Green and growing

My story about being a Green politician in Canada, and why it was the best thing I ever did.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

2008 Federal election unlikely

There is a lot of buzz in the news and on the blogs that an election is imminent. There are three issues over which the Conservatives and the Liberals may have differing views .. enough to trigger an election. These are the crime bill in the Senate, the strategy for Afghanistan, and the spring budget. The sabres are rattling, and the talk has been tough.

There are many different kinds of people in a political party. Some are outspoken, some live for the battle, rather than the victory, some have power, and others do not.

The Liberals don't like having the Conservatives in power, nor do the Conservatives like being in a minority situation. They both want change, and the only mechanism for significant change is a general election. (This parliament has been characterized by a new sport in Ottawa called MP swapping, which is a much slower process of change, and not entirely democratic).

So, we have two behemoths ready to fight, significant issues to trigger an election, and a green light from the NDP and the Bloc. So, an election is inevitable, yes?

I think not. There are two fundamental factors, both of which have to do with the roots of democracy .. the voters. Within each party, there will be several key strategists whose job it is to understand the polling numbers. Their job is to tell the party leadership "now is a good time to go to the polls" or "this is a bad time to go" based on their read, via the polls, of the mood of the public. The news tends to focus on the gap between the Conservative and Liberals as if this is the only newsworthy statistic. The Conservative lead has diminished since the 2006 election, and some polls show the Liberals with a narrow lead. Either way, this is not great news for either party. More important than the gap reported in the news, however, is that both parties are down in support from where they were at the time of the last election. This is definitely bad news for both parties. As I have blogged before, most or all of this support has gone to the Greens.

The second issue, one we hear reported about regularly, is that people simply do not want an election. Voters tend to punish politicians who are all about the power, and trigger elections simply to get more power. It is hard to see any other motive for either party. The Conservatives designate almost everything as a confidence motion, so that a defeat would bring about an election. The people understand that this is a kind of bullying that has to stop, so that our government can work together to get effective legislation enacted. This is, after all, the role of a minority government .. to seek compromise and consensus. People's lives are at stake, particularly when we look at the critical issues in Afghanistan. The Liberals have refused to play the "confidence" game, abstaining again yesterday from a vote on a ridiculous piece of legislation (that the House of Commons should dictate to the Senate what it should or should not do). The Liberals are biding their time, attempting to resolve their image problem. Although they are relatively better off than the last election, they will be much better off once the leader's image is crafted to be one of "statesmanship", which is where I think they are headed.

So, in my humble opinion, the strategists will win out in the end, as neither leader can afford to be the one who sent their party into defeat. For Conservatives, defeat is not getting a majority and for the Liberals, defeat is not becoming the government. Neither leader will take that chance, since these parties are all about the power, rather than doing what is best for Canada. If they wanted what was best for Canada, they would be talking to each other about solutions rather than hurling insults and daring each other to fight.

My prediction, then, is that this 39th parliament will hobble along as it is until the fixed election date of October 2009, or slightly before. We have already seen compromise talk about Afghanistan. I only hope the compromises are in the best interests of Canada and the people of Afghanistan, and not in the best interests of the two largest political parties.


Post a Comment

<< Home