Stephen Harper And Michael Ignatief – The Men With The Most To Lose In The Next Election

Being the Prime Minister of Canada is a thankless task. Being Prime Minister of Canada with a minority government is worse. There are huge pressures on Stephen Harper. Many of these pressures come from his apparent inability to win a majority government. His problem is that his chance of ever winning a majority government is virtually non-existent.

Canadian politics are different. Unlike the United States, which effectively is a one party state, Canada has a far wider range of political options. And these options are shaped by Canadians themselves. Canadians on average are better educated than Americans. Canadians on average are better informed than Americans. Canadians on average are different than Americans. Way different. I can remember walking through the streets of Washington D.C. at 2:00 AM feeling perfectly safe, while the Americans who I was with were terrified to leave their hotels after dark.

Canadians are different. Way different. No other nation on the planet is like us. Talk to any immigrant, from any country. They tend to sound shell shocked for the first few years that they live in Canada. Because Canada is different.

Stephen Harper knows this. And that’s his problem. Americans are followers. If he was an American politician he’d do fine. The population would imprint on him, and would quack quack quack behind him, following wherever he led.

Canadians are like cats. Canadians do what they want, when they want, and to hell with what the politicians think they should do. While many Americans seem to think that their President was sent to them by god, Canadians consider the Prime Minister to be one of those unfortunate nuisances you have to live with, like the aunt who insists on giving a young woman a Barbie doll as an eighteenth birthday present, causing much embarrassment.

Stephen Harper’s problem is that he has been unable to communicate to Canadians why they should back the Conservative party. He’s adopted an ideology which he thinks is best for Canada, but it’s an ideology that many of Canadians don’t agree with. The only reason that he’s had any success at all, is that the other party leaders are just as disconnected as he is from the Canadian public.

With the option of voting for Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dumb, and Tweedle Dumber, Canadians are often opting to vote for the Seperatists (at least they seem honest about what they want) or the Greens. The Greens gained a million votes in the last election. This has the traditional parties scared witless, because the Greens, like the Bloc Quebecois also seem honest about what they want. And honesty is something that Canadian politicians are nervous about. The idea that the electorate would actually expect them to keep their pre-election promises seems to be some sort of evil perversion to them. If they could, they’d love to tie it to a real perversion, like pedophilia, but they know that Canadians would see through the attempt.

Michael Ignatief, Liberal, and Stephen Harper, Conservative
The two men with the most to lose in the next election. Images courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons.

Even worse from the point of both Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatief, is that they know that a large number of the members of both their parties would love fit them with concrete boots and toss them overboard, and fully intend to do so if they don’t manage to win a majority of seats in the House of Commons. But Canadians have had an experience with minority government, and most Canadians have decided that they like it. Minority Government means that the two big parties can’t get away with the sort of ideological law making that they’ve done in the past. The two big parties hate this. They dream of the days of Trudeau and Mulroney when they could literally get away with murder. But Canadians don’t want that. They dream of a government that they, not the politicians control.

There will have to be an election soon. Within the next year. Stephen Harper will wait until he thinks he has some sort of chance, call it, and hit the attack ads hard. Michael Ignatief will hit back just as hard. And while the two of them are fighting, the smaller parties, including the new and untested Pirate Party will make their move.

I don’t know how this is all going to play out. No one does. What we do know is that the Canadian electorate is undergoing a huge sociological shift. Fifty years ago when I was a child, Canadian society was very conservative in outlook. Improved communications, through an improved telephone system, widespread adoption of Television, cheaper transportation, cable TV, then the most disruptive technology of all, the Internet, have changed the country. Things that no one knew about, now everyone knows about. The murder of a Polish immigrant at the Vancouver airport by police would have been a non-issue fifty years ago. Now it’s a major issue, and the reputation of the Horseman (Royal Canadian Mounted Police), and all other police forces have suffered badly because of it. Note that while I’m calling this a murder, it may end up being ruled justifiable homicide, or self defense. Having seen the video made by a member of the public who was present, in my opinion it was murder. I’m aware that there are people (mostly wearing uniform) who disagree with me, and might be stupid enough to attempt to sue. Which is why I’ve been talking to a lawyer.

Canadians are now better informed about what is happening across the country, and for that matter across the world. Small groups who would have had no means of meeting, now can meet virtually using technology that is inexpensive, and reliable. Improved communications have helped the Greens become a force, and they will help the Pirates become a force too. A generation which has never known a time when they couldn’t communicate, is communicating, and much to everyone’s surprise, their parents are communicating too. Communication is changing the face of Canadian society, and no one can stop it. Unless they manage to make using the internet illegal. Which makes one wonder exactly why everyone seems to anxious to pass laws like Bill C-32.

There’s an old Chinese curse – May you live in interesting times. I suspect that Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatief feel that it was written for them.


