Friday, April 01, 2011

The May 2011 Canadian Election

Canada is to hold the most important Federal election since 1988. One can make a convincing argument that the upcoming election will be the most important held since confederation in 1867. The stakes for the country have never been greater. Not only is the future of democracy at stake but more fundamentally, the status of the Canada as a sovereign independent country is on the line. This is the fourth election to be held within 7 years, the third held within 5 years. These are unmistakable indicators of political turbulence and instability.

Stephen Harper's Contempt For Parliament and Democracy
The election itself was precipitated by an unprecedented vote of no confidence in the government of Stephen Harper. The Conservative Reform Alliance Party (CRAP) was brought down by a motion holding the government in contempt of parliament. Never in the history of Confederation had a government been brought down for contempt of parliament. The CRAP minority government refused to provide the House of Commons budget estimates for the costs of its prison expansion program and other reactionary "law and order" measures introduced by the government. Additionally, the CRAP government unilaterally sought to purchase F-35 war jets without consulting the parliament nor without reporting the costs.

This motion of contempt was the final straw that broke the camel's back after more than two years of anti-democratic maneuvers by the Harper government. Twice Harper shut down parliament in order to avoid being brought down in 2008 and then again in 2009, after the majority opposition passed a motion to investigate the claims of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) had knowingly allowed prisoners it had captured to be tortured by American and Afghan security forces. These moves triggered constitutional crises unlike Canadian parliamentary democracy had ever before encountered.

Harper used bullying and intimidation tactics against the opposition parties, including thinly veiled threats to use the military should the opposition place curbs and oversight to the activities of the CAF in Afghanistan. Additionally, Harper imported reactionary American Republican party rhetoric into Canadian political discourse. He whipped up militaristic "support our troops" slogans to intimidate political and public opposition to the Afghan war. He accused Liberal Party opposition leaders for being "soft on crime" to blunt their criticism and tepid questioning of Harper's agenda to erect a police state in Canada.

Not used to this sort of fascistic authoritarian and anti-democratic antics, the opposition parties were cowed into submission. Moreover, faced with an extraordinary constitutional crisis, the opposition parties behaved characteristically Canadian. They attempted to preserve the peace and not plunge the institution of Parliament into convulsions. This was a textbook case of Canadian tolerance. However, the famed Canadian tolerance has its limits and Harper stepped too far out of bounds.

Harper is deeply distrusted by two-thirds of the Canadian electorate. In three attempts he has never managed to obtain a majority. Once he was defeated outright and twice won minority governments. Yet he governed as if he had a majority and had the support of the Canadian people. In the 5 years that he has been Prime Minister, Harper has never been able to surpass 42% support. Even those rare moments when he did cross the 40% barrier, the polling numbers dropped back into the mid 30's. No politician with such weak support would ever dare be so brazen in their contempt for democracy and the will of the majority population but Harper is a rare breed of a politician. He is by nature a dictator and not a democrat.

The Danger of a Harper Majority Government Due to Weak Opposition
In spite of this, there is a serious danger that Harper will eke out a majority government. There are many reasons why this is possible. The main reason is that the opposition is very weak and divided. Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff has been unable to articulate any clear political policy. He has no demonstrative political skills. In the blood sport of politics, he is out-powered by Harper. Moreover, Ignatieff is a right wing politician as well. As a professor at Harvard University, Igantieff was a supporter of George W. Bush and the invasion of Iraq. Had Ignatieff been Canadian Prime Minister at the time, Canada would have been an open partner in the Coalition of the Killing. Ignatieff is also a protege of former Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin. Indeed, he was Paul Martin's personal choice to transform the Liberal Party into a full fledged imperialist neo-liberal party. Ignatieff is deeply unpopular within the party itself and enjoys very little popular support among rank and file Liberal Party members. So great was the internal opposition, that there was a well organised "Stop Ignatieff" campaign during the 2006 Liberal Party convention, which led to the ascension of the nice but hapless Stephen Dion as leader of the party. It was only after the defeat of the party in the 2008 election and the aborted attempt to overthrow Harper and form a Liberal-New Democratic Party coalition, that Ignatieff commandeered the leadership of the Liberal Party without any consultation, support or mandate from Liberal Party members. Unlike Stephen Harper who does have a narrow but significant social base mostly in Western Canada, Ignatieff has neither a social base of political support. Under these conditions, it makes it unlikely that Ignatieff will be able to win. If he does win, it will be through default. He will prove to be unpopular with the Canadian electorate and he will continue the absorption of Canada into the United States.

