Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Oy, Canada!

If you have ever uttered the words “If [Candidate X] is elected, I’m moving to Canada,” you might want to review recent Canadian history before you toss your bong and your Birkenstocks into the backpack:

*Canada has been run by the Conservative Party since 2006.
*Canada backed out of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change in 2011.
*Canada scrapped their national long-form census because the Prime Minister felt it too personally intrusive.
*Canada wiped out years of CO2 emission reductions by mining tar sands for oil, with national CO2 pollution levels now set to rise for many years to come.
*Canada slashed taxes, creating soaring deficits; Conservatives use the “deficit problem” as an excuse to skimp on social services and infrastructure.
*Canada embarked on a prison building binge while increasing mandatory sentences for a host of criminal offenses.
*Canada scuttled their national gun registry.
*Canada banned government scientists from discussing climate change research with the media.

But at least they have a fair voting and political system….or…er:

* Canada is the proud home of Conservative operative  Michael Sona,  convicted in 2011 for placing robocalls directing liberal voters to the wrong polling places in Ontario.
*Canada’s Conservative party carefully pre-screens reporters to cover rallies and restricts them to five questions.

Canada took a hard right turn in 2006, when Stephen Harper’s Conservatives took the helm, riding the population boom in Alberta, the Texas of the North, where oil and cattle go hand in hand with wild west libertarianism. Harper's rise was the culmination of years of western resentment to Canada's liberal east coast establishment.

While the Canadian right may not rival the level of lunacy we see in our own Tea Party, they have had memorable moments. The Canadian Alliance, formed in 2000, emerged as a western alternative to the more staid, buttoned-down east coast Conservative Party. Alliance leader Stockwell Day,  a flamboyant preacher turned politico, refused to campaign on Sundays, believed the world was 6,000 years old, and that man co-existed with dinosaurs. Liberal reporters delighted in mockingly humming the theme to the "Flintstones" as his campaign bus, "Prayer Force One," lumbered across the heartland.

The Alliance Party platform contained a number of nods to direct democracy. The party advocated national referendums on any issue receiving petition signatures from 3% of the Canadian electorate. Liberals accused the Alliance of using this scheme as a means for pushing unpopular measures onto the national ballot. Comedian Rick Mercer lampooned the effort on the television show "This Hour Has 22 Minutes." He organized his viewers, gathering the requisite number of signatures for an initiative to change Stockwell Day's first name to "Doris."

Failing to achieve electoral success outside the west, the Alliance, in December, 2003, merged with the mainline Canadian Conservative Party.

While the US left pines for a multi-party system, Canada proves it’s no guarantee of a liberal nirvana. Some Parliamentary systems apportion seats based upon the party's overall national polling percentage, so 50% of the vote guarantees 50% of the seats, etc.  Canada’s system is first-past-the-post, so the party with the most votes in an individual Parliamentary district (called  a “riding”) wins the seat. Trouble is, Canada now has just one main Conservative Party,  while liberals can pick between the Liberal Party, the (ironically more liberal) New Democratic Party (NDP), or, for those with a Francophile separatist bent, the Bloc Quebecois.

With one party on the right and three on the left, the liberal vote splinters and the Conservatives prevail. If you think Bush v. Gore was exquisitely undemocratic, consider this: Canadian Conservatives captured a majority of seats in Parliament with just 36.3% of the popular vote in 2006, 37.7% in 2008, and 39.6% in 2011.

On October 19, Canada has its next national parliamentary election. Stephen Harper is opposed by Liberal Party head Justin Trudeau (eldest son of former Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau), and NDP leader Tom Mulcair , a dual French-Canadian citizen. Heading into election day, the polls are showing a three way tie. So, will Canada veer left again, by putting the NDP or the Liberals in power? Or, will Harper win with yet another liberal split?

A great deal is at stake.

Seriously, if Harper and the Conservatives carry the day, where will we run to escape President Trump?


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