My friend Sheri returned from a trip to Africa, arriving back in Canada in the midst of the eruption over Stephen Harper’s idiotic mini-budget.
“It feels like I’m in a parallel universe,” she laughed. Same people on TV, but they’re saying and doing things that are just not done in Canada. And the politics is exciting! Clearly something out of a Star Trek episode. Canada-like, but not really the Canada we’ve always lived in.
Let’s hope there’s more like that.
I say it’s about time we had a shift to coalition politics.
Truth is, the old two-party system is dead in this country for the foreseeable future. It died when the Bloc Quebecois was born out of the frustration of the Meech Lake fiasco. Since then, most Quebec seats have gone to the party that sees itself as the separatist outpost in Ottawa. The Liberals have largely lost Quebec, the Conservatives were lucky to pick up 10 seats in two successive elections, and miracle of miracles, the NDP managed to win one seat in a by-election and hold onto it in the recent general election.
It’s almost impossible to win a majority in a Canadian election for now and probably for a long time. The Conservatives, after winning a minority in 2006, governed as if they had a majority, cowering the Liberals into absenting themselves so that Harper’s bills would pass because they were afraid to bring on an election. When the election finally came, voters let them know how unhappy they were about their acting like wimps in the face of Harper’s bullying tactics.
The returned Liberals, seats slashed in half, will no longer be cowed. Harper tried to return to bullying tactics with Flaherty’s “financial statement” and triggered nothing less than the next evolution of the Canadian political system — coalition politics.
This is a good thing. Here’s why:
- approximately 64 percent of Canadians voted for parties other than Harper’s Conservatives in the Oct 14 election. A majority of Canadians don’t want to be governed by a Harper government;
- the rightwing parties are united in the Harper Tories, but the centre-left is divided in this country between the NDP, the Liberals, the BQ and the Green Party, making it difficult for any of them to win on their own;
- over 80 percent of Canadians live in urban areas. Yet the Harper Conservatives were overwhelmingly voted into office by people living in rural areas, small towns and the less populated suburbs. The coalition parties, on the other hand, were elected in urban areas and represent the values and advocate policies benefiting urban Canadians, including most gays and lesbians. In fact, the electoral-map bias that allows far fewer voters in a rural riding than in an urban riding, is one of the scandals of Canadian politics;
- the Harper Conservatives are really the Reform Party in disguise and the former moderate Progressive Conservative Party is long buried;
- Harper is a nasty man with personally extreme beliefs. He left the Reform Party because he thought then-leader Preston Manning compromised too much;
- Harper’s bullying style sets a bad example for our nation’s children. And we homos know all about bullies, don’t we? But seriously, we’re at the beginning of a recession and cooperation should be the mantra, not nastiness;
- coalition government can ensure the continuation of Canada’s progressive government programs and a significant role for the public sector;
- a coalition government supported by the Bloc Quebecois will drag that party toward taking some responsibility for governing the country and continue to soften its separatist edges, a process already underway;
- a coalition government will allow this country to face up to the need to rapidly decrease our global-warming footprint. It’s hard to imagine an economic stimulus package that does not emphasize public transport, and mass construction of wind turbines, solar panels, tidal power structures and a mass energy retrofit program for homes and businesses;
- coalition governments have worked in a half-dozen European Parliaments, ensuring that the demands of the business sector are balanced out by the needs of average citizens. Because they bring parties representing multiple sectors together to work out a deal, they result in progressive, but not extreme, policies.
Don’t kid yourself. Stephen Harper is the natural enemy of gay and lesbian Canadians. If he survives long enough to eke out a bare majority government, it is we who would be among the first to feel his scorn. His Conservatives are the Reform Party in disguise.
A coalition of the centre-left is our best hope for today and tomorrow and the day after. We should join with our allies to support this evolution of Canadian politics. Please consider coming out to a demonstration in favour of a coalition. Please consider signing the petition in support of it. If Harper gets nasty, truly nasty to try and stop this, gays and lesbians can join with those who support our rights to take to the streets and push back.