Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Interpreting The Canadian Elections

Like most Americans, I'm pretty vague on the details of Canadian politics. Fortunately, my good friend Jennie is a political junkie fluent in both American and Canadian, and highly skilled at translation. Here's her post explaining yesterday's election results, and why they don't mean what most non-Canadians think they mean.
First, the misconception a few of you brought up in comments (and which you all seem to share with Michael Moore, Dan Savage, and Ralph Nader) that a Conservative minority government would have signified an irreversible swing to the right on the part of the haven of liberalism north of the U.S. border. Yes, there are small pockets of conservatives in Canada, and yes, a few of them are even dreaded social conservatives, but on the whole this is not, and is never likely to be, a truly conservative country. If Canadians had given the Conservatives a minority government yesterday, it wouldn't have expressed their confidence in conservatism, it would have been the outcome of voting to punish the Liberals for the sponsorship scandal. Throughout this campaign, in poll after poll, when asked what kind of government they would prefer irrespective of how they were going to vote, Canadians said that they wanted a Liberal minority government. They tried to vote in such a way as to achieve that kind of slap to the Liberals without making Stephen Harper prime minister, and they did it. But we have to keep in mind that if those voting strategies had failed and Stephen Harper *had* become prime minister, it ultimately might not have been such a bad thing. A slight Conservative minority wouldn't have found any allies to help them accomplish anything, there would have almost certainly been a vote of no confidence after less than a year, and the Conservatives would have had the shackles of a failed government on them in the subsequent election.
The "sponsorship scandal" she's talking about, as explained in this New York Times article, involved big-money payoffs to advertising firms in Quebec that were friendly to Liberal Party interests - apparently in exchange for very little work. Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin claimed to know nothing about it and to be in favor of making government more accountable, but then he called for an election before the scandal investigation was completed. Canadians, to put it mildly, aren't particularly happy with the Liberal Party right now. The polls have been see-sawing back and forth for weeks, sometimes predicting a Conservative minority government, sometimes a Liberal minority government, sometimes a Conservative majority government. I guess that's what happens when you're trying to send a message with your vote.

At the end of Jennie's post, incidentally, there's a series of links to election commentary from the Canadian blogosphere. As someone who's barely been aware of the Canadian blogosphere, I found it edifying - particularly this very clear dissection of the election from Just in From Cowtown. But here's my favorite bit:
I feel like I had sex with a gorgeous hooker last night.

I go from saying "I can't believe she was a hooker" to saying "at least she was hot" to saying "I can't believe she was a hooker" to saying "at least she was hot" to saying "I can't believe she was a hooker" to saying "at least she was hot" to saying "I can't believe she was a hooker" to saying "at least she was hot"...