Sunday, March 27, 2011

The writ has dropped

It's official: May 2 is the day that democracy will officially be declared dead in Canada. Or so Michael Ignatieff might have you believe. With the "success" of the three opposition parties toppling the Conservative minority government in a non-confidence vote (a first in Canadian history), Canadians are now preparing for their fourth election in seven years. Although there has been some framing of this election as an issue of ethics or accountability, it really seems to stem more from Michael Ignatieff (in particular) attempting to seize the momentum than it does an injustice in democracy. Regardless of the initiative in inciting the election, we Canadians are now subjected to over a month of bickering, bantering, blustering, debating, mud-slinging, oversimplifying, analyzing, and prognosticating. So, with that in mind, here are my ten predictions for the campaign and election.

1. Stephen Harper will continue to serve as Prime Minister of a Conservative minority government. I don't see that Canadians will see Michael Ignatieff as a capable PM, and I don't see that the Conservatives will gain the 12 seats needed to gain a majority government. Two more years of the status quo (if it can last that long).

2. The Conservative plurality will be lower than the last election (perhaps by as much as 10-15 seats), but the shift will not be significant enough to swing the power to the Liberals. With the Globe and Mail predicting that there are about 90 seats (just under 30% of the 308 total seats) that could swing, with only 50 of those deciding the election (including mine), it seems like the 40 or so seats the Liberals would likely need to take a plurality are not there.

3. Despite the accusations and committee findings about contempt of Parliament, the Conservatives will be given the opportunity to govern (unless the Liberals unexpectedly form government with a plurality of votes, which as aforementioned seems unlikely). "Coalition" has already been bandied about as one of the buzzwords of the election, and it seems unlikely that Governor-General David Johnston would prefer to allow a two or three party coalition to govern over the incumbent party.

4. This election will feature the lowest turnout in Canadian electoral history. The 2008 election holds the current record, at 59.1%, and it only seems that that number will go down. It seems that as long as the seat-holding parties are led by old white men that many Canadians feel increasingly disenfranchised with the system. Big surprise.

5. The proposed (and already approved) electoral reforms will resurface this election. Fixed elections, which are already supposed to be part of the Canadian electoral process, and the bill to increase the number of seats to reflect more accurate representation in BC, Alberta, and Ontario, will both be discussed, even insomuch as they both affect the outcome of this election. Most of the underrepresented areas lean Conservative, which seems to be why the bill was squashed. It seems that partisanship actually has taken precedence over democracy, and it will be interesting to see how this discussion evolves.

6. The fact that the Green Party may actually have a higher percentage of the popular vote than the Bloc, despite winning 50 fewer seats, will continue to encourage discussion of proportional representation. It is no secret that our current "first-past-the-post" system is almost irreconcilably flawed, especially with a party like the Bloc securing a significant portion of a regional vote. It's not likely anything will change, but the movement will be stronger than ever.

7. This election's results will cause the change of the leader of at least one party. My vote is on Jack Layton resigning his leadership, with the NDP looking forward by bringing in a younger, more vibrant figure to lead them ahead.

8. We will hear the names of former Prime Ministers Alexander Mackenzie (1873-1878), Arthur Meighen (1920s), and Joe Clark (1979) repeatedly from the media, as they will look for different angles to portray in this election. Mackenzie was the beneficiary of John A. Macdonald's Pacific Scandal, Meighen was involved in the King-Byng Constitutional Crisis of 1925-6, and Clark's Conservative minority government was toppled by the other parties. I don't know if any of the comparisons fully work, but they will be used liberally in observing the current government.

9. The Greens will not get a seat. They'll come close, but I don't think they'll break through.

10. At least one of my predictions will be incorrect. (I'm guaranteed to get this one right, because even if my other predictions are all correct, this one wouldn't be. I'm brilliant.)

So, there you have it. Despite my general fatigue with the malaise of partisan politics, I'm still interested to see what will transpire over the next five weeks, and I'm sure I'll be coming back to this topic on occasion, even as I sort out how to vote in my own constituency. I'm looking forward to the discussion, at least, and I hope that you're willing to join me.

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