Crawl Across the Ocean

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Election

Sadly, I haven't and won't have much time for commenting on the election.

So in short, my preference this election is for the Liberals. I see Stephane Dion as an intelligent person with integrity who shares my primary concerns (environmental issues, child poverty) and the green tax shift is very smart policy in my opinion. Watching the debate, I get the sense that Dion is also aware of the threat posed by peak oil, realizing that moving away from dependence on oil and gas for our energy needs is the key to our propserity going forward.

Second choice would be Green and then NDP third, although I think voting Green instead of voting for the greenest mainstream leader we're likely to see for a while is counter-productive unless one is a very hardcore Green.

Strategically, the best plan for progressive voters is probably an 'anything but conservative one', voting for whoever has the best chance of defeating the local Conservative one in your own riding. Luckily, for me in Vancouver centre, the best chance to beat the Conservatives is the Liberal candidate, Hedy Fry - so that's one way at least, that our archaic election system won't mess with my vote this election.

Some of the reasons I don't want to see the Conservatives in power:

1) The environment. The Conservatives have a mindset where environmental protection is in opposition to economic growth and economic growth takes precedence. I don't sense that the Conservative party believes in the threat from climate change or has any real intention of trying to do anything about it other than the minimum it can get away with. As an Alberta based party, they can't really be expected to lead the move away from dependence on fossil fuels either.

2) Iraq. If the Conservatives had been in power during the run-up to the Iraq war Canada would have joined in. Who knows what could be around the corner in terms of potential ill-advised military adventures in the next few years. Electing a Conservative party would increase the chances of Canada joining into such a venture.

3) Lack of conservatism - with a small 'c'. Someone with a conservative mindset generally wants to respect tradition, to limit growth in the power of the government, and to respect the checks and balances built into the political system. However, in my opinion, the Conservative party wishes to remake this country into one much more similar to the U.S., as opposed to the 'second tier socialistic country' (in Harper's words) that it is now (in their opinion).

But in pursuing this goal the Conservatives see the traditional institutions, the checks and balances as things that stand in their way. So, far from wanting to reinforce the strength of Canada's independent institutions that check the government's power and to work within the system, the Conservative's want to weaken those institutions and remove anything that prevents them from remaking the system as they wish. This was expressed by Harper in a rare moment of candour when he referred to how the courts and the media and the Senate and the civil service would prevent them from fully implementing their desired plans.

In government we have seen the Conservative party at war with the media, at war with Elections Canada, in a battle with the nuclear energy safety regulator and further Conservative government will lead, in my opinion, to more attacks on and more weakening of, the independent institutions that provide a check on the government.

4) Income inequality - My belief is that a reasonable equitable distribution of income is one of the primary foundations of a country that people want to live in. Conservative policies, in particular tax cuts for which the vast majority of the benefits go to the wealthy, tend to work against income equality, which I see as corrosive to the health of the country over the medium to long term.

5) Fiscal management - The Conservative party is made up of many strands and one of the few things they agree on is that they want to take power and they don't want to pay for government services. Wanting to take power leads them to increase spending, and not wanting to pay for government services leads them to cut taxes. The result is deficits, which we see time and time again from right wing governments. Given the still substantial public debts the country has, we need to keep paying down the debt further as quickly as reasonably possible and the Conservative party is the one I least trust to do that.

This is just off the top of my head, so I'm probably missing things, but that's a rough approximation of where my thought are for this election campaign.

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  • As a green supporter I think this is rather unfortunate post of yours. The Liberal party had 13 years to take action on climate change and did nothing, and by all accounts if Paul Martin had been PM instead of Chretien we would have been in Iraq as well. The differences between the Liberals and Conservatives are exaggerated.

    The Liberals have always run on the left and governed on the right, they promised to get rid of the GST and NAFTA in their little red book (not positions I necessarily agree with but they are broken promises) too, and I would expect the carbon tax would go the same way and be unimplemented as well.

    By Anonymous V, at 8:00 PM  

  • Actually, the Liberal party started to take action on climate change once Dion became environment minister, a position Chretien never let him have because Chretien didn't want to take any major action on that file.

