Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Canadian Election

Roughly five weeks and $300M later, Canadians have boldly voted to ... keep everything pretty much as it was.

In what has turned out to be an enormous waste of time for the natives (but highly instructive to us), Prime Minister Stephen Harper (who leads a minority government) thought that he could take advantage of the opposition leader's "weak" image and gain a majority of seats in Parliament. He improved his standing somewhat, but failed to get the majority he wanted.

In our local "riding" (district to our US friends), everything has stayed the same. We're still waiting to see what the riding next door will end up being (very close, not yet called as I write this), but basically the leadership around Vancouver Island remains the same.

The people here and across Canada seemed to have a sense that tonight was not a game-changer, and stayed away from the polls in record numbers. In the US, 53.1% of eligible voters voted in the 2004 election, but by comparison 65% of Canadians voted in the last federal election. Tonight it could be around 60%, the worst showing in Canadian history.

I am very proud of Heather for studying the candidates of our local riding and really considering all comers before voting (she, as a Canadian citizen, gets to vote in the Canadian election as well as the US election). There were four serious parties, meaning four candidates for her to choose from, none of which could be said to "line up" with what we're used to in the US' "red v. blue" matchups. There was also nowhere near the amount of "negative" campaigning (almost none by US standards) up here.

Speaking of the latter, Heather and I both cast our votes in the US race today via absentee ballot; we will be watching Florida's returns with great interest next month. Anyone who knows us even slightly can guess how we voted: we urge all our friends, regardless of political leanings, to ignore the hype and rhetoric on all sides and actually read the position papers and policy speeches. We think both "sides" will be surprised at what can be learned by reading what the two presidential candidates have actually committed to paper.

One last note on the Canadian election: I said at the beginning of this post that the election season (which involved five political parties) lasted five weeks and cost a total of $300M. The two US campaigns have raised (and probably spent) as much as that in just the last three months.

In some respects, America could learn a thing or two about politics from their friends in the north.


Anonymous said...

Hello from Salt Spring.... where we kept our MP.

The thing about Canadian elections, is that the excitement is in the subtleties. Dion is in trouble (did you notice how polite Rae and Igantieff were last night? Bad sign: If you are planning to take your boss's job, you don't stab your boss in the front, you get someone else to do it in the back for you).

Harper (and his brain trust) believe in "incrementalism" - google that with "Tom Flanagan". Scary stuff. Harper is fine. Duceppe is fine, though he is likely looking to retire. Layton - I don't know. Ask me in a few day.

I think we are heading for another quick election. Harper wants to permanently do away with the Liberals, and will risk voter wrath at a quick election if he can catch the Liberals unprepared. He wants to see the NDP as the official opposition. Of course all the parties know this. Its like a giant chess game, where all the pieces are visible and you can see what your opponent is doing.

see..... its in the nuances.....

just 2 cents worth from a political junkie.

Anonymous said...

Another difference is who runs the election. In Canada, it is a non-partisan agency, Elections Canada. The Chief and deputy chief, if memory serves, are prohibited from voting - to maintain their unbiased position. Elections Canada is a body of Parliament, not the government - so the ruling party has very limited influence on how elections are conducted. Changes to the Elections Act require a Parliamentary vote.

In the States, near as I can figure, the state officials (sometimes Secretary of Sate, and sometime the Lieutenant Governor) are members of a political party, and - at least in the cases I know about - are elected officials themselves or appointed by one.

I see this as being analogous to the home-team being able to pick the referee, or the fans being able to elect one of themselves as a the referee - again giving the home-team an advantage.