Not whining but drowning - Macleans.ca
 

Not whining but drowning


 

I tend to agree with the general tone of this Rick Salutin column

Suck it up, Canada: What are we – shoppers or citizens? A portion of each, I suppose. But it’s fatal to confuse the roles, as seems to be happening with all the whinging and whining over “another” election that “nobody” wants.

If public aversion to an election is noting more than a mulish objection to the tiny obligation it imposes on us all — to pay attention for a little while — then yes: suck it up. Democracy is our job.

But I suspect the prospect of a fourth election in five years may excite a different kind of concern: namely, that this is dilatory, destabilizing, a waste of the political class’s time as much as ours. I don’t mean any of that bilge the Tories are putting out, that somehow the recovery would suddenly grind to a halt if MPs were ever called away from their desks, as if the only thing propping the economy up was their own heroic efforts. But the constant threat of an election, punctuated every year or two by the reality, plainly makes for short-sighted and erratic government.

If there were real issues at stake, real divisions between the parties, real prospect of an election changing much of anything — in short, a real reason to go to the polls, that would be one thing. But so far there is little reason to believe any of these obtain. In which case, why bother?

And, as we saw last time, increasing numbers of potential voters are answering: why, indeed?

UPDATE: Will the public take it out on Ignatieff, or whoever is judged responsible for causing the election? Maybe. They haven’t tended to in the past. But the more futile, inconsequential elections we have, the greater the frustration may grow.

I don’t think the mere triggering of an election would invite the voters’ wrath. But they do tend to slap down leaders who appear too overtly power-hungry.* It hurt Harper last time, and it might hurt Iggy now: if he can’t come up with a convincing rationale for the election — a plausible lie, that is, since power hunger is always the reason for any election call —  voters will draw the appropriate conclusion: that he’s an unconvincing liar. As a rule, voters prefer convincing liars.

——–

*I’m not sure whether it’s actual power hunger the voters object to, or just the appearance of it. The public’s attitude to political ambition may be like that of the cop on the beat: Do what you must, just don’t do it in front of me.

UPPERDATE: All of this is hypothetical, of course, since there isn’t going to be an election.


 
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Not whining but drowning

  1. "But I suspect the prospect of a fourth election in five years may excite a different kind of concern: namely, that this is dilatory, destabilizing, a waste of the political class's time as much as ours."

    I'm to understand you're suggesting you're not part of the political class?

    Please.

    • Don't forget Coyne plotted with Frum to reanimate Reagan's ghost and rule the world! Did I get that right?

      • That's pretty much it. Roll tape …Frum and Mansbridge, One on One.

  2. Only Lib pols and partisans want an election at the moment. If there is an election this autumn, I think it will damage democracy in that vast majority of people don't believe there is a good reason for an election now and it will just illustrate how cut-off pols are from the rest of us. Pols are meant to be there representing constituents interests but they clearly have lost sight of that concept.

    An autumn election will be driven by vanity and the electorate will not be impressed.

    • Don't speak for me.

    • Harper wants one, too. See his refusal to accept NDP support. Jack was basically throwing himself at Harper in exchange for credit card regulation.

      • You mean after trying a coalition coup (don't take it literally, lefties) and voting down Harper on every single motion of confidence since? Saying that we needed a change in government and/or an election for almost a year?You mean that Jack, do ya?

        • Is that the same Jack that looked into the camera on Coalition of Losers Day, and told PMSH to take it like a man, resign, you're done, it's over (not exact words, but close)?

          • I don't think any of the players in this perpetual gong show deserves any medals for consistency.

          • Amen.

        • Well, I'm basing it on Jack's poor polling and his statement from a few days ago. He set out some small pieces that could be used to buy their support.

          • Harper would rather stick pins in his eyes than give Jack anything he 'demands',
            but he will offer up some Con policy that Jack can support.
            Jack is the one who doesn't want an election.

          • Um. Isn't that what I've been saying? Harper wants an election.

    • Our democracy is pretty resilient – it can withstand the 'trauma' of an election.

      • But does it make for a healthy democracy to keep doing these elections over and over again?

        • I'm not sure that it really affects the health of our democracy either way.

          And what happened to Dennis_F?