Wayne Borean

Sunday September 26, 2010


6 thoughts on “Stephen Harper And Michael Ignatief – The Men With The Most To Lose In The Next Election

  1. Actually, that “old Chinese curse” was the invention of a 19th-century English novelist, who wrote several books about a rather fictional version of China based on his own imagination, having never actually been to the place. This “curse” is reportedly one of three, the other two being, “May you come to the attention of people in high places,” and “May the gods grant your every wish.”

    This has been Today’s Moment of Random Erudition™. Come back tomorrow, when we’ll explain why anyone who says, “Hung with his own petard” is a moron.

  2. Luckily for politicians, the mainstream media in Canada is as bad as in the US.
    The Conservative party is NOT the Progressive Conservartive party of Diefenbaker and company (Dief was hated by JFK more than the russkies)
    They were for over a decade a fringe western canadian right wing party called Reform Party, Canadian Alliance and I might have missed one.
    In 2003, the Original Conservatives elected Peter Mckay as leader thanks to a prairie farmer David Orchard who is one of Canada’s best know anti-war activist (along with ex-Ottawa mayor Marion Dewar) in exchange of a promise to not merge with the Canadian Alliance, a review of PC Party’s policies on the North American Free Trade Agreement (its a taboo topic in Canada), and some promise to bring back the party to national prominence (years of Mulroney had killed the party in Quebec and the vacuum was filled by the Bloc).
    In front of national TV, McKay accepted the support and a few months later not only reneged on his promise but the oldest party in Canada was shut down. The Progressive Conservatives were no more.
    In the same moment, the Canadian Alliance got themselves a new name,
    The Conservative Party.

    Voila. They werent right wing nuts from the prairies anymore, they were the conservative party. The media barely covered this betrayal.
    And it worked.
    In quebec, where there was no chance in hell that an Alliance would ever win a seat, a name change was enough to get the old Alliance/New Conservatives a dozen seats.

    And this was never spoken off again.
    Which is why we have republicans in power in Ottawa.

    You can fool the people all the time if youve got the media on your side.

    And no, I dont share your unbridled enthusiasm of either the country or how were seen. I travel a lot. I have family on 3 continents and let me tell you that the canada of the 60-70s that the world knew is gone in the eyes of many.
    Canada was under Dief a proud nation, under Trudeau we where one of the main non-aligned countries in the world.
    The past 20 years have seen us reduced to an american puppet state in the eyes of the world. A Puerto Rico. A poodle that does what its master tells it to.
    Our peaceful reputation shot to bits with illegal bombing of Yugoslavia (remember when terrorists were nice people? Cmon, we helped the largest terrorist group in the world according to teh CIA), our military involvement in Aghanistan and Iraq (yes, we are there. We have/had thousand soldiers serving with american units and we protect the waterways which is like the guy who drives the getaway car, youre still a criminal). Oh, lets not forget that as chief poodle, we again got to hold the door when the US went in Haiti (after arming the right wing militias) and kidnapped their elected president.)
    We became war criminals.
    No one like to think of themselves that way and people will try to justify themselves out but its plain and clear.
    I was in europe when Lebanon was being bombed (which our country fully supported) and was asked on more than one occassion by french and germans “What happened to Canada?”

    Canada was respected and admired because we used to do the right thing, now its one big Don Cherry.

    Another election. Whoopee. Its big money against big money. Bay St vs Bay St. Without proportional representation, the minor parties are just there as window dressing “Look at how much better we are.”
    Under Chretin, the elections laws were drastically tightened to make it even harder for small parties.

    I love your tech and free software stuff but the rah-rah stuff is lame. Maybe its best if we listen to Quebec and just split (belgium aint working, Czech didnt work… why do we think we are better?).
    Those who want to join the US will be able to.

    And no, were not different than the US. We are americans.
    What is our culture? Since cable came in the early 70s, it is strictly american. Our music, movies and TV. Our food, our companies (hell, 15-20,000 companies were sold to the US after the NAFTA), its all american. Canadians know more about american customs and even laws (I have a cop friend who says that many people plead the Fifth when arrested!!!).
    Thank god for the CFL or wed be a banana republic in sports since we have no other sports league which for a country of almost 40million is sad (and a reason why we will never acheive anything in soccer or basketball). Were do our best athletes, students, entertainers,etc go?
    To the US.
    Throw all this in and the past 3-4 decades has been a profound shift in our culture. At least the french have their language that separates them but the need to be american is even stronger in Quebec.

    We are still canadians by geography but our culture and mentality is now firmly american. We are a proud country of Don Cherry’s.

    1. Nicely said Jack. I don’t agree with you on several points, but I’d be interested in seeing you expand on this.

      In fact I’d like to invite you to make a guest post. Are you interested? If so, my only request is that you use citations or links as much as possible. References are important.


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