Canada is currently in the middle of the longest election campaign in memory. It was officially called on August 2nd, and the vote will take place October 19. (Normal election campaigns run 5 or 6 weeks; one recent one ran about 8 weeks. But the current campaign’s ten weeks is apparently the longest since 1872.) And campaigning really began (unofficially) well before that – possibly as early as the tail of the Alberta election in May.
If the Conservatives win, Prime Minister Steven Harper will be the first in over a century to win four consecutive elections.
And that would be bad news.
It’s not that I don’t like Harper and his party.
Well, okay, it sort of is.
They have been systematically poisoning Canada in two unconscionable ways. First, they are destroying our capacity to know what is happening by muzzling scientists (ask the CBC, the Huffington Post, Democracy Watch, and the New York Times, for example) and turning a valuable census into an anemic survey. Second, they have been stripping Canadians of their rights by passing the abominable Bill C-51, which brushes aside civil liberties in the interest of a questionable strategy for combatting terrorism, and by treating dual citizens as second-class citizens with its bill C-24. These last are purportedly in the name of being tough on crime and on terrorism. But it betrays a lack of imagination that they think the way to protect us from the few bad people in our country is by breaking the core freedoms and rights of law-abiding Canadians.
So yah, I don’t like the Conservatives. I don’t like Harper.
Now, we recently managed to vote out a Conservative party in Alberta which had become so complacent after 40 years in power that even with advance survey results predicting the change, some of us didn’t believe it would really happen. But it did.
And, while I happen to be quite happy with our new government in Alberta, I am even more happy that we, a socially and fiscally conservative province, showed politicians that nobody is invincible. The NDP government is going to heroic lengths to ensure that their budgets and other actions reflect the needs and desires of Albertans. And if, in a future election, we bring back a Conservative government, I predict that it will be a much humbler, chastened party, and will try very hard to govern in line with what people want and need.
With Steven Harper aiming to win an alarming fourth consecutive term as prime minister, I think it’s time we taught our federal parties the same lesson. For most of Canadian history, the roles of government and official opposition have passed between the Conservatives and the Liberals. Now, polls are (tentatively) suggesting that the NDP – the federal counterpart of the same party that overturned Alberta’s political landscape – may form the next Canadian government.
Now, I’m not sure the NDP would be my first choice. I think the Liberals have some things going for them, though I share an antipathy that many Western Canadians have toward that party. (Harper gained power on the heels of scandals among the previous Liberal government.) Elizabeth May, the leader of the Green Party, has (in my opinion) proven to be a much better leader than any of the other leaders in debates and appearances so far. But the Greens are a long shot, and as much as I hate the idea of strategic voting, I don’t want my support for them to split a vote and let Harper stay in power.
One thing that may get the NDP my vote over their opponents is a promise of electoral reform. I believe that proportional representation – the currently most-popular alternative – would make it harder for a single party to hold power for as long and to act as unilaterally as Harper’s Conservatives have done. I think that would invigorate and strengthen our democracy.
But, like many Canadians, my first priority this election is to get Harper out. Get the Conservatives out. I like the idea of a “third party” forming government, just to make it clear to the Conservatives and the Liberals that they don’t own this country, and tactics of fear and smear cannot buy them power.
I encourage other Canadians to do the same – especially Albertans. Don’t let Harper’s rhetoric of fear scare you into following him. Don’t let the uncertainty of an untested party push you toward the certainty of a party that strips away Canadians’ rights and muzzles the people who can give us an unbiased answer to important questions.
Change can be scary. But voting for Harper is choosing to stay in an abusive relationship.
I think I’ll leave the last word to someone who is experiencing first-hand the sort of muzzling that Harper’s party is happy to keep doling out: Tony Turner, writer and performer of the viral “Harperman” video: