Real change in Ottawa?

Posted 01.27.15

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | While we, and apparently much of Canada, are still happy with the results of last fall's federal election, it's worthwhile to consider that election in terms of Canada's electoral history. The most common view is that Mr Trudeau's convincing victory marks a significant shift in popular feeling and in the country's vision of its future.

We feel this enthusiasm because the Trudeau win apparently marks an about-face from the agenda of the Conservative government - - Trudeau's promise on marijuana is merely the poster-child for this "change."

Trudeau also promised very different approaches on issues of more importance than recreational drug-use: deficit spending, economic stimulation, voting reform, refugees, military involvements, aboriginal communities, health budgets, missing women, on and on. So many promises to fulfil!

But every turn-over in government does this.

Each new government arrives with different plans, befitting that party's history and mission. We are hungry for better government, not just new faces.

The paradox is that almost everyone agrees that this last election was "to get rid of Harper." Canadian voters picked the Liberals because the voters felt the Grits had the better chance, across in the country, to meet this single goal. Last fall's election was all about voting out Harper.

Doesn't that makes the election no different than any other, no more radical and no fresher? Was it one more example of the old Canadian tradition of using elections to get rid of people and parties, voting negatively?

"Canadians vote against candidates, not for them," is our historical record. Even if we can properly call Trudeau's 39 percent-plus vote a "landslide," wouldn't a genuinely radical departure by voters have been to follow their first choice in polls (over first few weeks of the campaign) and elect a Mulcair government?

Despite Mr Mulcair's excessive caution in framing his platform, a majority NDP federal government would indeed have been a significant break with history. Voting again for the Liberals, isn't; it's repeating the old pattern of vote for one side until we are sufficiently disappointed, disgusted, usually, and then vote in the opposite side; when they disappoint us, we go back to our original choice, and so on. Not a thing radical here.

Voting for Forces et democracie, Greens, the Bloc, Christian Heritage, or the Marxists, these too would have been radical results. Voting in Liberals after a Conservative run isn’t.

Of course, Mr. Trudeau, Mr. Amos, Mr. Fergus, and the rest of the Liberal caucus can turn this see-saw tradition on its head by really opting for the new, rather than for the different. Wiggling out of the promise to really change the voting system, the TPP's anti-farm clauses, and keeping C-51 in place, these are huge dead-weights from the past.

Why are the Liberals carrying them for the Conservatives? Those are Conservative planks: no voting reform, free trade for corporations, excessive secrecy and police power - - why support these old policies that are failures in the eyes of the Canadian electorate? Why were we so anxious to get rid of the Tories?

If our new government wants to break out of the old negative mind-set, voting against, not voting for, let's see genuine voting reform, proportional voting, so every vote does count. A bait-and-switch move would only confirm our "same old, same old" perception of national politics.

Forty years from now will this election still seem to have been a watershed? The style, the fresh-air, the cooperativeness are very welcome, but the real proof has to be in the pudding. We are ready for it.


Copyright © 2016 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/01.16