          • If we had an election every month, do you think it would affect our democracy then?

            Not sure if I'm too keen on this Intense Debate thingy. A lot of people who don't have the courage to post substantive replies seem to use it to give people a thumbs down on posts they don't like – for one thing. And don't get me started on the structure of these threads. I'd scrap it all and go with something far more simple.

          • In absolute terms I am confident that our democracy could easily withstand monthly elections.

            And from a practical perspective such a state of affairs couldn't go on forever. As 'they' say about things that can't go on forever, the answer is "You are rigth, they can't, and they won't.".

            At some point, and I don't know when that point is reached, something will change. Some possibilities are:
            – a number of citizens who are currently not participating in the voting process get so fed up with the rest of us that they get motivated, show up at the polls and clearly indicate what they have wanted all along, and then go back to their lives
            – increasing numbers of current voters become so fed up with the bickering that they finally give up, essentially saying "Fine, you think you have ALL the answers, have at it for four years. Be my guest."
            – the Queen's representative gets involved; she hauls all the party leaders in, and behind closed doors she creates the conditions that allow the House of Commons to function normally

            So, bottom line, if we actually were to head towards monthly elections I am very confident that we will not wake up one morning and find ourselves living in some type of banana republic, although I do admit that we would almost certainly get a few WTF raised eyebrows from other democracies; I'm OK with that.

    • "If there is an election this autumn, I think it will damage democracy in that vast majority of people don't believe there is a good reason for an election now …"

      Ooooh, ominous. An election will "damage democracy".

      Funny, democracy managed to survive this time last year – we went to the polls despite people not feeling there was a good reason for an election then. Or do elections only "damage democracy" when they threaten a conservative government?

      • "Or do elections only "damage democracy" when they threaten a conservative government?"

        No, elections only damage democracy when they are pointlessly being held to satisfy someone's vanity. The Conservative government of 2006 was the second/third(???) longest minority government in history and having an election to see if they could change dynamics of Parliament was reasonable after 2.5 years.

        Do you think it helps democracy if Libs force election every year until Canadians vote they way Libs want us to? What happens if Iggy gets trounced in two months, resigns leadership, someone knew comes in. Does the new leader get his chance at first available moment as well?

        • Ah, so when Stephen Harper calls an unnecessary election in hopes of increasing seats in the house, it's a reasonable attempt to "change the dynamics of Parliament." Statesmanlike, decent, manly.

          If Michael Ignatieff votes non-confidence, it's "vanity." Juvenile, effeminate, selfish.

          The Libs obviously wouldn't force an annual election because they'd be punished by the voters. But given the Conservative strategy of non-cooperation with opposition since 2006, it *would* help democracy if somebody would remind Harper – in the only language he will understand – that minority Parliaments require cooperation from all parties.

          • Non-cooperation since 2006? He's passed how many budgets, pieces of legislation, and resolutions on foreign wars since then? As so many keep pointing out, he can't do that by himself.

            At in the last election Harper could point to a record that Canadians can evaluate. Just what in the world can Iggy point to? His new blue shirt?

          • Either you're ignorant of the last three years' developments in Parliament, or you're spouting Conservative talking points.

            Either way, it would be a waste of my time to respond.

          • "Statesmanlike, decent, manly. Juvenile, effeminate, selfish."

            Your words, not mine.

            I believe minority governments should be allowed to govern for about 18 months and then all bets are off. And I think many Canadians agree with me. If there is an election this autumn, we will have tweedledum and tweedledee out campaigning less than a year after the last one with no major policies differentiating them.

            I don't believe that will enhance democracy in any way. It will just reinforce peoples perception that pols are in it for themselves and have lost sight of what their jobs actually entail, representing constituents.

          • "Your words, not mine."

            My point, obviously, was that you're ascribing two very different motivations to each leader for very similar actions taken for very similar reasons. Not surprisingly, the leader you like is doing responsible, reasonable things while the leader you don't like is to be sneered at as "vain".

            Minority governments fall. Minority governments that don't work with the other parties fall sooner. I would agree with you that this potential election is unnecessary if Harper hadn't spent the last 3 years thumbing his nose at the other parties.

            Live by the sword, die by the sword. If this keeps happening, the winning party will be the one that convinces the electorate that they can work productively in a minority parliament. That sounds like a positive development for Canada's democracy.

          • How long into Martin's minority was Harper swinging for the fences? He had his party abstain from one budget and then 'opposed vigorously' from that moment on… even cooked up a deal with the evil separatists and socialists. Minority parliaments are fragile for a reason — the public hasn't the confidence in one specific party. That Harper seemed willing to send an FU to parliament and ergo the Canadian voter last winter, not happy with his status, is now exascerbated by his basic contempt for both the parliamentary system and the majority of Canadians.
            He's willing to incite division and gut-anger to stir up his supporters and play on people's ignorance. He'd just as soon fuel the Bloc's argument than try to unite people. He and his followers are turning my stomach.

  3. First of all, anything coming from Salutin on this issue is overwhelmingly compromised by his obvious bias — Salutin is glaringly left-wing, and thus regards Harper and the Tories as the Antichrist + the 4 Horsemen, as all good Canadian lefties do. So of course Salutin thinks having another election is a swell idea that nobody should have a problem with. I agree that the Tories' party line about an election compromising the economic recovery is completely bogus. However, I also think that any political culture that has, as a defining characteristic, elections every few months or so is rightly seen as unstable and sub-optimal. Remember the derisive comments that used to be aimed at post-war Italy (and for good reason)? I don't think anyone questions the fact that that was a sign of serious dysfunctionality on Italy's part.

    • Surely we should have elections until we finally get it right.

      But, then, I'm overwhelmingly compromised.

      • until we finally get it right

        Only until then? Ominous.

        • Correct. Obviously I should have said until we finally get it left.

      • "Surely we should have elections until we finally get it right."

        Shoosh…it sounds like you have been drinking the hemlock from the Bloc….

    • Fine, take Salutin. Can we agree that we'll dismiss glaringly right-wing pundits too?

  4. Surely we should have elections until we finally get it right.

  5. How about Tories lying, big time, to Canadians, yet again:

    "Tories overstate cost of Liberal EI plan [by billions]: budget office"

    How much more do we have to put up with this?

    • It doesn't need to be true, it just needs to sound plausible.

    • Canadians deserve better. We need to kick out the Conservative liars and replace them with Liberal liars, because red is a much more flattering colour when your pants are on fire.

    • Are you accusing the civil service, which calculated the Tory numbers for them, of lying, too?

      • No the civil service was simply doing the job that Harper asked them to do. He ordered them to include aspects that were never in the Liberal plan. In fact the plan that Harper ordered costed was not even close to the Liberal plan. He than had his Minister knowingly lie to Canadians and tell us that the plan they costed was in fact the Liberal plan when it was no such thing.

        I'm actually surprised this little BS move by Harper didn't get its own blog spot… things that make you go ummm.

        • Well, the budget officer costed what the Liberals wanted him to cost. Not exactly sure why he's doing that in the first place. I thought he was an officer of Parliament, not of the Liberal party.

          • Maybe you need to read more.

          • Then why is it that I'm the one who's offering up discussion, and you're the one who's offering up one-liner nonsense? Next.

          • Because, obviously, you're a truly good person.

          • Are you suggesting otherwise?

          • Paranoia becomes you.

          • Knee-jerk responses don't become you. Next.

          • What is it and this guy and his next – anyone else irritated. Course i've had a couple of beers…maybe it's just me?

          • I find it fascination how you're irritated by my "next" and not the cowardly one-liners it's usually in response to. Next.

          • Dumb. Any parliamentarian can ask him to do any budgetary analysis. It's his job. The whole point is to have an impartial observer to referee these debates so that they don't become he said-she said situations, as we saw here. The CPC pulled a number from their arses.

          • You called me dumb. Am I now supposed to call you stupid?

            I thought that the budget officer was supposed to be non-partisan, yet here he is involving himself in an obviously partisan fight.

          • I think he's just doing his job dude.

          • Could it be he's just doing his job? Like telling it like it is, or at least how he sees it. Like feeling a duty to serve Paliament rather than please any one particular party?

          • No no no.. you see.. Stephen Harper is The Government. Therefore, all aspects of The Government must bend to his Divine Will. Any failure to do so by.. say.. independant officers of the government, justices, media, reality, etc.. is all part of a left-leaning conspiracy that threatens his ascension to righteous Glory, and thus must be opposed by any means necessary.

            Including lying.
            A lot.

          • Again, I didn't realized his job was to insert himself into a partisan fight on behalf of one party.

          • Dumb. I suppose we should do away with any financial analysis by anyone employed by government. Clearly financial analysis only causes the analyst to 'insert himself into a partisan fight on behalf of one party'–the government. Like I said, dumb.

            Next.

          • You say "dumb" because you have nothing else. Thanks.

          • Didn't he realize when the CONs appointed him that he wasn't suppose to take his job literally? What a hack partisan appointee!

          • You are dumb.

          • You are brilliant.

          • psssst. the Liberal party has elected a hundred and some odd MPs to parliament. the PBO works for all parliamentarians.

          • Actually, they've elected less than 80, and I thought that an independent officer of Parliaments wasn't supposed to work for one party specifically, especially when there's a partisan food fight going on.

          • you are correct Dennis re the number. not sure what i was thinking, but i do beleive that any group of MPs or even individual MPs can submit requests to the PBO.

          • you are correct Dennis re the number. not sure what i was thinking, but i do beleive that any group of MPs or even individual MPs can submit requests to the PBO.

            And, don't you think that clearing up partisan bs (reporting on costing that does not reflect the actual proposal) adds to ending the food fights?

    • Oh. It seems that there are more Canadians 'excluded' than included in the Liberal Plan.

      See the Liberal plan EXCLUDES all those Canadians that are NOT the most vulnerable, like:
      those on maternity or sick leave,
      those losing their first job (like immigrants)
      and those (senior types) who returned to work and got laid off.

      Yes the Government figures included the above,
      the Liberal plan did not.

  6. I just find it interesting how it's people on the left who seem to be making the argument that an election now is no problem and how they can't understand what all the fuss is about. I could be wrong, but I don't recall them making these arguments in 2005 or 2006. Or, wait, in December 2008!

    Heck, I even saw an article recently that was trying to make the case for how an election acts as stimulus, if you can believe that!

    • Hey why not — Iggy, Layton & Co. were arguing that boosting EI = stimulus. I don't see why we don't just shut down the entire private sector and put everyone on the dole. It would be the Ultimate SuperDuper Stimulus.

    • It's always justified when Liberals are in opposition,
      and never when Liberals are in government……didn't you get the memo?

      The same memo that said
      Liberals will not cooperate with the Government's stimulus budget because 'Harper gets to wear this recession' so Liberals will formulate an alternative budget to be presented after the Harper budget (where is that alternate budget?);
      and we will bring this government down because as hard as Jack and MI have tried, Harper will not cooperate with other parties.

    • I thought they made the point quit well. Please inform me how political parties spending millions of dollars and creating thousand of jobs is not a stimulus to the economy.

      • If a job report came out today stating that a whole boatload of jobs had been created last month, BUT that they were all McJobs of a decidedly temporary nature (which is exactly the kind of jobs that an election creates), Iggy & Co's talking point response would be that that was an abysmal result.

      • After a 'progressive' explains to me how cutting a tax, any tax, is not a stimulus to the economy.
        Cutting the GST is a stimulus, that every Canadian at every income level enjoyed.

        • Your last statement is absurd. Yeah, i really enjoyed spending my $50 while Jimmy Patteron probably was enjoying the savings on his new Jag.

  7. And, as we saw last time, increasing numbers of potential voters are answering: why, indeed?

    That might not actually be true.

    Much has been made of the general decline of voter turnout in recent Canadian elections. The historical record presents a useful perspective on this trend. It is certainly true that the percentage of registered voters who cast ballots has declined- – especially since 1993. However, it is important to note the number of fluctuations over the years of the numbers and percentage of registered voters as a percentage of the whole Canadian population (as measured at the census prior to the election). When one computes the percentage of votes cast as a percentage of the whole population, then the decline is not nearly so dramatic. Indeed, the 45% level registered in the 2000 and 2006 elections is well within the range of 40-50% of Canada's total population seen since 1935. Even the most recent election in 2008 remains within that historical range.

