Why we don’t need another election - Macleans.ca
 

Why we don’t need another election

Canadians would be better served by a little less conversation and a lot more action


 

090911_editGeneral elections are important moments in any democracy. As this magazine has frequently noted, they are the only time politicians seek a direct conversation with the public to explain their vision for the country and how it differs from that of their opponents.

But the prospect of a fourth federal election in five years, at a time of great economic uncertainty, leaves us convinced Canadians would be better served by a little less conversation and a lot more action. We don’t need another election right now. We need our politicians focused on the business of running the country.

Having worked hard to avoid a summer election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper now appears to be warming to the prospect of a fall vote. He has refused to co-operate with other parties and seems keen to hold a non-confidence vote early in the coming session.

The reasons for his change of heart seem obvious. It appears the global recession may not be as lengthy or as severe as was once thought, greatly improving the public mood. Federal stimulus money is also starting to flood across the country. Whether or not this has anything to do with the budding recovery, it is raising the profile of the Conservative MPs making these announcements. And as a proven leader and campaigner, Harper may feel he holds a near-term advantage over newcomer Michael Ignatieff, the Liberal leader.

For his part, Ignatieff claims he will be bringing down the Conservative minority at his earliest opportunity. “The Liberal party cannot support this government any further,” he vowed at his party’s summer caucus meeting in Sudbury this month. His speech gave four reasons why he thinks the Conservatives are no longer fit to govern—lack of Employment Insurance reform, lack of a deficit plan, delays on economic stimulus funding and the state of health care.
None of the four are particularly compelling. Harper is likely to offer some changes to EI this fall. The Liberals don’t have a deficit plan any more than the Tories do. The stimulus funding is flowing. And health care is less of a hot-button issue than it once was. A more believable argument is the observation that Canada’s economy appears to be improving. If such is the case, Ignatieff’s favoured line that the Tories have been insensitive and incompetent in handling the recession could soon be old news. He may feel the need to strike while the crisis is still hot.

So both leaders have strategic reasons for wanting a fall vote, but another election so soon after our last in October 2008 serves no higher purpose for the country.

It might be argued that the tough economic climate has created a demand for an election giving voters a choice between the distinct economic visions of the leading parties. Unfortunately, there is no sharp differentiation between Liberals and Conservatives on the economy, especially considering that Ignatieff supported Harper’s 2009 budget, which is now being implemented. Next year’s budget promises to be a more appropriate battleground. By then we will have real evidence on the success or failure of current policies, and with any luck the Liberals will have developed an alternative economic program. At that point it would be possible to have a proper debate on each party’s plan to unwind the $50-billion deficit (as projected by the parliamentary budget officer), among other issues.

Meanwhile, another election would only delay the legislative schedule and put key government promises at risk. The Conservatives have gone to great lengths to portray themselves as tough on crime. It would seem disingenuous to deliberately leave so much business in this area unfinished. Among the bills that would be swept aside by a fall election are pressing reforms to the sex offender registry plus important modernization of police monitoring of criminal electronic communications.

Finally, if Harper once again engineers an early election for himself, he’ll be making a further mockery of his own fixed election date legislation.

For Ignatieff, his leadership of the Liberal party is still only nine months old. Whatever advantages he sees to an early election, most Canadians are still unsure about who he is and where he’s heading. Recently released Liberal ads suggest he wants to reach out to India and China. That’s fine for a start, but hardly comprehensive.

EI is one of the few areas in which Ignatieff has drawn a bright line between himself and the Tories on a substantive issue. But his argument that a year’s worth of benefits should be available after just 360 hours of work seems facile and wholly unworkable. Canadians need a lot more substance on a much broader range of topics before they can pass judgment on the Ignatieff Liberals.

Besides, it’s the fall: summer holidays are over, the kids are back at school, everyone else is back at work. Why should government be any different? Elections may be good things, but Canada doesn’t need to make it an annual event. Back to work, Ottawa.


 
Filed under:

Why we don’t need another election

  1. "His speech gave four reasons why he thinks the Conservatives are no longer fit to govern—lack of Employment Insurance reform, lack of a deficit plan, delays on economic stimulus funding and the state of health care. None of the four are particularly compelling."

    Maybe not compelling to you and your fellow travellers. But to the rest of us, pretty big stuff. The current minority government's delays on addressing structural changes to our employment landscape; their lying and incompetence regarding the scope, scale and duration of deficit spending; their partisan games with stimulus spending; and their refusal to defend assaults on our healthcare system by US-based lobbyists (including Harper's shameful refusal to comment — it's a "provincial matter"? — when asked directly on US network TV) … these are all pretty compelling and elections have been fought over lesser matters.

    "Harper is likely to offer some changes to EI this fall."

    He's been saying this for a year — and it's cold comfort to the 425,000 manufacturing employees who started losing their jobs LAST fall.

    "The Liberals don't have a deficit plan any more than the Tories do."

    You have no basis on which to make this claim. At the very least, it would be difficult for the Liberals to misrepresent the deficit to the degree Harper and Jim F. have to date. Indeed, the Conservatives seem to have misjudged their finances by the equivalent of 25% of the federal budget in just one year. More honest accounting would be a nice first step.

    Not compelling? BS to you, Macleans editors.

  2. "Back to work, Ottawa."

    Don't you see that's the problem? Last year, when Harper called the illegal election of 2008 he thought he could get a majority. He claimed Parliament was dysfunctional despite having no evidence of non-confidence. Election 2008 was not needed. This election is needed because Harper is incapable of governing and Ottawa is incapable of getting 'back to work'.

    YouTube vid re: Summer 2009: http://tinyurl.com/cdnsum09

  3. I was all set to vehemently disagree with this editorial and call its authors a pack of silly, time wasting nincompoops until I discovered that an election would kill pressing reforms to the modernization of police monitoring of criminal electronic communications. Thank you Macleans, for trying to save us from the folly of allowing criminals to exchange emails without the police knowing about it for one second longer than the dozen or so years they've already been doing it.

  4. Well said and spot on – an election now would be of no advantage to anyone .. case closed .. and period. With 80% of the canadians at present agreeing with me I can safely state that whoever forces an election on us right now will pay dearly at the polls for doing such. Iggy's case for one is so full of holes and belies all logic except one unescapable conclusion, he is afraid of his future chance at the polls because he will start to look like a poor charicature of Dion. So because of his poltical un-selftesteem he amps up his political testosterone to play chicken with the gov't. Not only is this really ridiculous, but only adds fule to the very fire that Harper is trying to light under him.

    • Wouldn't this election follow the time frame of the fixed election we would be having now, if Stephen Harper had not broken his own election law to force a vote ahead of the recession he said would only occur if we elected the Liberals?

    • Wouldn't this election follow the time frame of the fixed election we would be having now, if Stephen Harper had not broken his own election law to force a vote ahead of the recession he said would only occur if we elected the Liberals?

  5. As the economy recovers the Liberals hopes begin to fade. Dispite Ignatieff's prayers for a longer recession, it looks lke we are already back into growth for the third quarter.

    Poor Liberals, they will have to watch as Harper leads Canada out of the global recession. I actually feel sorry for them when positive news comes out and they all have to try and put a negative spin on it.

  6. Well, hey, good to know. Now your push poll makes sense.

    Seriously, editors, are you not embarrased to even call that a poll?

  7. The problem we have in Parliament is that the opposition parties think that they should dictate legislation to the govt. They are the intransigent ones. It has been the Bloc & NDP declaring last fall that they would vote against every govt measure, no matter what. And now it is the Liberals declaring that the Harper govt is "done".
    Of all the parties, the Conservatives have the strongest mandate from the voters. It is childish to expect them to just roll over and capitulate to the opposition parties.
    There is room for compromise, but the opposition parties expect surrender.

    • "…the opposition parties think that they should dictate legislation to the govt."

      In a minority government, the opposition IS part of the government. That's how the system works, that's why we have EI, Health care and the CPP. Darn those demanding opposition members.

      • Fine, then introduce some meaningful legislation and let's have a vote on it. I hear that there's an opposition day coming up in early October, that would be a perfect time to do it!

        Since when is constantly voting against everything introduced (Jack) or threatening to and then backing out last minute (Iggy) called being part of the government?

        You can bet that the only legislation we will see introduced by the Libs is "my turn to be PM"!

  8. Ethics aside, the fact that the budget office came back with a price tag of $1.15B for the temporary 360 hour Liberal EI Plan, vs. Conservative estimates of $4B – highlights that the CPC never wanted to work with the Liberals or any party and keep parliament focussed on the tasks at hand. It also highlights faulty costing analysis which calls into further question the competence of the number crunching the CPC is putting forward with respect to what is now a $56B annual deficit for the current year.

    Canadians elected the Liberals to official opposition status. Finally they have a leader that will allow them to perform the task we voted them in for. As for Harper, it's up to him chart a way to make things work with the other parties to allow his agenda to pass with confidence. If he's not willing to do that, then he's going to lose confidence – or he can either prorogue again or call another allegedly illegal election.

  9. I'm not sure Harper can be accused of "engineer[ing] an early election for himself". The Liberals and NDP have both made it clear that they'll topple the government ASAP.

    He probably is delighted that the LPC decided to step in it like this though. I'll bet he was trying to figure out how to provoke another election without getting into another Constitutional crisis when Ignatieff helpfully provided everything needed. Never get in the way of an opponent who is busily self-destructing, to paraphrase.

