Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Welcome to Canada...

...where we hold elections that change nothing.

I sat and watched the election coverage last night until they started showing Vancouver information only at about 1:30 am my time. My riding was highly contested and I was anxious to see if my vote mattered.

See, in this country, unless you vote for the person who gets elected in your riding, your vote doesn't count. It is put into the popular vote numbers, but they're mostly just fun statistics, since the popular vote numbers never accurately reflect how the seats in the House of Commons are divided up.

To prove my point, here are the popular vote numbers for the five main political parties in Canada, plus independents:

Conservatives - 37.63%
Liberals - 26.24%
New Democrats - 18.20%
Bloc Québécois - 9.97%
Greens - 6.80%
Independent/Other - 1.16%

and here are the seats won:

Conservatives - 143/308 = 46.43%
Liberals - 76/308 = 24.68%
New Democrats - 37/308 = 12.01%
Bloc Québécois - 50/308 = 16.23%
Greens - 0/308 = 0%
Independent - 2/308 = 0.65%

Does there seem to be some discrepancy in those numbers? The Bloc only runs in Quebec (because they're a separatist party that wants Quebec to cease to be part of Canada), and they get a disproportionately huge influence over the government with over 1.5 times the number of seats that their popular vote percentage would suggest they are owed. The Greens and the NDP both get ripped off for about 6% of their popular vote, and, in the case of the Greens, they get no voice in parliament as a result despite representing a portion of the population only 3% smaller than the Bloc's support. The Conservatives very rarely get more than 40% of the popular vote (that tends to be the left/right split in Canada: 60/40), yet with the right vote-splitting on the left side, they can get 10% more seats than they should. In fact, this election caused only an overall change in popular support of 1% in favour of the Conservatives, but it earned them a 5% increase in the percentage of seats in the House that are theirs.

Fortunately, my somewhat-strategic vote for the Liberals actually mattered this time and my riding went Liberal despite the overwhelming trend towards Conservatives in the non-Toronto, non-Ottawa, non-Hamilton part of southern Ontario. But that didn't make me feel better about the election results.

It costs about 300 million dollars to run an election. Harper called an election way earlier than he needed to in an attempt to get a majority government (probably my worst nightmare). He failed. (This was mostly due to the fact that no one in Ontario, Quebec, or the Maritimes trusts his Alberta Big Oil agenda and religious undertones. Or so I would like to think... it's probably mostly because he does a very poor job of pretending like he cares about or understands ordinary - a.k.a. non-Big-Oil - Canadians at all.) So basically we paid 300 million dollars for nothing, because Harper is still PM (dammit), but still doesn't have a majority (thank goodness).

What I can't understand is why more people aren't suspicious of Stephen Harper. He is a former Canadian Alliance party member - does anyone else remember them? They were the right-wing nutjob party with the ignorant morons who are anti-gay, anti-abortion, pro-gun, pro-privatization, anti-social programs, pro-American, anti-evolution, and pro-Bible. In the wake of the Everyone Hates Mulroney (And Campbell Too) party that was 1993, the centre-right Progressive Conservatives (who are completely reasonable, for the most part) got decimated in the House. To try and bring them back up to their former glory (Mulroney actually had two majority governments prior to his 11% popular support downfall), some members of the PCs decided that a merger with the Alliance crazies (who at the time were doing well out west) was their best option. Joe Clark, my favourite PC leader, was opposed to the idea, as were many others in the party, mostly because although their economic ideals lined up, the Alliance had some seriously Republican ideas about social policy.

The merger went through anyway, and in the ensuing leadership race, they made Stephen Harper, the former-Alliance candidate, their leader. Since then, he has surrounded himself with former-Alliance crazies that he has spent most of his past two years in office trying to keep quiet. After promises in the wake of the Sponsorship Scandal that he would run a transparent and open government, he did NOTHING OF THE SORT. Chrétien may have been involved with some misappropriation of government money, but at least he spoke to reporters briefly and answered questions nearly every day while parliament was in session. Harper, once elected, hid from the media and kept a very tight leash on his cabinet to prevent the nuts from saying anything ignorant and offensive (which they will do, if given half a chance).

Progressive Conservatives, you were complete idiots. You only had to wait a couple more years and the tables would have turned back towards you from the Liberals (hell, with over a decade in power, they were bound to screw it up sometime). Now we're all stuck with our only right-wing party being full of pseudo-Republican lunatics. You will never get a majority government as long as Eastern Canada sees your party as being controlled by the crazy portion of the Albertan right-wing. Harper (and all his cronies) scare the crap out of us. The PCs would have been a viable option when the Liberals fell into corruption. The Harper Conservatives are not.

In a way, this minority government is the best-case-scenario, though. While I feel like Stéphane Dion is sincere and intelligent, he lacks the charisma (in French as well as English) to consolidate the left vote. With this incredibly poor showing in popular support and in seats, Dion will be gone within six months. With luck, the Liberals will get a leader that Canadians can feel good about voting for. And Harper has to be the PM during an economic crisis he is ill-prepared to deal with, and he is totally clueless about Quebec and about the concerns of ordinary Canadians nationwide. If he screws up badly enough, his party might get rid of him later. Best-case-scenario is that the party revolts against his oppressive leadership and too-far-right agenda and they either go back to centre-right or split back into a reasonable party and a nutty party.

In a way, it's a relief to know that Harper got a minority last night. Because if he can't get a majority under last night's circumstances (weak Liberal leader, NDP and Greens pushing hard to split the vote, poor economic conditions that the Conservatives are reputed to be good at fixing), he'll never get one. Ever. And considering the fact that he ended his victory speech with "God bless Canada", I feel like that says a lot for the ability of my fellow Canadians to judge when someone is putting on a nice face until they get enough seats to impose biblical rules on us. We won't put up with that Christian-agenda-pushing Republican-esque shit up here.

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