No Deal Jack!
New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jack Layton has proven to be a snake in the grass. Just like all the other Social Democratic party leaders of the Western world, Jack Layton is a right winger. Layton is able to conceal his right wing politics through his public appearances at protest demonstrations. Layton makes plenty of public appearances across the country and allows himself to be accessible to his political base. In this regard that makes Layton an unique politician. One would be hard pressed to find a politician of his stature anywhere in the world who has such an intimate connection with his supporters. Canadian leftists, who are still the most idealistic, if not naive, in the world take this as evidence that Layton is a politician of the people. However, one must judge and evaluate a politician by their acts within the establishment. Here, the score is rather dubious.

It was, after all, Layton that pulled the plug on the Paul Martin minority government in 2005. The 21st Canadian Parliament of 2004-05 was the most progressive since the hung parliament of 1972-74. Same sex marriage was made law and for the first time a national child daycare scheme was introduced, which was promptly eliminated by CRAP. Then right in middle of the election campaign, the NDP recklessly accused the Liberal Party government of insider trading by filing a complaint with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Up until that moment, the Liberals had maintained a wide lead over CRAP. After the NDP filed a police complaint, the Liberals polling numbers fell and Harper was able to take power. Layton and the NDP bear most of the responsibility for bringing Harper to power in the first place.

Between the election of 2006 through the 2008 election, Layton exercised political warfare not against the Harper government but instead against the Liberals. As I pointed out in an analysis in 2006, Layton's strategy was to destroy the Liberal party and elevate the NDP to the second party of federal politics. As I predicted, this was folly in the extreme which allowed Harper to govern without opposition. Layton essentially gave Harper a free pass. Layton peddled a falsehood that there was no difference between the Liberals and CRAP. The end goal was that once the NDP had eliminated the Liberals, Layton would then set his sights on taken on Harper. Time and time again, Layton propped up Harper just to spite the Liberals. While the Liberals themselves propped up Harper on many occasions, each time the Liberals attempted to bring CRAP down, the NDP came to his rescue. It was the NDP that provided the necessary votes which passed reactionary law and order crime bills. Layton then went on a media offensive touting the NDP as "tough on crime" and peddling policies which would stiffen prison sentences including American style mandatory minimum sentencing. It was a cynical ploy by Layton to out-manoeuvre the Liberals from the right while at the same time picking away CRAP voters. This strategy not only failed but backfired in Layton's face. Layton lost seats in the 2008 election to CRAP. Since then Layton has adopted a different tactic altogether. First, he was fooled by the illusion of Barack Obama's presidential victory and made moves to transform the NDP into the Canadian version of the US Democratic Party. This itself was a significant shift to the right politically. Since the abortive attempt to cobble of coalition government with the Liberals in 2008, Layton is now angling for a coalition government with the Liberals. The Liberals are correct to rebuff that considering Layton's earlier agenda to destroy the Liberals politically. More recently, the NDP provided support to a motion supporting the "No Fly Zone" over Libya and supporting the government's murderous military campaign. Thanks to the NDP, support for the imperialist plunder of Libya passed the House of Commons unanimously.

Quebecois Separatism and Neo-Liberalism
Gilles Duceppe, the leader of the Quebec separatist Bloc Québécois, has also been playing hanky-panky with Harper as well. During the Harper's first mandate, the Bloc bailed out Harper most of the time. This was always justified under the guise of defending Quebec's interests. The Bloc has paid for this politically by losing many seats to CRAP. The support for Quebec separatism is quite low these days. The youth of Quebec do not have the political drive for separation as their parents. There simply isn't a case to be made that Quebec is oppressed. The French language in the province of Quebec is secure. The Official Languages Act has endured for more than 40 years. Quebec and francophone interests are preserved within Confederation. Quebec still receives the lion's share of Federal payment transfers to the provinces.