    If you look at the chart at the bottom of the linked page you can see that the percentage of the population listed as eligible voters has steadily increased as the percentage of eligible voters that participated has decreased. Essentially, the enumeration process may just catching up to the actual historical level of voter participation in this country.

    • That's an interesting link. Thanks.

      • You'll also like that it buries the collective wisdumb that Harper has the lowest support from the population ever. That honour actually goes to Sir John A who only had a measly 8.3% of the population behind him in 1867.

    • you make an excellent point, the devil is always in the details…..

  8. I believe there is a problem, the current government is coasting, slow roasting the citizenry and when they're ready to take us out of the oven (read: conservatives think they'll get a majority) they'll do it. I think coasting instead of actually leading is problematic and that Canada is more or less in a holding pattern — not sure we can really go on much longer without decisive leadership steering our country.

    – are we fighting in this war long term or not,
    – are we committed to fixing the environment or not,
    – are we protecting our businesses and natural resources from foreign interest or not,
    – do we have a strategic direction for the 2050 Canadian workforce or not

    ==we need a plan==

    • Those are good questions for parliament, when Question Period resumes.
      But what are the chances there will be anything but a food fight?

  9. Also interesting to see, contrary to some reports, that the Bloc seems ready to vote down the ways and means motion, which is now scheduled for next Friday, that involves the home reno tax credit. The linked article suggests that it's now up to the NDP.

  10. Isn't stimulus money supposed to go to things that last, like infrastructure, instead of television commercials?

    • Every little bit helps.

  11. Today at the pool, a guy I know literally ran over the bridge to talk about the potential election — he delivered every conservative talking point going to me — whoever causes election will be punished (well, hey, if all three opposition parties are punished, then harp will have his coveted majority!) — he told me Canadians don't want another one — I asked him why he didn't mind last fall — he said Canadians don't want a coalition…

    So I told him I do, I'm voting for the coalition government. I think I"ll have pins made up to pass around. Vote Coalition, each and every year.

    When he got to coalition, I told him to stop listening to talk radio and try to find some more balanced media, and to get the heck away from me.

    Great start to the day! Laps and politics — we actually MAKE the hot tub hot.

    • Last line: too much detail.

  12. Which raises a question: How do we get political stability in the next parliament. Harper says it's by giving him a majority. What does Iggy say? He'll manage a "Bigger" food fight?

  13. Too frequent elections partly undermines our foreign policy credibility. It also undermines international investor confidence, for foreign investors (and we need them) want to know what are rules of the commercial game, so they look for continuity, sameness and predictability. My view is that our country needs a majority Conservative government at this time in our unfolding national story, especially in view of the ability of the current Conservatives, as well as what Canada faces in the world. It may not always be that way, but for now it is, and at this point it time to do right thing for Canada, rather than what has seemed desirable for ones own club.

    • Stop it! You'll make me cry!

    • I'm not sure how the demonstrated ability of the current Conservatives suggests that we need.. or really even want.. any type of majority Conservative government.

      I mean, unless you think that losing sensitive documents, allowing our supply of medical isotopes to come to a grinding stop with no backup plan in place, giving away over a billion dollars of our softwood lumber industry's money to their US competitors, wasting parliament's time debating "fixed election date laws" that don't do anything, passing around instruction manuals on how to derail and obstruct committees, coming into power initially on five key campaign planks and then actively doing the opposite of two of them, leaving two more of them basically on the floor, and only following through on the one that every economist said was a stupid idea, and all that is without taking any look at Flaherty's repeated pie-in-the-sky deficit numbers that seem to grow every time the man opens his mouth and having no plans to fix them beyond crossing their fingers and wishing really really hard..

      This is the majority we need? Baloney.

      What we need is a minority that actually respects our systems of government and can understand the big word "co-operation".

    • I'm not sure how the demonstrated ability of the current Conservatives suggests that we need.. or really even want.. any type of majority Conservative government.

