Tuesday, June 29, 2004

NEWMARKET-AURORA

It seems that I seriously misjudged the electoral mood in my hometown riding. That may in part be due to the fact that we cancelled our subscription to the local paper, I don't know, however I thought that Stronach was going to take a solid victory last night. I expected her to get close to fifty percent of the vote with the Liberals and NDP splitting the other half fairly evenly. As it turned out Stronach and the Liberal candidate, Martha Hall Findlay, split nearly evenly 42-41 with the NDP taking only ten percent and the Greens five.

I had thought that Stronach would cruise to victory on her family name, which is so well known locally, combined with her increased profile from the leadership contest and anger towards the Liberals. However, it appears that the outcome in Newmarket-Aurora was fairly typical of most Ontario ridings last night. Undecideds and waffling Liberals ended up bearing down and again voting for the party they felt safest with. Stronach's profile and perhaps her outspoken moderation on abortion and same-sex marriage were possibly what saved her from the somewhat unexpected defeat so many of her 905 Conservative collegues faced.

If, before the election, I had to choose only one of the two also-rans from the Conservative leadership contest to lose their riding I would have chosen Stronach over Clement. However, I have to say that Stronach's performance in this election certainly impressed me and her political fortunes are certainly on the rise. I think we'll be seeing more of her in the future.

Post Script- Check out the description of my riding from this Stronach related Toronto Star article:

Led by Magna founder and self-made multi-millionaire Frank Stronach and his wife Elfriede, the Stronach family has a high profile in this affluent, fast-growing region, composed largely of tract-style housing developments, rambling shopping malls and nearly ubiquitous donut shops. The area, which has a population of about 115,000, some 85,000 of whom were eligible to vote, increasingly serves as a dormitory community for people who daily commute to work in Toronto.

That about sums it up. It's non-stop excitment here in Newmarket-Aurora.

Posted by Matthew @ 11:22 AM :: (0) comments

Monday, June 28, 2004

SHORTEST GOVERNMENTS. EVER.

Today's election may end Paul Martin's government, making it one of the shortest lived governments in Canadian history. Also, regardless of who forms the next government, today's election may be only the beginning of the end of one of the shorter governments on record. So, for some comparison, the following are the six shortest governments our country has ever had. Listed are the leader, his or her party affiliation, the length of time the government lasted, and the dates it served during.

1. Sir Charles Tupper (Cons.): 69 days, 1 May 1896-8 July 1896
2. John Turner (Lib.): 80 days, 30 June 1984-17 September 1984
3. Arthur Meighen (Cons.): 107 days, 29 June 1926-25 September 1926
4. Kim Campbell (P.C.): 132 days, 25 June 1993-4 November 1993
5. Paul Martin (Lib.): 199 days, 12 December 2003-Today
6. Joe Clark (P.C.); 273 days, 4 June 1979-3 March 1980

Posted by Matthew @ 12:21 AM :: (0) comments

Thursday, June 24, 2004

NOTHING TO FEAR

Yesterday David Mader told people who are describing the prospect of a Stephen Harper Conservative government as 'scary' to get a grip on reality (I paraphrase). He says there are things in this world that are truly to be feared and that a democratically initiated change in government is not one of them. I conccur, for the reasons Mader lays out, as well as another.

This country has survived several bad governments and many bad specific policies or actions on the part of various governments. We survived Macdonald's handling of the Riel rebellion, we survived debate over war in South Africa under Laurier. We survived two incredibly divisive crises over conscription under Conservative and Liberal prime ministes. Conservative Canadians survived Trudeau, and liberal Canadians survived Mulroney, and we all survived the near-colosal failure of Jean Chretien and all of our elected representatives in October 1995.

My point is that the country, its history, its culture, its people are far greater than any government of five, ten, fifteen or even twenty years. The foundations of this country are strong and no democratically elected government is going to alter them so fundamentally that we should be scared. To think that any government is going to destroy Canada as we know it is to show an incredible lack of faith in and understanding of Canada and its citizens.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:03 PM :: (0) comments

MINORITY GAMBLES

In considering the likelihood of an upcoming minority government Paul Martin recently said that, "It's a common sense proposition that the party that has the most seats is the party that certainly ought to form a government." While this may be 'common sense' it is indeed not the way our Parliamentary system works. As more and more Canadians are learning the government is formed by the leader and the party that can command the confidence of the majority of the house regardless of whether that party holds ten seats or a hundred.