    Usually when politicians promise one thing and do another, the promise is the 'sounds good politically but bad in practice' part, and the action that breaks the promise is the 'good in practice but sounds bad politically piece'.

    For example, you promise not to tax income trusts, and then realize what a dumb idea that is so you end up breaking your promise and taxing them. Same with eliminating the GST.

    But in this case, the *promise* is the piece that sounds bad politically but is actually good policy. So if elected, the hard part is already past and there is no reason to break the promise.

    Anyway, no need to worry, I suspect the Liberals will do poorly in the election and Dion will be replaced by someone back in the standard mode of telling people what they want to hear to get elected and then breaking those promises when they turn out to be stupid ideas after all.

    Then I can go back to voting Green...

    By Blogger Declan, at 9:14 PM  

  • I'm not fond of the Greens in the slightest - environmentalist though they may be, they still attract and are in league with flakes of many sorts and won't get any consideration from me.

    But I do like (and trust) Dion, so I think I might vote Liberal for the first (and last?) time on Oct. 14th. Layton hasn't really given me any compelling reason to stay with the NDP, though.

    By Blogger Josh G, at 9:43 PM  

  • Perhaps. Dion seems legitimate but his party is not behind him. The liberal party has been tearing him apart and questioning his leadership and the carbon tax for a long time, even in the middle of the election.

    The reason Dion was chosen to lead the party is because the Liberals saw that the environment was high in the polls and it was his issue, the reason the carbon tax (which they used to be against) was put forward is because there were some polls showing support for it and the Green vote was up in the byelections. Every move the Liberal party makes is cynical and driven by a desire for only power and what's high in the polls, now that the carbon tax is taking a beating in the polls I would not be surprised to see them not implement it or implement it and pull it back or refuse to raise it in the future like they say they will (it's already meaningless as far as reducing gas consumption because they won't even raise the price of gas).

    So that's where I'm coming from, I think the Liberals thought the carbon tax was not risky but would be popular and a good differentiator from the NDP.

    By Anonymous V, at 10:40 PM  

  • And on the subject of flakes, both the liberals and ndp have also had candidates saying nutty things about 9/11 (the ndp didn't even drop theirs!) and there was a piece on the CBC yesterday about Layton's connections to the Truther movement.

    And on the subject of the conservatives, a few years back they dumped a candidate for saying homosexuality should be made illegal.

    All parties have their flakes.

    By Anonymous v, at 10:45 PM  

  • Declan,

    Fair analysis as ever, and its nice to see someone making an argument against the CPC that isn't based entirely on tired cliches.

    One point though: we need to keep paying down the debt further as quickly as reasonably possible and the Conservative party is the one I least trust to do that.

    Harper's been pretty strong about paying down the debt (it's one of my concerns as well) - I think its somewhere around $35-40B since he became PM, though I could be wrong on that figure. All the while, opposition parties have been hammering him for paying down the debt while cutting things like the Court Challenges Program, SWC, etc. Jack Layton especially has been tearing into him on this account. I could see how you think the Liberals might be better at it, but I think it's a bit incredible to say that Harper is least trustworthy on this issue.

    By Anonymous Olaf, at 6:23 AM  

  • All parties have their flakes.

    True enough, but the Sierra Club types in particular rub me the wrong way. Anyway, as I suggested, this would be the first time I vote Liberal and, quite possibly, the last, assuming there's a party left to vote for after this. This would be a vote based entirely on (1) my preference for Dion over the others and (2) the substance of the Liberal platform. They've totally botched the narrative of the Green Shift and the economic issue generally, but since the Liberals as a party don't really know what they want to be or what they actually stand for, it should come as no surprise.

    I might still go the orange route, but the NDP has been too mindlessly populist of late. If Alexa were running again, I'd vote for her.

    By Blogger Josh G, at 8:30 AM  

  • I agree with the mindlessly populist bit, I have voted NDP in the past but it's impossible to take them seriously when their big issues are ATM fees and Cell Phone charges and the price of gas at the pump.

    Yes I agree these are expensive, therefore I don't use an ATM, own a cell phone, or drive. I wasn't aware I ought to be entitled to have all these conveniences without needing to pay for them.

    By Anonymous V, at 5:09 PM  

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