3 min

Election fatigue

If they're determined to call an election, we better be ready to rally

Seems strange to agree with Stephen Harper on anything, even something as obvious as election fatigue.

“I think Canadians have been pretty clear,” Harper told reporters last week, after Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff announced his intention to trigger a fall election.

Canadians want their government to focus on the economy, Harper said. “It’s certainly our view and I think the view of the vast majority of Canadians that going through more political games, more political instability, does not serve the country’s interests right now.”

Much as I hate to say it, Harper’s got a point. We just went to the polls less than a year ago, as the country began to slide into recession. With the exception of Ignatieff, who clearly wants a bigger office and fancier title (and possibly the pleasure of being the top cheese when the Olympics roll into town in a few months), nobody wants to go back to the polls now.

Hell, nobody wanted to go last time. Voter turnout in October 2008 set a record low in Canada, with fewer than 60 percent of eligible voters bothering to express a preference.

Canadians are sick of the posturing, sick of the sabre-rattling, sick of the same old parties jockeying for position. I know I am. If Parliament Hill suddenly slid into a hell mouth and Harper, Ignatieff, Layton and his moustache were all lost forever, I’d welcome the chance to start fresh.

Lacking such divine intervention, Ignatieff seems to think this is his best chance to oust the Conservatives. Or possibly his last chance before Harper and his cronies get too deeply entrenched.

As much as I distrust Ignatieff’s self-interested motives, we’d be foolish to dismiss his tactics simply because we can’t bring ourselves to contemplate another election so soon. If this is indeed our last chance to dump Harper before he takes credit for fixing the economy and wins a majority, we can’t let the opportunity pass us by due to fatigue.

For anyone not sold on the goal of dumping Harper, consider how much he has already quietly accomplished behind the scenes, where much of the business of running the country actually takes place.

Not unreasonably, Harper has been filling spots on boards, courts and on the Hill with people of his own political persuasion. That means stacking the board that recommends new judges with people with obvious Conservative connections, stacking the board that oversees fertility research with anti-abortionists, cutting funding to a variety of sectors, appointing an anti-gay lawyer to Ontario’s Superior Court, naming Focus on the Family Canada’s former head to chief of staff of the environment, and demoting the tourism minister for daring to fund Toronto Pride.

And who can forget Bill C-10, the omnibus income tax act that contained a little clause revoking tax credits to all Canadian films deemed “contrary to public policy”? That bill would have slipped through Parliament had the Liberal-dominated Senate not caught the clause and caused an uproar.

A disappointed Charles McVety, the head of Canada’s Family Action Coalition who claimed to have met with Harper officials to discuss the clause, later bemoaned the fact that gay films that “proselytize children to be homosexuals” would still be eligible for tax credits.

Those are just a few of the subtle ways in which even a Conservative minority can re-set Canada’s course.

It’s not that I like the Liberals but I support getting the Conservatives out of power before they gain more. The question is one of tactics. Is Ignatieff right? Is this the best moment to roll the dice?

I’m not convinced. Low voter turnouts generally favour incumbents and for those not already sick of the election charade, the Conservatives are sure to score points by playing the “we’re just trying to fix the economy while he’s causing a disruption” card.

Ignatieff may secretly agree and be hoping the NDP bails him out and forestalls an election this fall but in case this game of parliamentary chicken lands us en route to another election, we better be ready to shake off our fatigue and turn their posturing into the opportunity we need to dump the Conservatives.

We likely won’t get a fourth chance.