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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Ugh, Canada

Lovely. Canada has it’s own version of Dubya Bush now. Well, actually, it doesn’t really.

I don’t really read right-wing blogs anymore…I bet they are moving lots of electrons around gloating about this whole Canadian election thing. Never mind that the Conservatives were running as the alternative to an ossified party everyone was sick of and a Prime Minister hardly anyone liked and got 36% of the vote. To get to that 36%, they had to promise they weren’t going to dismantle health care, weren’t going to attempt to recriminalize abortion, and above all weren’t going to involve Canada in the Iraq War.

The good news is that the combined Liberal Party (103 seats) and New Democratic Party (29 seats) total is greater than that of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives (124 seats out of 308, well short of 155, the magic number for a majority, despite winning every last seat in Alberta, Canada's answer to Texas), who would otherwise relish the chance to bring everything Canadians know and generally don’t love about their southern neighbor home to roost. (This of course assumes that the Liberal Party is worth a damn, which is not a sure thing by any means, although being deprived of power is often a good incentive, the U.S. Democrats notwithstanding, to shape up one’s act.) As to social issues, much of the Tory delegation is uncomfortable with any attempt to export American-style movement conservatism northward, and that's before you consider that even with unanimous Conservative support they'd need some opposition support to get any measure passed. Attempts to move towards an American model of public sector are going to meet a good deal of resistance as well; while Harper may have some ad hoc allies on specific issues, the Conservatives have nothing resembling an ideolgocial ally among the other parties.

However, the balance of power in the country is held by a group of people – the Bloc Quebecois - who presumably don’t even want to be part of the country anymore. That’s pretty weird, isn’t it? They may find a lot of common cause with the Conservatives with regards to provincial devolution, even though the bulk of that delegation can barely conceal their disdain for all things Quebec. (After all, Quebecois are about being French, and Conservatives of all stripes and anything French go together like cream of mushroom soup and maraschino cherries.) Even odder is that the Tories won seats in Quebec in some secession-friendly areas, and despite their new place in the catbird seat, the Bloc did far worse than they had hoped for Monday and in fact lost seats (51, as opposed to 53 before the election) from the old Parliament to the new one.

Of course, one of the things Harper wants to do is increase military spending. This strikes me as the sort of thing that the Bloc isn’t going to go along with, seeing as it is directly hostile to their leanings (most of them are fairly left-wing even by the relaxed standards of the Great White North) and policy preferences, and there’s no real way to leave Quebec out of the impact of the policy change.

So, the Conservatives have a minority government. Presumably, the Liberals will need some time to pick their new leadership, which, given how nasty the infighting there has been recently, is going to take some time. Some of the less hinged Conservatives will make some “colorful” statements that will sound a lot like the ones made by some of Capitol Hill’s more obnoxious trogolodytes, the difference being that even most people in Alberta will be horrified or at least embarrassed by the remarks in question. The government will have some difficult choices regarding Quebec and the Bloc, because almost anything they’d do that would keep the Bloc happy will cost them in Ontario and the Martimes, where they’re not keen on the idea of splitting up the Dominion, and possibly alienate their core in the West, who might wonder if Quebec is getting too good a deal. Harper has a scant mandate to do anything other than “don’t be Paul Martin,” which he should have no trouble doing since we’re in reality and not one of those body-switching movies they did in the 1980s.

There have been minority governments in Canada before - including the most recent Liberal government led by Martin - and most of them have not lasted long.

I expect Ottawa to be much like David Byrne’s vision of Heaven for the next couple of years.


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