Monday, April 11, 2011

Choosing the Least Bad?

Americans always gripe that they have only two choices in most elections--the bad and the least bad.  That is, with two major parties dominating the process, and both often having primary processes that filter out moderate, sensible folks, one has to choose not the best candidate but the one that is less likely to do severe damage.*
*  Note--I don't think this applied to the 2008 election where Obama was actually a good candidate that people could, ahem, prefer.  He was not the hold your nose candidate that John Kerry was, for instance.
But, in some ways, the Americans are kind of lucky.  I was asked recently by someone who I would vote for in the current Canadian campaign, and I responded that I was glad that I could not (I am not a citizen, just a resident).*  Why?  Because I would have four or five candidates to choose from and picking the least worst is much harder.
* Another advantage--I was able to turn away a couple of Conservative folks who appeared at my door--sorry, I cannot vote, go away.
Surely with four or five parties, one has to be attractive, right?  Um, not so much.  Process of elimination is the only way to go in my entirely theoretical ballot:
  • We can include the Greens, but that would be an entirely wasted vote.  They have not gained any seats in parliament as far as I can tell.  
  • The Bloc Quebecois:  If you follow this blog, you know how I feel about Quebec separatism (they call it sovereignty, but who are they kidding?  Only themselves if they think it works).  Quebeckers will argue that voting Bloc gives Quebec sway in Ottawa.  Sure.  But as a spoiler since a successful bloc means no party gaining a majority, which might be fine.  But since the BQ will not be in power under most potential realities, it is voting for a party that can only extort.  For me, any vote for a party that promises secession is, well, voting for secession.  That would be against my interests as an Anglophone in Quebec, and against Canada's interests and Quebec's as well, since another referendum, successful or not, will disrupt the economy and produce much animosity. 
  • The Conservatives?  Um, what do they stand for? Not for the missions in Afghanistan--that would require standing up.  For a variety of relatively right wing positions such as banning the registry of long guns (rifles, I guess).  Not to mention that Harper has not been the most open, transparent, accountable of Prime Ministers.  That the PM's Office writes the talking points of most/all government officials is perhaps even more problematic than stamping Harper government all over the place.
  • The New Democratic Party [NDP]?  Jack Layton is clearly the most "Prime Ministerial" of all of the party leaders, and is fighting a good fight despite fighting another fight--cancer.  I do admire the man.  The party, well, not so much.  Not only do you have candidates talking about the "American war machine" in the context of the F35 debate (I don't mind opposing the US, just 1960's era mindless jargon), but the party's pacifism is not a stand I can support.  
    • More importantly, the party, which would seem to be for rights and freedom, always panders to the French nationalists within Quebec, siding with them when various issues come up where the NDP can support oppressing the Anglophones.  They seem to be the only Federalist party using only French signs in Quebec. Their hypocrisy here bothers me far more than the other parties for some reason.  I guess I am always annoyed when the self-righteous are so very wrong. 
    • But they are a party of panderers, as their latest promise to freeze tuition suggests.  First, the Federal government here has no role to play on tuition since that is a provincial matter.  Second, given how much the provinces vary in their tuition (it is still low across the board), there is nothing to this platform promise but a play to the young who may not understand math.
  • Which leaves us the Liberals.  Their leader, Michael Ignatieff, makes everyone believe the old saying: those who cannot, teach.  Iggy just lack any credibility to be a decent Prime Minister.  I am still frustrated that the Liberals ran away from the Afghanistan mission when they were the ones that started it.  Their platform calls for more peacekeeping and less war-fighting.  I really do not want to see the day that Canadian Forces are deployed again in a peace-keeping mission because the public and the Liberals will be upset when folks shoot at the CF whether they are wearing blue helmets or not.  The world changed after Somalia and Rwanda and one of those changes is that the opponents in these kinds of missions will fire upon the folks from the international community to drive them away.  If you are not prepared for that, then don't deceive everybody into thinking that it will be the 1960's all over again.
So, I am glad that I can watch the train wreck that is this election.  I am firmly convinced that the Canadians have become more American than they could possibly imagine/tolerate.  Just as Americans have grown to prefer divided government (Presidency and Congress controlled by different parties), I think Canadians have come to prefer minority government.  At least, the way they vote this time is going to appear to support that belief.  Several more years of a Conservative minority government are ahead of us, while Iggy returns to the academy.  My hope is that the Liberals find themselves a better leader.  I am not counting on it, but that is my hope.


Anonymous said...

I can safely say that this blog post did not surprise me in the slightest. But it's by no means certain yet that the next government will be a Conservative minority - there's enough ground to gain in Ontario, BC and Atlantic Canada for Harper to win a majority, and if the Conservative win fewer seats than the combined total of the NDP and the Liberals, Michael Ignatieff could become PM even though many, many people dislike him.

MSS said...

The persistence of minority government (which is indeed not a sure thing this time, even if it is likely) is less a product of some collective Canadian preference, than of (1) Francophones in Quebec preferring a separatist party, making it much harder for any party to win a majority, and (2) an electoral system that grossly overrepresents the BQ, while underrepresenting the NDP and, especially, the Greens.

Then there is the fact that a "majority" government, when it happens in Canada, almost never means a majority-preferred government anyway, thanks again to that electoral system.