Canada’s Federal Political Scene May Remain Constant Until 2009


Toronto Star columnist said this last Monday in his regularly scheduled column.
“Now Harper and his Conservatives are signaling that they too can read the writing on the wall.
That’s what Harper meant at his press conference on Friday when he said – twice – that he didn’t want to extend the Kandahar mission past its current February 2009 end date unless there is a consensus in Parliament and the country to do so.
Barring some unforeseen circumstance, such as a Taliban attack on the CN Tower, there is not. Canadian soldiers may be gung-ho about risking their lives in Kandahar, but those who pay their wages are not.” (Thomas Walkom June 24, Toronto Star)

I always make a point of reading Thomas Walkom.  His writing is refreshing and knowledgeable and always a good read.  His musings about Kandahar and the Harper government certainly ring true.  What ever happened to that election campaign we were supposed to have?

Hmmmm seems to be on October 18, 2009.  At least that’s what Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper is planning for.  Bill C-16, which has been passed, sets the election for that date.  However, in a minority situation that is unlikely to happen.  It would seem all the political parties ran out of excuses to pull the trigger.  It was like at one time everybody wanted to go out for lunch but as time wore on everybody lost their appetite.

It’s interesting how it all happened.  Afghanistan is surely key to the political situation we know find ourselves in.  Like Thomas Walkom says, Stephen Harper doesn’t want to extend this mission past February 2009.  It’s been a long time since he said Canada wouldn’t “cut and run” soon after he was elected.  Too many Canadian lives lost and too little support among Canadians for this mission has essentially cut it short.  Harper the pragmatist knows its over.

Is it the right thing to think and do, get out of Afghanistan?  It don’t matter now, you can almost see the writing on the wall.  It would seem the fear and palpable pressure post 9/11 has passed.  Swinging at the Taliban enemy in Afghanistan is like feigning at phantoms.  And of course why are they any worse than those who abuse and kill in far off places in Africa and South America?  Picking your poison is never about fairness.

In Canada its pretty obvious people don’t understand why we’re there and why Canadians are dieing.  Afghanistan is a noble effort but it pales compared to Utah Beach, Dieppe and the epic battles at Vimy Ridge and the Somme.  Ultimately this sentiment has shown up in the political arena first led by the NDP and the Bloc.  In a minority parliament, future deployment in Afghanistan is an end game.  Canadian forces in Kandahar doing the dirty work can see all of this with their eyes wide open.

Afghanistan might be key to the political deadlock at home, but there are many other things causing the political logjam.  In short nobody can see there way out.  Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are neck and neck with the Liberals.  Stephane Dion is losing his wonkishness and gaining a little bit of eclectic cool.  However, they both know an election would just reshuffle the seat numbers.  Majority territory is not apparent for either of them.

The Bloc doesn’t want an election because they are a fish without water right now.  Parti Quebecois leader Andre Boclair’s third place showing in the Quebec provincial election dampened the sovereignists hopes in Quebec.  Going back to the Quebec electorate with essentially the same songbook was a road to third place again in Quebec.  However his time it would be at the federal level behind the federal Liberals and Conservatives.  Gillies Duceppe is smarter than that, although he did have a bit of a brain fart when he leapt into the PQ leadership and dropped out on the same weekend.

Jack Layton is against continuing the mission in Afghanistan.  However, its pretty obvious he’s led on this issue with everybody else falling into line.  The problem is he doesn’t get any points for that or votes either.  The NDP always has a problem carving out their place on the left.  Ditto this time around.  The hated Libs always seem to crowd their room when it’s convenient.

I haven’t said anything about Elizabeth May and the Greens.  However they are to be taken seriously.  Any party that takes 10% of the vote nationally fundamentally changes the arithmetic to power.  The Greens have done that.  It’s one reason why Harper and Dion cannot get a majority in our splintered political environment.  However having May run against Peter McKay, in my mind is a road to electoral defeat.  Why not choose a riding on Vancouver Island?

So at least on the federal level, put election fever on the backburner.  It might be 2009.  In the meantime you’ll be inundated with provincial politics.  Their provincial showdown comes in October, and that may be another reason for our federal election process to be delayed that much longer.