    The only good argument I can see for an election (and by "good" I mean "good for Canada", as opposed to "good for one of the parties") is the prospect that Canadians will likely finally get a majority government. The stability and long-term policy that this provides is looking increasingly valuable after the past few years. I just hope that prospect isn't a daydream.

  10. I'm not sure Harper can be accused of "engineer[ing] an early election for himself". The Liberals and NDP have both made it clear that they'll topple the government ASAP.

    He probably is delighted that the LPC decided to step in it like this though. I'll bet he was trying to figure out how to provoke another election without getting into another Constitutional crisis when Ignatieff helpfully provided everything needed. Never get in the way of an opponent who is busily self-destructing, to paraphrase.

    The only good argument I can see for an election (and by "good" I mean "good for Canada", as opposed to "good for one of the parties") is the prospect that Canadians will likely finally get a majority government. The stability and long-term policy that this provides is looking increasingly valuable after the past few years. I just hope that prospect isn't a daydream.

    • Sadly another election will likely bring more of the same. Only it will shake what faith some have in our electoral system. While other democracies produce routine coalition governments, we don't seem psychologically willingly to accept it as it as a norm.
      A majority might finally put the focus forward to the future or at least the present.
      " A man can Dream… can't he?"

  11. We may not need another election, but we certainly need a better national news and current affairs magazine than this sad rag.

    • nobody held a gun to your head. go find a better news service if you don't like it.

  12. I asked my friend's little girl what she wanted to be when she grows up.

    She said she wanted to be Prime Minister of Canada some day.

    Both of her parents, NDP supporters, were standing there, so I asked her, "If you were Prime Minister what would be the first thing you would do?"

    She replied, "I'd give food and houses to all the homeless people."

    Her parents beamed, and said, "Welcome to the NDP Party!"

    "Wow…what a worthy goal!" I told her. I continued, "But you don't have to wait until you're Prime Minister to do that. You can come over to my house, mow the lawn, pull weeds, and sweep my yard, and I'll pay you $50. Then I'll take you over to the grocery store where the homeless guy hangs out. You can give him the $50 to use toward food and a new house."

    She thought that over for a few seconds, then she looked me straight in the eye and asked,

    "Why doesn't the homeless guy come over and do the work, and you can just pay him the $50?"

    I smiled and said, "Welcome to the Conservative Party."

    Her parents still aren't speaking to me.

    • Cute anecdote, but something doesn't make sense. I thought Conservatives as a rule don't believe that there are non-lazy homeless people that are willing to work. I was led to believe that to them, it is the equivalent of the Sasquatch or something.

      • No but the Liberals do. Their problem is the belief that $50 is a fair wage and the hours should be tallied for E.I. payments; at 75% of wages is also fair value.

  13. I get the feeling Maclean's has given up on trying to hide its conservative bias. BS article.

    • Agreed

      • Disagree. Your move.

  14. What continues to irk me is the fact that Canadians have spoken several times now and shown in the election results i.e minority government that they want whoever is to govern to do so with the context that is given. The Conservatives have shown time and again an unwillingness to use a collaborative and cooperative approach to government and clearly have failed to deal with the situation Canadians represent. Time for a different channel.

    • Canadians have said no such thing in their election results, despite your fantasies. They are asked what MP / party they want to vote for. That's it.

  15. I was prepared to be snarky when i uploaded this blog. However, this is by far the best and the most reasonable editorial on this issue that i’ve seen so far. Good work macleans.

  16. Deficit? The same deficit all the opposition parties demanded Harper run to stimulate the economy? What magic wand does Iggy have to make that go away? More elections do create economic activity which is good for gov't revenue. Could work I guess

  17. Conservatives don't need an election they need to govern. Liberals are just playing games with other peoples money. Business as usual.

    • yeah….right

      • <blackout>yeah right</blackout>

      • <blackout>redact</blackout>

  18. Harper is not "holding" a non confidence vote. The Liberals are introducing a motion of non confidence.

    Your attempt to paint a picture of the Conservatives engineering a possible fall election is a joke. You have crossed the line from slanted journalism to outright lies. Shame on you.

    • I'm with you Colin! "He (Harper) has refused to cooperate with the other's parties" may need a rethink as well, MacLean's. When you remember that Layton gloats over the 79 times the NDP voted against the Cons (i.e. voting against the budget before he even read it!!), I don't think you can consider his behaviour remotely "cooperative". Ignatieff has met with the P.M. a total of 3 times (twice at the P.M.'s request) in order to reach a consensus on issues. Ignatieff's attitude of "he knows where to find me" is in sharp contrast to Harper's constant effort to talk with the P.M's when he was in Opposition. It amazes me that the NDP/Liberals got the budget they wanted, yet continue to whine.

