US 2008 Election

Canadians long calling for Electoral Reform may finally have some support after millions of dollars have been squandered on an election that produced another minority government, no change in Canada’s leadership and no indication of a more effective House of Commons.

Tuesday’s Federal Election proved that the winning party – Stephen Harper’s Conservatives – do not represent the will of the majority of voters. The Conservatives captured just 37% of the popular vote while the combination of Liberal, NDP and Green voters represented 51% of Canadian ballots, indicating Canada suffers from the Ralph Nader Effect: a fatal splitting of the left of centre vote that allows the right wing party to win. Ironically, many suspect Nader’s 2008 US presidential candidacy will actually help Democrat Barack Obama rather than splitting the traditional left, but historically, Nader’s runs for the presidency have hurt the left and many blame him for the 2000 and 2004 Democratic losses.

So, what are the options in democracy where diverse parties and ideologies are encouraged? Countries such as the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Australia adopted the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system and swear by it, but in North America, the vote counting and transfer system that sounds a little too much like a disease you might get from sleeping around at rave parties has failed to catch on. People like the concept of their vote counting even if their first choice candidate isn’t in first place, but it is complex enough that Joe Six Pack won’t be a fan, much less understand it. Check out this BC-produced video explaining how it works far better than anything else I’ve seen.


While this system makes sense and the most use of one’s vote, there is another option to consider – one that has worked pretty well for Stephen Harper: amalgamation of the left. Recognizing the potentially fatal split developing among Canada’s right wing parties in the early 2000s, in 2003, Harper manged to bring together the Reform Party of Canada faithful – who had recently morphed into the too-radical-for-even-most-right-wingers Canadian Alliance Party – to form the Conservative Party currently in power in Canada. Some of the Progressive Conservatives of old – a decidedly more centerist party than the Conservatives – came along for Harper’s ride, but many feared Harper’s neo-con agenda, choosing to either leave politics or join the Liberal Party of Canada.

Say what you want about Stephen Harper, but this was a masterstroke for him – and arguably rang the death knell for the Canada we love – enabling the right to attain governing party status in a predominantly socially progressive country. If the Liberals, the New Democrats and the Greens could forge such an alliance, they would be elected and free to advance an agenda of social responsibility, fiscal conservatism and environmental action.

This election carried with it more talk about leadership or the lack of it than any in recent memory. If the Stephane Dions, Jack Laytons and Elizabeth Mays of the country put aside their own egos and pride and called for a national convention of socially and environmentally progressive parties, perhaps they could forge a similar alliance and pull Canada out of the ditch Stephen Harper has pushed us into.

Time will tell, but that’s the kind of Green Shift we could all get behind.


Taking a page from George Bush’s Chicken Little public warning strategy, this week Stephen Harper portrayed his Conservative Party as the only reliable, safe, responsible choice to lead Canada through the current economic crisis. This is not true and a growing grassroots uprising of concerned Canadians is fighting against the national media monopoly to make you aware of how to make your vote count as one for anyone but Harper.

Award-winning journalist, economist and outspoken critic of globalization Naomi Klein weighed in on the Canadian election at a recent lecture given at the University of Regina and called for a coalition of Canada’s left-centre parties to thwart a re-election of Harper’s Conservative Party. As the author of the highly prescient 2007 book, “Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism”, based on the premise that political leaders exploit moments of crisis to further their power and amend rules in favour of corporate capitalism, Klein sees the same tactics used by George Bush employed by Stephen Harper. Here’s how Klein expressed it:

In Canada, Stephen Harper fits the archetype of the father-figure type leader who steps in during crises and reassures the population that all will be well as long as he is given more power, she said.

“I think we need to be extremely wary of how a new Harper government would fit in as this (U.S.) crisis migrates to Canada.”

“It’s an important time for 800 people to gather,” she said, referring to the overflowing hall. “We can fall apart and look to leaders to save us, or we can rise to the occasion. We can regress or we can grow up – and it’s time to grow the hell up.”

Why should you, as an average Canadian, fight to save Canada?

First, let’s review Harper’s record. What Harper, a trained economist, fails to mention is that his Conservative government lead Canada into the current recession – Canada’s only period of negative growth in recent memory – largely due to his decision to cut the Federal Goods and Services Tax (GST) from 7% to 6% on July 1, 2006, and then further down to 5% on January 1, 2008. This was an election promise Harper kept, in stark contrast to promises to refrain from taxing Income Trusts and to increase child care options for Canadian parents. He also overturned promises previous governments have made to Canadians, such as reneging on the Kelowna Accord for our First Nations citizens, cutting Federal funding to the arts and proposing film censorship law in the form of Bill C-10.

