Well then, if that isn’t depressing I don’t know what is. On May 2nd, the Conservatives won a majority government here in Canada. Stephen Harper, drunk on his special brand of “fascism-lite” and having thrownoff his restraints (a minority government), is in the driver’s seat for the next four years with the pedal to the metal. I have to say that this is probably the single biggest and most dangerous setback for progressive politics (and indeed, democracy) in Canada that I’ve witnessed in my entire lifetime (and I’m 54 years old).
In four years time there is a very good chance that this country will be politically and socially unrecognizable as the country it once was, both to us, and the rest of the world. Get ready for a real US Republican style greed-fest, where facts are irrelevant, history is forgotten, hypocrisy runs rampant, morality only exists in that it is self serving, and debate--when it’s permitted, is neither based on reason nor logic. Autocracy and extreme ideology will rule the day. And of course, the poor will get poorer (and their number will grow) and the rich will get a lot richer.
Over the next few hours, days and months, we are likely to hear Stephen Harper claiming over and over again that he and the Conservative party have received a strong mandate from the Canadian people. He will argue that because he won a comfortable majority, Canadians have demonstrated their approval of the policies he and his party advocate. This will embolden him to push through some of the most right wing legislation that this country has ever seen.
In reality though, nothing could be further from the truth. Harper and the Conservatives did not receive a strong mandate from the Canadian people to push through their right wing agenda and to suggest otherwise is based either on ignorance, or deceit, or both. This is not just my opinion. This is a fact. A systematic and mathematical exploration of voter percentages across Canada proves my point.
If we divide all of the major political parties in Canada into 2 groups: Group #1 (those that inhabit the political spectrum from the centre to the right), and Group #2 (those that inhabit the political spectrum from the centre to the left), we see that in Group #1 we have the Conservatives, while in Group #2 we have the Liberals, the NDP, The Bloc Quebecois and the Green Party.
According to the CBC’s calculations, the Conservatives won 39.62% of the vote. While the Liberals won 18.91%, the NDP won 30.62%, The Bloc won 6.05% and the Greens won 3.91%. So, if we add up the total percentage of votes cast for Group #1 (the Conservatives), we get 39.62%. While if we add up the total percentage of votes cast for Group #2 (the Liberals, the NDP, the Bloc and the Greens), we get 59.49%.
This means that while 39.62% of Canadians voted for a centre right government, 59.49% voted for a centre left government. In other words, of the 61% of Canadians that actually voted, roughly two thirds of them voted for a government that would be likely to enact legislation ranging from centrist to leftist, while only one third of them voted for a government that would tend to enact legislation that ranged from centrist to rightwing. As I said earlier, the Conservatives did not receive a strong mandate from the Canadian people to push through their rightwing agenda. The majority of Canadians clearly prefer more of a middle of the road to leftwing approach.
Now some may argue that the Liberals are a purely centrist party and not leftwing at all. I disagree. In terms of economic policy, sure, the Liberals are pretty damn centrist, but in terms of social policy, foreign policy, the environment and respect for democratic process, they are clearly to the left of the Conservatives. And if you’re a Conservative supporter you’d better not be trying to argue now that the Liberals are a centrist party, because throughout the entire election campaign your party was arguing precisely the opposite. You can’t have it both ways.
And I know that the Green Party has at times, maintained that it is not a leftwing party, but come on, its stand on the environment, its stand on corporate taxes and regulation, its stand on the treatment of First Nations peoples all put the party pretty squarely in the leftwing camp. I think most Canadians would agree the Green Party is certainly to the left of the Conservatives.
So when Harper claims in the future that he’s dutifully expressing the will of the Canadian people as he pushes through some thoroughly regressive legislation on say increasing penalties for possessing pot or whittling away at public health care, or silencing political opponents, or promoting Islamophobia, or undermining any meaningful attempts at reducing green house gases, just remember, it’s bullshit. And he needs to be called on it every single time.
When I look at Stephen Harper I'm reminded of some lyrics from an old Leonard Cohen song, "...and one eye filled with blueprints and one eye filled with night".