Politics Chatter
Politics Chatter

ELECTION CHATTER (DAY 35): How the game has changed

Day 35: In which contributing editor Mark Bourrie tells it like it is — and urges you to give some serious thought to Monday’s vote.

So, it’s all over but the tears and balloons.

And my days as an election blogger have come to an end.

This election went from being a tedious gambit by Stephen Harper to make a bid for a majority government to become the most important election since 1917. In that election, English Canadians supported the military draft while Québécois opposed it. The Union Government, primarily Conservative, of Sir Robert Borden, was elected, and Conservatives were subsequently shut out of Quebec for 40 years.

Some people might argue this election has been even more of an earth-mover. No matter whether the NDP support in the polls translates into real votes and House of Commons seats on election day, the people of Canada have made it very clear that they are not happy.

They’re not thrilled with the Harper Government and its contempt for Parliament, the media, and other institutions that act as the eyes and ears, and sometimes the voices, of Canadians.

Nor are they happy with packaged politicians who pitch “Family Packs” of vacuous promises that sound like deals at fast food restaurants — probably because the same wizards who do the ads for chicken joints also sell politicians as commodities.

In Quebec, people seem to like their social programs, but are sick of sending 50 obstructionists to Ottawa in every election. While it’s fun at first, throwing rocks at windows turns into work after a while.

So a lot of people — not a majority, probably not even a parliamentary minority — have settled on Jack Layton and the NDP.

I could tell people dozens of reasons why this is a bad idea. Unfortunately, I can’t give them any reasons why they should vote for Stephen Harper or Michael Ignatieff.

Harper is a strange man, and not in the “fun at parties” kind of way. He’s a narcissist, someone with not the slightest bit of embarrassment for rebranding the government after himself or hanging walls of photographs of himself in the Government lobby of the House of Commons.

He has no respect for democracy, which he sees as nothing more than bickering. Anyone who did care about democracy would have taken the House of Common’s contempt motion seriously.

(One of my colleagues in the Press Gallery is a diehard Chinese communist. His views of Parliamentary debate seem to mirror Harper’s.)

He’s an absurdly insecure man, over-confident in his intellect (which, despite the hype, is no great shakes) yet afraid to have his prejudices and shallow thinking challenged by debate or public questioning. He tries to bully people to do his will, and puts no value on intellectual persuasion.

It’s obvious he believes people are stupid and that he’s smart enough to manipulate them.

Ooops, Steve. That didn’t go so well.

Michael Ignatieff never caught on with Canadians for two reasons. One was the vicious, cruel, bullying attack ad campaign that Harper launched against him two years ago. Ignatieff made the fatal error of trying to ignore it, but the crap stuck. The second was the truth of the charge that he had been away for too long. He really did need to earn his spurs in Canadian politics before winning the top job.

He would be smart to stick around. Near the end of the campaign, people began to see just how poorly Ignatieff has been treated.

Conventional wisdom is that Harper will win a minority. In reality, this election night will be full of surprises. We could see anything from a Harper majority to a Layton minority because of vote splitting, strategic voting, and the now-unfathomable “ground game” of volunteers in the country’s 308 ridings.

But even if Harper wins a majority and the Liberals are the main opposition party, the game has changed. No one will ever again say in a leadership debate that an NDP leader has no chance of being elected Prime Minister.

Nor will any party be able to wrap itself in the flag, in Quebec or anywhere else, and be able to own the vote of all regionally patriotic people.

There are now three national parties in Canada. The over-confident neo-conservative movement now has the left breathing down its neck. That will give some pause to Stephen Harper, if he makes the mistake of sticking around, and to people like Tim Hudak in Toronto.

So get some air, enjoy the weekend, and give some thought to voting.

And thanks to the people who read the blog.

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  • Ed

    Thank you so much for your insightful columns. I wish more journalists wrote as clearly and in such a refreshingly non-partisan way. I will be very unhappy if we end up with a Conservative majority. I am 65 years old, have voted in every election for all levels of government and have never been as disgusted with a government as I am with this one. You put it much better than I ever could, thank you. I shall miss your columns.

  • Noneofmany

    So it happened that Sister Helena has returned to the nunnery, and will not be haunting the hallowed halls of Parliament. Although the uniform of black with the cross suited her, it’s likely she’ll hang it up, now that it’s no longer needed. Thanks for the memories. Amen.