  19. Do we think we would have this big of a defict if the Conservatives did not have a gun held to their head last Dec? Now the liberals are complaing about it when they said you had to spend money! Now nothing makes sense : ) LOL

    • What about the second wave of stimulus money the Libs wanted in the spring before the first wave was even evaluated ? What about the stalling/rejection of important legislation by the Opposition? The proof is on the "How'd they Vote?" website which tracks each M.P.'s vote, and the H of C website which gives the status of each bill in the House.
      Harper is calling this dysfunctional parliament for what it is. At NO time does he say he wants an election this fall, but if it is inevitable, who wouldn't want a majority –Ignatieff??? I think not.

  20. Maybe you should point out that the Conservatives have been campaigning non stop since their inception as a government.
    Where is the outcry over that?. They attack the leader of the opposition months from an election. What is it with this government really…do they want to govern unbridled without any opposition – in a minority situation?
    Talk about Democracy at it's worst…….

    • wml,
      In the 9 months since Ignatieff's coronation, there have been 3 serious threats by Ignatieff to bring down the gov't. That's one threat every three months (and I'm not even counting the unelected "coalition"). Perhaps that's why the Cons constantly seem in campaign mode–it's because they are!! Why are you so surprised??? Also they are not attacking M.I., they are simply letting Canadians know why he's here (in his own words) and what he stands for (something the left-leaning MSM overtly failed to do). He's been given a great deal of time to redeem himself –but his flip-flops aren't working for Canadians.

  21. Stephen Harper is representing me and my country to the world. I'm just plain embarrassed. We NEED an election and we need it real soon.

  22. Is Maclean's going to be the print edition of Faux News?

  23. Harper has plan in place Ignativev wants to destroy it and start over wasting our time moeny and energy.
    The crysis is not Harper fault it's the Bildelberg group that want to influence the world that way.
    Harpers speech was appropriate and of coures Liberars attack his every world and action to get in power.

    What can I say policitcs is a Big bit..

    Ignativev said he do not support conservatives anymore and won't make coalition with ndp and bloc quebecos so how ? Ignativev and Liberars want to be the only party in power I don't think so. No colalition .
    I won't vote liberars first Bildelberg created recession and problems now comes the Liberars the saviers.Don't think so.

    • Dion also vowed no coalition in the last election, yet promptly signed onto one only 3 weeks following the election. Don't think for a minute that Ignatieff wouldn't do the same, if it was to his advantage. Power at any price!!.

  24. "Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense."

    "In the size of the lie there is always contained a certain factor of credibility, since the mass of people will more easily fall victim to a greater lie than to a small one"

  25. Wow. Never thought I'd read such an obviously biased article from the editors? How's that for objectivity. Try this for a story you depressingly out-to-lunch……. The cons track record is abysmal and the fact that the economy is recovering by no help from them, but of course they will take credit for it should be cause for alarm bells. Instead you right a piece about how things are better left as they are???? ARE YOU SERIOUS?

  26. Wow. Never thought I'd read such an obviously biased article from the editors? How's that for objectivity. Try this for a story you depressingly out-to-lunch writers……. The cons track record is abysmal and the fact that the economy is recovering by no help from them, but of course they will take credit for it should be cause for alarm bells. Instead you write a piece about how things are better left as they are???? ARE YOU SERIOUS?

  27. Sigh. Where was all of the vitriol and outrage from Macleans when Harper called an election that violated his own laws? Apparently, what is good for the goose is not good for the gander.

    • If you read the constitution properly, you'll see that the governor general calls the elections, not the PM. You would also find out that the constitution trumps any legislation that is not a constitutional amendment itself.

  28. Somewhere between the Harper haters and the Iggy haters and the idealogues and the zealots, is the majority of Canadians whose political philosophy is pragmatic and who simply want to see Parliament work. I suspect that they do not want another election and want to see the parties work together for the country's benefit. Harper is our Prime Minister–live with it. Ignatieff is the leader of the opposition and may, in the future, become Prime Minister–live with it. Alternatively, you have the zoo to the south of us. We really should be thankful

    • john all well intended comments…no doubt you are a gem of a citizen! here in the gutters of keyboards amidst sprawling essays on inane topics…. people try to express what ever in a political sense…. at the end of the day all comments matter regardless…freedoms, remember? middle of the road is wise in real life, but in this foray one has to present the reader with ignorance, bias, passion,criticism, opinions, no one is above the other and is extreme fun!…oh! also it is wise to put your ego aside when you post…forget the 'I' or the result is you will become extremely frustrated when all you receive is one thumbs down and the next guy gets 300 thumbs up! who cares..

  29. another way of saying…gimme that whip with the steel ends…. i need to whip myself daily till another election is announced…i need to be in pain cause i deserve it so i will whip myself till it bleeds running blood!