Harper continually speaks of electing a leader you can trust, but clearly, his flip flops and broken promises aren’t to be viewed as indications of his dishonesty, only his father-knows-best desire to do what’s needed for Canada. Canadians must see through this for the good of Canada. He portrays the other leaders – Liberal Stephane Dion, Bloc Gilles Duceppe, Green Party Elizabeth May and New Democrat Jack Layton as not to be trusted, but no one has screwed up and screwed over our country like Harper has. There have been rumblings of a Green/Liberal alliance, but nothing concrete – we must call on these leaders to put their own ambitions aside for the good of the country and encourage voters to think strategically.

On the world stage, Harper and his staff have continually exhibited decidedly un-Canadian positions, voting against a United Nations declaration supporting Aboriginal rights, failing to participate in the now-defunct Kyoto Accord and helping George Bush scuttle the environment agenda at the 2008 G8 Summit in Japan.

Closer to home, Harper Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxime Bernier committed a national security breach of epic proportions by leaving a classified document at his former biker-chick’s apartment – a relationship Harper knew of and did not think was a problem – for several months before anyone know it was missing.

Health Minister Tony Clement seems to be constantly asleep at the switch, stumbling his way through the Walkerton water tragedy, the listeriosis outbreak, and Canada’s position on INSITE, Vancouver’s safe injection site, as it relates to controlling the spread of HIV and AIDS.

Harper has long appealed to the segment of the Canadian population seduced by promises of tax cuts and cash incentives and ignorant of Canada’s environmental responsibilities and poor record in the eyes of the world. His policies appeal to those less interested in responsibility and more interested in entitlement.

By voting strategically, you can help to ensure the left-centre vote is not split. There are numerous groups working to help you vote to beat Conservatives in every close riding in the country that isn’t a Conservative lock to thwart a Conservative majority. Many of them explain it better that I could, so I urge you to check them out. campaign

Facebook page: Canadians United Against Stephen Harper

Vote Pair

Anyone But Harper

The Wrecking Ball

Department of Culture

Stephen Harper thinks Canadians are stupid – really stupid. He thinks we look at him in his warm sweater vest, hugging Asian babies and huddling around immigrant kitchen tables and believe that he’s changed, that he’s just like one of us, down there in the trenches, eking out a living.

"I can't see his teeth - what does he hide?"  Moonstruck

But, he’s not one of us. He is an arrogant, hypocritical opportunist determined to tell you and I what we need in government, what we need in our lives and what we need in our country – and he will only tell us these things through carefully scripted, painstakingly researched bites screened through his office by his people. Heck, even his people can’t actually speak for their own campaigns, as we saw this week when Surrey, BC Conservative candidate Donna Cadman was muzzled by Harper staff at a function in her home town.

Are Canadians buying the fatherly schtick Harper puts on – and he doesn’t even do it well – while trying to hide his true Machiavellian, Big Brother, neo-Con mish-mash of an agenda? One wonders when poll after poll show the Conservatives in a comfortable lead – how is this possible? Harper is uber-intelligent, no one doubts that for a moment; he is a policy and process wizard. But where he falters is in trying to sell his regular guy image to a country he runs under the assumption his subjects are all far too stupid to understand the issues or manage the country themselves.

Even when he lies to us – as on October 31, 2006 when Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced new taxes on income trusts for Canadians in clear contravention of a Harper election promise not to tax the investment vehicle – he tells us we need it this new way. He flip flops his way through election promises: a Ford prop up here, stricter environmental penalties there – ooo, say five dollars per indiscretion, up from three for corporate polluters? – a “tougher” Youth Criminal Justice Act there, a jab at members of Canada’s vibrant arts community who apparently attend too many fancy galas for the liking of a PM who looks like he’s known more “tax-payer-subsidized” buffet tables than Kirstie Alley. And all for what?

Canadians – even those who might vote Conservative and could be considered politically stupid or unsophisticated – wonder what Harper really stands for, or, more accurately, will he ever reveal his true agenda? He says – like most politicians – what he has to in order to get elected, then disregards it all and gets down to serving up the real Conservative menu of law and order, militarization, globalization, and – oh yes, let us not forget – bowing and scraping at the feet of the American neo-Con movement and its unfortunate government of the moment.

The American cruise missile, whose tail to which Harper has so firmly attached Canada’a fortunes, is about to crash, as evidenced by John McCain’s numerous blunders this week culminating with his latest announcement that he will suspend his campaigning in order to go to Washington and help George Bush sell his woefully misguided economic bail out plan to increasingly dubious taxpayers. McCain apparently thinks Americans are stupid, too and that might not be working for him.

Many believe this is McCain’s way to avoid or postpone looming presidential and vice-presidential debates at a time when his leadership and decision-making are under fire and the physical manifestation of his worst decision – the choice of Sarah Palin as his Vice-Presidential running mate – sits marinading for what would be the worst wolf attack since maybe somethin’ that happened in Alaska one time. (Gosh, I’m startin’ to sound like her!)

There are choices, Canada – Stephane Dion and Elizabeth May don’t seem to think we’re stupid. Now, if we can just work out a way to join forces to beat Harper’s machine, we can move on to the business of fixing our economy, our environment and our arts and social programs. Are we smart enough to do it, Canada?