unpopular decisions), the Liberals were not popular there, and at the Maritime-level Charest’s Progressive Conservative remnant really cleaned up (the Reform wave mercifully missed us, so we still had A-list candidates), and the NDP made big gains at the Liberals’ expense. Unfortunately, the Tory resurgence stopped at the Quebec border.

By 2004, the Conservatives had by then stolen the branding and the lineage of the Progressive Conservatives, and the new wolf in sheep’s clothing was now a serious pan-national threat. Martin barely got a minority. You can be sure I voted for our Liberal incumbent.

2006 seemed like a toss-up. Confident that our Liberal would be re-elected, I voted Green, partly because I was going through a lot of trouble to vote by mail and the best I could probably do was to help confer a little bit of legitimacy on that party by voting for their candidate, even though he didn’t have a chance.

And now, in 2008…

The Conservatives (I refuse to call them the Tories – in Canada, that name died along with the Progressive Conservatives) will probably at least retain a plurality. However, the landscape could still change dramatically: The Bloc could become the daily kingmaker – if they perceive the progressive parties to be gaining ground and willing to grant Quebec-friendly concessions, they may support a Liberal / NDP / Green opposition bloc. In any case, after this election, the Conservatives will need the Bloc – the Liberals can’t afford to spend another parliamentary session abstaining from critical votes or being seen to prop up the Conservatives, so I wouldn’t expect more of the same behaviour.

The irony of the present situation is somewhat droll – you’ll remember Preston Manning and his exhortations to “Unite the Right?” Now we may need to “Unite the Left,” though I really hope it doesn’t come to that. I don’t want to see our five-party “system” reduced to two or three. A diversity of voices is good for democracy. I also happen to have a fondness for minority governments – they’re so much more interesting to watch. Although sometimes, like in Nova Scotia recently, they just find a way to get down to business, and kudos for that. But we’re not going to see that kind of civilized restraint in federal politics anytime soon!

Could we come out of this election with some sort of a coalition? That could be interesting. If Harper has a plurality but can’t command enough MPs, could Dion and Layton (and heck, maybe May – but the Greens will be lucky to elect May and keep Wilson) get together?

THIS JUST IN: willmatheson.com predicts a Duceppe minority! Actually, mathematically anyway, it could happen if the seats were split closely / deeply enough. I wonder what would follow? Gee, it’s fun to speculate.
Tags: canada, elections, history, parties, politics, voting

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