Tag Archives: election

Will Liberals be Served Crow on a Much Cosier Table?

By Jason Menard

Remember the old jokes? A PC dinner reservation would be announced by the maitre d’ as, “Conservatives – Party of Two.” That was back in 1993 when, after the failure of both Meech Lake and Charlottetown, along with the residual distaste of the GST implementation and the rise of the Reform Party left the once-mighty Progressive Conservatives a shell of their former selves.

So could the Liberals now be preparing for a similar serving of crow in an election that suggests that the once lightly regarded NDP has passed the once-mighty Liberal Party of Canada in the polls? Continue reading

Left-Leaners Must Decide Whether to Vote with Head or Heart

By Jason Menard, 

If you’re a left-leaning voter in this Canadian federal election, you’re faced with more than the obvious four options when you step up to the ballot box — you’ve also got to deal with an even harder question: to vote with your head or with your heart.

Oh to be a conservative voter. It would be so much easier, since you really and truly only have one choice. But for those of us who find ourselves on the left-hand side of the political spectrum, in addition to the Liberal/NDP/Green debate, you also have to whether you’re willing to engage in strategic voting. Continue reading

Be Careful for What You Wish

By Jason Menard

The smile is there and all the right words were said, but somewhere deep inside one has to think that Stephen Harper realizes that just about the worst outcome came to bear on Monday night.

Sure, his name will go on the list of Canadian Prime Ministers, but things are set up in such a way that he may join Joe Clark as nothing more than a footnote in the leadership history of this country. He has the power, but in name only.

Conversely, another man destined to be a Prime Ministerial footnote goes out the same way he spent his entire Liberal tenure – as the good soldier. For years, Martin’s been the solid backbone of the Liberal party, biding his time, and playing second-fiddle to the more extravagant Jean Chrétien. And, once the reins of power were finally turned over, Chrétien and the political culture he fostered again rose up to stab his old nemesis in the back.

Today is a new day for Canada – and the beginning of the end of the Conservatives.

Harper’s House is stacked with enemies around every corner. While the Liberal minority was buffered by socially similar allies in both the NDP and Bloc, the Conservatives find themselves alone on the right. There’s no way that the left-leaning parties are going to support any of the Tories’ more aggressive platforms, so the Conservatives will find it increasingly difficult to get anything done in this Parliament. And that alone spells doom for Harper.

Think back just a few months ago to when many in the Tory camp weren’t just ready for Harper to fall on his sword – they were lining up to give him a little push! Faced with a stiff opposition to his minority rule, his ineffectiveness will no doubt rankle the Hawks in his party who have had enough of playing the patient game. Now that the tape is off their collective mouths, what’s to stop them from flying off the handle very early into the mandate?

Now that the Conservatives are in power, they have the responsibility for cleaning up Parliament – as they’ve promised. But with the final Gomery report on its way, what happens if the systemic corruption to which the Tories have alluded never actually materializes. They’ve used the spectre of greater improprieties much in the same way as the Republicans used the treat of Weapons of Mass Destruction – so what happens if the Tories’ search ends up as “fruitful”?

So we turn to the Liberals, who now are searching for a leader in the wake of Martin’s decision to step down. What better way to wipe the slate clean of the sponsorship scandal than to usher in fresh, new leadership? One gets the impression that this election was more a referendum on Martin’s leadership than a coronation of Harper. And, in the end, the Liberals showed much stronger than expected. What does that say about the Canadian voters’ interests?

A new leader, a renewed focus on the social issues that matter to Canadians, buffered by the financial strength displayed over years of government make the Liberals an attractive option for people looking for long-term stability. A Liberal party that many Canadians already support headed by a new leader without all of Martin’s baggage? That’s a recipe for victory.

So what is Harper to do? He can’t call a snap election in the midst of a Liberal leadership race hoping to capitalize on the leadership fallout (much as the Liberals tried to do with the questions about Harper hanging over his head). If he does that, two things happen: Martin pulls a Trudeau and comes riding back on his white horse to rally the troops back to battle; and the electorate – already frustrated with two elections in two years – fights back against the opportunism and ineffective governance that the Conservatives will have provided.

In the end, Harper can only sit and wait. The Liberals will rise, his government will be handcuffed by its minority status, and it will only be a matter of time until the Conservatives are calling for his head. And the Conservatives going into another election with a lame duck candidate, reeling from the arrows in his back, and an electorate looking for the stability and five-year security of a majority government all spells a Liberal resurgence sooner rather than later.

But at least, until that time, Harper will have a nice place on Sussex Drive to fiddle from as his party slowly burns.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Right, Privilege, or Obligation?

By Jason Menard

It’s a good thing the skies were clear across the country for Monday’s federal election – one would have hated to see how much lower voter turnout would have been with a little inclement weather. But thanks to those clear skies, it’s plain to see that if so few of us choose to vote, maybe that privilege should no longer be available.

Preliminary numbers indicate that approximately 65 per cent of registered Canadian voters exercised their democratic right to vote. But before we go patting ourselves on the back for the slight increase in voter turnout at this year’s election, we must realize that a little better than unacceptable is still unacceptable.

Less than two-thirds is just not good enough and perhaps it’s time to stop thinking of voting as a democratic right, but rather as a civic obligation.

Most tellingly, our apathy towards the electoral process shows how little appreciation we have for the lifestyle we live and how little respect we have for those who fight each and every day for the very right we take for granted. Voters in some countries brave the very real risk of casting a ballot under a hail of bullets – and yet a simple hail storm can have disastrous effects on the number of votes cast in this country.

