I don’t want to spoil the party

March 24th, 2011

Some thoughts on the imminent Canadian federal election.

Stephen Harper is a highly intelligent man whose detractors often make the error of thinking that he is not.  Like John A. Macdonald, Harper’s goal is to build a national coalition within one party and then stay in power for as long as possible, but Harper has managed to do this by balancing the wishes of former Reform Party supporters and Easterners while attracting the odd independent or Liberal by throwing a centrist curveball into the policy mix. His aim is to keep his party’s poll number somewhere north of 30%, knowing that this is likely to keep him in office. That is his overarching policy to which everything else is secondary. As I have mentioned in previous posts, however, the Conservatives are sometimes given to small outbursts of emotion, and this week it is Harper himself who may have put his foot in it with his very own Jocasta moment.

That Globe and Mail article says this: ‘Harper said Wednesday that while the Bloc Québécois remains popular, it no longer has a real mission. He predicted that Quebec will soon understand that the Bloc has given up hope on achieving sovereignty and voters will begin looking for an alternative.’

Remove ‘achieving sovereignty’ and you have a pretty good summary of Harper’s own position. As I see it, however, voters will not look for an alternative just yet. If there is a change in government, it will not be as a result of a significant change in the number of seats won by the four parties but rather by the NDP and Liberals agreeing to some sort of coalition with support from the Bloc. I don’t think the Bloc will formally enter a coalition; its whole raison d’être is to be a caretaker opposition party until its own success makes its entire existence unnecessary. To form part of the government of the state from which it is trying to detach itself would then appear absurd. Hence, my money is on a third consecutive Harper-led Conservative minority government.

On CBC News tonight I saw Michael Ignatieff respond to a question about the possibility of a coalition. He said that there’s a blue door and a red door and those are your only real choices. This tried and, for some reason, trusted method of presenting a false choice to the electorate will probably not work precisely because it is a false choice. Of course, the red door (the Liberals) is meant to represent peace and fairness, but, be that as it may, those ideas have not been communicated as well as they could have been by Ignatieff. By presenting the choice in this way, Ignatieff does not represent change in any meaningful sense of the word.

For change, voters might look at the NDP and Jack Layton, who would do his prospects of an increase in seats no problem at all if he answered questions on his health (Layton has been diagnosed with prostate cancer). Like Charles Kennedy, Brian Cowen and John McCain before him, Layton is at some stage going to have to deal with this issue so that he can start dealing with questions relating to policy.

I’m looking forward to this campaign and will be writing about it quite often. Keep stopping by!