There remains a more fundamental change in the mentality of Quebec.The Quebecois bourgeoisie has not only embraced capitalism but most importantly it has embraced neo-Liberalism. It is is never socially polite to mention that "La Révolution tranquille" or the Quiet Revolution was instigated by the Quebecois bourgeoisie in the late 1950s. The political drive behind Quebecois nationalism was resentment of the francophone bourgeoisie from being economically and politically excluded in both the Province of Quebec and within the country as a whole. The political philosophical foundation behind separatism was to create an independent capitalist republic based on the American model. It was believed that a separate Quebec would advance the economic interests of the bourgeoisie better than remaining in Canada. Moreover, the bourgeoisie didn't want to compete with the Ontario Anglophone bourgeoisie for profits and markets. It was believed and hoped for that an independent capitalist Quebec would have access to American and European markets. Today there are sections of the Quebecois bourgeoisie that also hope to have free trade agreements with China.

Anglophone Canadians have a deluded belief that Quebecois nationalism is a progressive or left wing political movement despite the abundant evidence to the contrary. In fact, Quebecois nationalism has a reactionary political colouring to it. An independent Quebec is intended for so-called "purlaine" Francophones. Not only are Anglophones and other minorities to be excluded but so are French Canadians outside of Quebec. The Acadians, Francophone Ontarians, and  Métis of Manitoba are not to enjoy the privileges of Quebecois citizenship. The progressive colouring of separatism was a tactic used by the Quebecois bourgeoisie to bring the working class into the nationalist struggle. In the 1960s and early part of the 1970s, there was a coalition between the bourgeoisie and the Quebecois trade unions to agitate for independence. The workers and the trade union bureaucrats at the time did have aspirations for a socialist Quebec. However, the Parti Québécois suppressed any debate about exactly what the political and economic structure of an independent Quebec would have. National unity was stressed first and beyond. First Quebec would have to gain its independence before any discussion of the economic composition would be considered.

This leads to the political and social structure of the Bloc Quebecois Party. Though widely believed to be a left wing party, the Bloc Quebecois is in fact, the Quebecois wing of the defunct Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. With the failure of Brian Mulroney to have the Canadian constitution proclaim Quebec a "distinct society" within Canada, the Quebec caucus of the Progressive Conservative Party split to form the Bloc Quebecois. It was this very caucus which pressed for and ultimately passed both the Free Trade Agreement of 1988 and NAFTA in 1992. The Bloc Quebecois is a neo-Liberal capitalist bourgeois party. Gilles Duceppe also instructed his party to support the parliamentary motion of the "No Fly Zone" in Libya.

Ultimately since the Bloc only operates within the province of Quebec, the upcoming election is for all intents and purposes a fight between CRAP and the Bloc for seats in Quebec. The Liberals have been wiped out of Quebec except for their seats in downtown Montreal and the West Island of Montreal. The Montreal riding of Outremont is currently NDP, making it the only seat that party has in Quebec. Outremont is a battle between the Liberals and the NDP.

The Odds Are For a Harper Majority Government
Harper's chances of obtaining a majority are the best now than ever. The election of the far right wing mayor of Toronto Rob Ford is a harbinger of things to come. As of now, CRAP is locked out of Toronto but the electorate of Ford may very likely carry their support over to Harper snatching Liberal and NDP seats in that city. Ontario is a politically conservative province and Harper has a good chance of sweeping it. In the 2008 election, Harper won a plurality of votes in the Ontario. If he grabs a few seats in Toronto, Southern and Western Ontario, which is quite likely, he will be well on his way to a majority government.

Harper's chances are also ripe for sweeping British Columbia. In fact, British Columbia has been a long political base for the old far right wing Reform Party. After Alberta, British Columbia is a bastion of social and political reaction in Canada. As of yet, Harper has been locked outside of the city of Vancouver but that can change. Vancouver South has twice come within a whisker of falling into the CRAP column. Despite its liberal reputation, Vancouver is in fact one of the most reactionary cities in North America. Gordon Campbell, the outgoing right wing Premier of British Columbia has his political base in the Kitsilano district of Vancouver. British Columbia, like California, has politically confused and schizophrenic social layers. One day voters are social democrats, the next day reactionary conservatives, the following day they are liberal. Easily confused and gullible, British Columbians are quite capable of giving Harper enough seats to add towards his majority.