Canada ranks an embarrassing 77 th out of 172 countries for voter turnout, according to a list published by Sweden’s International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. The list compiles statistics from all Presidential and Parliamentary elections since 1945 and finds that Canada has averaged 68.4 per cent in voter turnout – and we appear to be working hard to lower that number with each and every passing election. On the bright side, we’re better than Mali, where only 21.7 per cent of voters turn out, but we’re shamed by the Italians, who come out in droves on election day to the tune of 92.5 per cent.

Of course, the Italians have long place innocuous sanctions against those who choose not to vote. Essentially, those who choose not to vote may have a tougher time getting access to government services. In Belgium, they go a step further. With the world’s oldest compulsory voting system, which was established in 1892 for men and 1949 for women, Belgians aged 18 or old who choose not to vote may be levied with a small fine. More importantly, if they fail to cast a ballot in at least four elections, then they lose the right to vote for 10 years.

Other countries have similar formal and non-formal sanctions, and the practice is hotly debated in each and every country. That being said, according to International IDEA, 84.9 per cent of Belgians get out and vote.

So what’s the answer? Politicians and non-governmental organizations have tried every trick under the sun to engage the electorate in the process. Polling stations are set up so conveniently that people can basically crawl to the ballot box – and, of course, if you need a little help getting to the vote, the political parties will fall all over themselves trying to get you there.

But how do you cure apathy about the process? It’s clear that there’s no apathy about the government, because while only two-thirds of us vote, a much higher percentage feels free to vent our opinions. So it’s the actual process of getting to the ballot box that is the impediment.

Forcing people to go to vote with sanctions is not the right answer. You have to weigh what’s better: a smaller voter turnout with people who are engaged in the process and, hopefully, knowledgeable about who they’re casting a ballot for; or a larger cross-section of people, some of whom may spoil the ballot or cast protest votes out of spite?

Maybe the Belgians have it right. Voting is your privilege in a free society, but if you don’t use it you lose it. To maintain the right to vote, you have an obligation to exercise it.

After all, the small amount of work it takes to make and execute an informed choice in an election pales in comparison with the Herculean efforts other people in this world go through just to exercise the very right that so many of us take for granted.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Walking a Fine Line

By Jason Menard

A little Conservative thinking can go a long way to giving us the Canada we’re looking for. Politics truly is a dangerous game and with election day upon us, it’s time for Canadians to roll the dice. The only hope is that we don’t overbid and crap out.

It pains my left-leaning heart to say it, but the best situation for this country may be the rise of a Conservative minority government. Yet, in their rush to heap scorn on the Liberal Party of Canada, Canadians may go too far in their punishment and feel the karmic whiplash of getting exactly what they asked for.

In general, Canada is a fairly left-leaning country, as evidenced by three socially progressive federal parties: the Liberals, the New Democratic Party, and the Bloc Quebecois. In fact, throw in the Green’s supporters and you have a significant segment of voters who have displayed support for socially left-wing policy in the past. So how is it that we’ve been at the cusp of a Conservative majority for the past couple of weeks leading up to today’s election?

To be honest, I still haven’t made up my mind for whom I’m going to vote. Presented with two strong left-leaning candidates in my riding I have a difficult choice.

Do I choose the Liberal candidate who has been the co-founder and volunteer executive director of the city’s Food Bank for 19 years? The man who works to build schools and end slavery in Sudan? The man who, on top of all this, has been a firefighter and Captain for 28 years? Or do I go NDP and choose the candidate who has been a long-time advocate for social rights in the community? A woman who transitioned from a teaching job to the world of politics and has demonstrated caring and integrity? A woman who champions anti-racism and accessibility causes – and who has the experience that comes with being elected as a MPP?

For once, I don’t have to choose from the lesser of two evils! I just have to figure out which candidate walks on water better. But for the country, what I want is completely different.

Simply put, a Conservative minority government means that everyone wins. Well, almost everyone – everyone but the Conservatives and the taxpayers, in the end.

The Conservatives get power – however fleeting it may be. But their minority status ensures that once the gaffer tape has been ripped from the mouths of the far-right-wing elected representatives, they won’t have the numbers to enact any particularly damaging legislation.

The NDP will continue in its role as the social conscience of the House of Commons. Either with the same number or an increase in the number of seats, they should be able to be a strong voice in Parliament for however long this Parliament lasts.

And finally, the Liberals can begin the process of rebuilding their party. Unfortunately, Paul Martin has been forever stained with the corruption that came before him (and, admittedly, went on while he was around). Ever the good soldier, Martin was forced to fall on the sword set up by his former nemesis Jean Chrétien.

As long as Martin is in power, a significant number of people who would normally consider voting for the Liberal party will stay away, simply because they can’t get by the stink of corruption that Martin has been infused with. Whether or not he’s been involved, he’s been cast as the lead role in this production of entitlement and patronage.

The Liberals need a clean slate. Martin needs to step back to the private sector, having realized his dream if only for a little while. And the party needs to find new and dynamic leadership. Whether Frank McKenna comes back from exile (OK, Washington, but it’s the same thing) or Michael Ignatieff ever acts upon the promise that others have seen in him, the Liberals need to start fresh.

After that, the country’s ripe for their picking. After almost two decades in power, Canadians obviously are comfortable with a Liberal government. In fact, the polls indicate that Canadians, as a whole, are a little leery of the whole Reform/Alliance influence on the Conservatives. That’s why the electorate has made a sharp turn left the moment a Tory majority was predicted.

Once the leadership race is over, expect the pressure to force another election to come in waves. And, on the hook for yet another election bill, Canadians may go the route of a certain five-year majority with a party they’re comfortable with – a reborn Liberal party.

It’s a roll of the dice that sees the very future of our country at stake.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved