ELECTION BLOG: MINORITY GOVERNMENT IN WAITING?

Greetings,

Today marks the final 72 hours of the election campaign, and it looks more and more likely that no party will emerge with a clear majority in Parliament come June 28th. It will likely be the most divided House of Commons in recent Canadian history; while minority governments aren’t new or unusual in Canadian political history, the margin for the “ruling” party to carry out their agenda will be virtually absent.

The final days of this nasty, vicious election campaign are here. Make sure you don’t forget the vote on Monday.

ELECTION BLOG: WAITING FOR THE TIDE TO TURN… AND FAHRENHEIT 9/11

Greetings,

It looks like the Liberals have, since last week’s TV debates, turned things around, albeit slightly. Right now, the Liberals and Conservatives are in a virtual dead heat at the polls, and now things are getting even more interesting with the prospect that NDP leader Jack Layton and Liberal leader Paul Martin are open to discussing potential partnerships in government if the Liberals form a minority government. However, this partnership would hinge on if the NDP’s demand of a national referendum on proportional representation would go ahead or not.

FAHRENHEIT 9/11: The most anticipated new film of 2004 is only days away from its general release and the hype has already begun. Michael Moore, the resident left-wing showman who’s become a global icon railing against George W. Bush and his crew, is facing equal amounts of support at Salon (day pass required) and condemnation by Christopher Hitchens. In any case, this film is going stir things up pretty seriously in the U.S. Presidential election.

ELECTION BLOG: THINGS FALL APART?

Greetings,

Some of you may have been directed here via this link already, but my next piece has been posted on the CBC’s web site today. You can read it here.

Today marks the final week of campaigning for the parties, heading into the big day next Monday. It’s definitely been quite the election this year. For one, it’s impossible to know what the outcome of Monday’s election will be. Liberal minority or Conservative minority? Will the NDP play a role in the balance of power in Parliament? What of the Bloc Quebecois? Will the Greens make the breakthrough they’ve wanted for years and win a seat in B.C.?

There are so many unanswered questions. Yet one thing is for sure: if the Liberals want to prevent a Conservative government (which is looking very possible now), now is the time to make it happen.

Paul Martin decided to throw down the gauntlet today regarding health care negotiations with the provinces if the Liberals win the election. He’s campaigning like mad in Ontario this week (really, it is a province the Liberals have to win in order to secure government) and making it clear that, in a somewhat unconventional stance for a Liberal, that the federal government will make changes with the provinces over the administration of health care.

Yet this pales in comparison to the exchanges last week over the somewhat-uncertain linkages the Liberals made between Conservative leader Stephen Harper and Alberta Premier Ralph Klein. It is alleged that Harper and Klein are in an alliance to reform health care into a mixed, public-private system that could undermine universal medicare in Canada. It’s hard to say what, exactly, this would entail, but the Liberals are now trying everything in their war chest to discredit Harper and the Conservatives on a national scale.

If you think that the campaigning last week was nasty, this week will be even worse in the mudslinging department.

ELECTION BLOG: DOWN TO THE WIRE

Greetings,

Sorry about the delay since my last posting; it’s been a very busy week and I’m finally getting a chance to make a posting.

We’re entering the home stretch in this election, a contest that has been fascinating and brutal in an almost Shakespearean-fashion. The reversal of fortune for Paul Martin and the Liberal Party, the near quixotic rise of Jack Layton and the NDP, and the accidential political tourist known as Stephen Harper and the Conservatives. The Green Party, formerly known as a fringe element in Canadian politics, will become the fourth (or fifth in Quebec, given the strength of the Bloc Quebecois) major party upon qualifying for federal funding after this election (and make no mistake: the Greens will win a seat in this election, no doubt).

Now, with the Conservatives in the lead, it’s a battle to the finish for the Liberals to save this election. While Stephen Harper is generally right when he says there’s little chance the Liberals will win a majority government now (although never rule out the “holding-nose” philosophy of voting Grit at the last minute), the Liberals will be hitting up Ontario, Manitoba and B.C. ridings with fierce determination over the next week or so to ensure Liberal “strongholds” will stay Liberal after June 28th.

ELECTION BLOC: LEADERS’ DEBATE

Greetings,

This is an important week in the federal election campaign, for it is the best chance for party leaders to connect with the people on national television: the French and English TV leaders’ debates.

Elections have been won and lost in these debates throughout Canadian history (check out these links on the CBC’s web site to watch and listen to some old election-related stories). In 1984, Brian Mulroney went on the offensive against then-Liberal leader John Turner – Mulroney’s vicious, cutting attacks against Liberal largesse helped him win the largest majority in Canadian history. In 1993, Jean Chretien took leadership neophyte Kim Campbell down several notches with his arguments against Tory fiscal mismanagement. In 2000, Stockwell Day used a prop (a no-no in televised debates) which Joe Clark quickly snapped out of his hands and humiliated Day in a way that indirectly helped the Liberals win another majority government. So as you can see, debates are essential to helping form public opinion.

There’s a lot riding on this year’s debate, more so than ever before. For one, all party leaders can speak fluently in both official languages (a nice change from the unilingualism of “certain” party leaders of the past). More so, this will be the first federal leaders’ debate since 1993 that has a unified conservative party. There are four parties participating (although the Greens, now a force in Canadian politics, were inexplicably excluded from the debate, although that won’t be happening next time around) and all four leaders have a lot to gain out of the debate.

Paul Martin, with his Liberal party struggling badly this campaign and dropping fast in the polls, needs to hit a home run in both French and English to turn the tide. Stephen Harper, on the other hand, only needs to push his party’s momentum further. He will be attacked by both Martin and NDP leader Jack Layton equally; Harper’s lead in the polls means that Layton must attack the Conservatives and Liberals equally in order to prevent progressives migrating to the Liberals. Some may view a vote for the NDP as a vote for the Conservatives, given that the Liberals are the only real way to stop a Conservative election win.

But the real pressure is on Martin, a man who’s watching a Greek tragedy unfold before his eyes. He’s got only two chances to stop public perception that the Liberals are tired, bloated and need to be kicked out of government.

For the French debate, it will be essential to voice how the Liberals will make real changes for Quebec, and how the province benefits more from a voice in Confederation, rather than by supporting the sky-high Bloc Quebecois (they just polled at their highest in party history, which is a bad, bad sign for the Liberals).

The English debate will be about Martin deflecting the AdScam controversy, true, but more importantly, will also be about Martin demonstrating that he is change without risk – his primary selling point to Canadians in the first place. He will be ruthless about describing the Conservatives as “barbarians at the gate” who will transform Canada into a satellite state of the U.S., destroying uniquely “Canadian” values.

In any case, get ready for some spectacular politics – one of the most important debates in Canadian history is about to be underway.

ELECTION BLOG: LIBERALS IN SERIOUS TROUBLE

Greetings,

Today marked a new sea change in the federal election – the Liberals are, according to campaign co-chairman David Herle, in “…a spiral right now that we have to arrest.”

He’s got good reason to be worried: the Grits are falling fast at the polls, much faster than anyone had originally predicted. So, in an effort to stop the bleeding, the new Liberal attack ads came out Wednesday night.

They state, in no uncertain terms, that Stephen Harper and the Conservatives represent a fundamental threat to Canada as we know it. The ads claim that Harper wants to spend heavily on the military, revoke a woman’s right to choose, and make an unholy alliance with the Bloc Quebecois in order to retain a coalition government.

Indeed, these are scary days for the Liberals. They have to turn it around soon, at least remain neck-in-neck with the Conservatives before the English and French TV leaders’ debates. In any case, this election just continues to get more and more interesting.