Clearly Paul Martin knows this, so I was initially surprised that he would deny himself the opportunity to form a government even in the event that he does not win the most seats on Monday. Then of course I realized that Martin is simply preparing for the possibility of a very short Conservative minority government. I think Martin has realized that from a public relations standpoint it would be disastrous to attempt to hold onto power by governing with some NDP and Bloc members if the Conservatives won a plurality of seats. Instead Martin seems to be gambling that if the Conservatives do win more seats they that they will not be able to govern for long. This seems to be not too great of a gamble.

In considering the possibility of a minority situation led by the Conservatives, Stephen Harper has said that he will not form any coallitions. He has ruled out governing formally with the Bloc because they do not share the best interests of Canada and also with the NDP because of other obvious ideological differences. So then, a Conservative minority government will most likely need to be propped up by the votes of right leaning Liberals. However, this situation would not be able to continue for long. Depending on how close the Conservatives are to a majority, sooner or later an important enough vote will come along, the Liberals will see an opportunity to defeat the Conservatives and they will crack the party whip to do so. At that point, the Liberals could then attempt to form the government, without holding a new election, and having given the Conservatives their chance. It seems to me, and I believe this is the gamble that Martin is making, that it would be much easier for the Liberals to govern in a minority than for the Conservatives to do so.

Stephen Harper, however, seems to be making a different gamble. Whether the following situation plays out or whether we go straight to a Liberal minority propped up by the NDP Harper also seems to be gambling that such a government will be short lived. He has said, "I will not be making a deal that betrays the promises and the commitments that I made to the electorate in a national election campaign. And if Mr. Martin wants to do that with the NDP or Bloc, and I have no doubt he will, I think he'll pay a longer term price for that." Harper appears to be hoping that a Liberal/NDP minority will prove unpopular and that another not too distant election will return a Conservative majority.

As usual, I can do nothing more than speculate. What seems certain, however, is that a minority government will make politics in this country much more interesting as well as give Canadians, particularly those younger than 30 a constitutional education in the operations of parliamentary democracy.

Posted by Matthew @ 12:12 PM :: (0) comments

Friday, June 11, 2004

VICTORY FOR PRESS FREEDOM

The CBC reports that Elections Canada will not impose media blackouts on the publishing of results on the coming election day. In the past, section 329 of the Elections Act made it illegal for broadcasters and web sites to publish election results from a time zone where polls had closed in a zone where the polls were still open. Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley cited a B.C Superior court decision that ruled section 329 unconstitutional and said that he would essentially apply the precedent nation-wide for the upcoming elecion.

The decision of the B.C court is the right one and Kingsley is commended for seeing its wisdom and taking some initiative in applying the ruling. To deny broadcasters and individual citizens the right to publish election results as soon as they have them was an infringement on freedoms of expression and the press. I also think that Kingsley realized that such media blackouts were becoming increasingly unnenforceable.

I must admit that I am a little dissapointed, if only because I was looking forward to doing my democratic duty by breaking an unjust law on election night, but the decision was the right one.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:32 AM :: (0) comments

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

SURPRISINGLY DISTRACTED BY SUMMER

Prior to the election call there was speculation that an early summertime election would reduce participation in that election, the reasoning being that many people would be distracted by other summertime pursuits. I did not doubt this reasoning, especially when taking the trend of declining voter turnout into consideration, however, I never thought that it would befall me, yet it has.

The country is in the midst of a federal election, yet I am not paying attention to it even at the level that I would normally attend to everyday news. This is surprising to me. Nevertheless other activities such as reading novels (which I don't get to do enough of during the school term), soccer refereeing, playing tennis, watching movies, spending time with family and friends, amongst other relaxing passtimes are all drawing my attention away from the election.

Obviously, this is not to say that I will not be voting, nor that I will be making an uninformed decision. I was nearly certain of how I would cast my vote before the election began and the brief comparisons of party platforms that I have been able to make have so far confirmed my decision. However, I am wondering if my relative lack of disengagement will be reflected in citizen participation both during the campaing and in election day turnout.

Post Script- I'm off to Montreal this morning for my graduation from McGill, which occurs tomorrow. The summertime rate of blogging will likely continue through this week.

Posted by Matthew @ 8:42 AM :: (0) comments