Finally, there is Quebec. Harper has already locked up Quebec City and environs. Duceppe a Montrealer, has lost the rural Quebec social and political base for the Bloc Quebecois. Since 2006, CRAP has displaced the once mighty Liberal Party as the second largest party in the province of Quebec. Though Harper has no chance of penetrating the city and island of Montreal, he may very well sweep the rest of the province and has a chance of grabbing some suburban Montreal ridings on the North and South shores.

As an article I penned back in February explained, Canada has unofficially merged with the United States. A Harper majority government will simply codify the event. A Harper majority government will usher in the most turbulent political times since 1970. The working class will be subjected to a war of aggression. The Federal civil service will be attacked on a scale equal to if not greater to what has occurred in Wisconsin. The CBC will either be privatised or its funding scaled back to the point that CBC radio will be forced to rely on corporate sponsorship and/or be turned into a carbon copy of the US National Public Radio (NPR). Any resistance will be met with the Iron Heel. Canada's criminal code and justice system will mirror that of Texas and the American deep south. Harper will not only erect a police state but will create a system of gulags similar to that of the United States. Women's rights, including abortion, will come under ferocious assault.
Taking their cue from Ottawa, the provinces and municipalities will launch their own police state structures. The G20 Summit in Toronto was simply a dress rehearsal for what's to come across the country. The next four years will result in the destruction of Canada's social and political democracy.

Slim Glimmers of Hope
On the other hand, another minority government will put an end to the Harper era. No politician will be able to survive the confidence of his party by failing to obtain a majority government 4 consecutive times. It signifies that Harper cannot ever gain broad political support. Though he runs the party as a dictator, he will face a revolt from the Ontario wing of the party which comprises mostly of holdovers from the Progressive-Conservative Party which merged with the Reform/Canadian Alliance in 2003. Harper will also face a revolt from the Quebecois wing who will opportunistically use his failure to obtain a majority to increase their influence within the party. A failure to win a majority will most likely tear the party apart along regional lines. In fact, the formation of CRAP is nothing less than a coalition between Eastern and Western Canada. The Ontario, Quebec and Martimes caucuses will see the Western reactionaries as a liability to electoral success. The fact of the matter is that the absolute majority of Canadians, have so far, rejected the Western ultra-right American Republican party politics of Harper. He will be forced to resign.

Though Ignatieff foolishly ruled out a coalition with the NDP, he will realise that if he ever wants to occupy the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), a coalition with the NDP will be his only chance. Indeed, both the NDP and the Bloc want him to become Prime Minister. Despite the absurd arguments Harper and the media will make, another failure of CRAP to win a majority will prove that they do not have the consent nor the mandate to govern. Though the party may not be able to swallow having to share power with the NDP and Ignatieff (whose egoism has been amply demonstrated) will want to run the show alone, a coalition government will in fact be what the electorate has mandated. Indeed, the Liberal party will inflict a mortal wound upon itself if it refuses to take power when it is offered to them.

Let's be clear, a Liberal-NDP government will be a centre right government committed to imperialist war and neo-liberalism. However, it will be a democratic government not only by representing the majority of the Canadian electorate but also by respecting the norms and rules of Canadian parliamentary democracy. Another CRAP minority government will be the opposite. The best possible scenario will be a Liberal-NDP coalition government.

Canada's Life and Death Battle for Democracy
Canadian elections are tricky. This election will prove to be the trickiest yet. A full blown political crisis will erupt after the election. A Harper majority government will be the end of Canadian democracy as we know it and the end of Canada itself. A minority government will cause a firestorm as Harper and the media will vehemently argue that the party with the largest number of seats even in a minority should form a government. Any attempt to form a coalition government will result in the exposure of the Canadian elite with their fangs exposed. All sorts of nonsensical and illogical arguments will be made to prevent a coalition between the Liberals and the NDP. The Governor General and the Supreme Court will be dragged in.

Regardless of the results of the May 2011 election, Canada is flying head on into a political hurricane. There is nothing possible to avoid it. Political careers and parties will be wrecked. Vicious arguments and political fights will erupt. Canada's parliamentary democracy and justice system will be put to the ultimate test. The world will watch to see if the most successful liberal democracy will survive or not.

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