      I mean, unless you think that losing sensitive documents, allowing our supply of medical isotopes to come to a grinding stop with no backup plan in place, giving away over a billion dollars of our softwood lumber industry's money to their US competitors, wasting parliament's time debating "fixed election date laws" that don't do anything, passing around instruction manuals on how to derail and obstruct committees, coming into power initially on five key campaign planks and then actively doing the opposite of two of them, leaving two more of them basically on the floor, and only following through on the one that every economist said was a stupid idea, and all that is without taking any look at Flaherty's repeated pie-in-the-sky deficit numbers that seem to grow every time the man opens his mouth and having no plans to fix them beyond crossing their fingers and wishing really really hard — unless you think all that is the blueprint for a successful Canada.

      This is the majority we need? Baloney.

      What we need is a minority that actually respects our systems of government and can understand that "conquer" is not a synonym for "cooperate"

    • The Conservatives don't have a lot of foreign policy credibility to undermine. Their stance on the environment is pretty much leaving Canada isolated on the world stage. They have essentially ignored China, they are the only nation to have left a citizen of their country stranded in Gitmo, many of their chosen alliances have confused or upset some of Canada's traditional partners in the world.

      Plus, Harper occasionally uses world forums as an opportunity to attack his domestic political opponents, which must befuddle outside observers who have no idea what a Liberal is.

      Frequent elections – which Harper is the primary cause of – aren't likely to have a worse effect on our foreign policy credibility than all of the above. Besides, it's not as if the Liberals and Conservatives are that far apart on trade policy anyway – international investors are likely to be playing by the same rules regardless of who is in power.

    • The Conservatives don't have a lot of foreign policy credibility to undermine. Their stance on the environment is pretty much leaving Canada isolated on the world stage. They have essentially ignored China, they are the only nation to have left a citizen of their country stranded in Gitmo, and many of their chosen alliances have confused or upset some of Canada's traditional partners in the world.

      Plus, Harper occasionally uses world forums as an opportunity to attack his domestic political opponents, which must befuddle outside observers who have no idea what a Liberal is.

      Frequent elections – which Harper is the primary cause of – aren't likely to have a worse effect on our foreign policy credibility than all of the above. Besides, it's not as if the Liberals and Conservatives are that far apart on trade policy anyway – international investors are likely to be playing by the same rules regardless of who is in power.

  14. YUno it's funny that when Paul Martin's government was at risk of falling, I recall people making the same arguements. "Too soon for an election" the Liberal partisans said. My how the tables turn when they are on the other side of the fence.

    Me personally, I have no problem with elections if there is a REASON for it. I'm sorry, but an election this fall would be pointless, and it would change nothing.

    This has nothing to do with 'rejecting democracy' either. If having elections is such a create democratic exercise, then why not have one every year, or every month, or every week? Surely no one should question the value of the democratic process… right?

    Frankly, seeing as how we will be seeing minority governments for some time to come, we should REJECT an election call, if for nothing more than to force the parties to work together for a change.

  15. Yuno it's funny that when Paul Martin's government was at risk of falling, I recall people making the same arguements. "Too soon for an election" the Liberal partisans said. My how the tables turn when they are on the other side of the fence.

    Me personally, I have no problem with elections if there is a REASON for it. I'm sorry, but an election this fall would be pointless, and it would change nothing.

    This has nothing to do with 'rejecting democracy' either. If having elections is such a create democratic exercise, then why not have one every year, or every month, or every week? Surely no one should question the value of the democratic process… right?

    Frankly, seeing as how we will be seeing minority governments for some time to come, we should REJECT an election call, if for nothing more than to force the parties to work together for a change.

    • It should also be remembered that scandal was the underlying justification for an election in both 2005 and 2006. Right now, it all seems to be about Iggy's "Big" Canada, whatever that might be.

  16. I'd consider lying about budgetary numbers (both pre- and post-economic downturn), having no credibility with numbers and general disregard for our democratic system would be enuf for me. I notice none of the Con-talking pointers seem to be throwing out the 'chessmaster' line here, because certainly they don't believe that Harper isn't pulling the strings to get his desired result, isn't he? Let's face it, his actions and words since the last election suggest that he'll continue driving wedge issue after wedge issue, lying and tossing out principles until Canadians oblige and give him that majority. He's entitled, after all..