The one-party province

It’s hard to take anything Stephen Harper says about democratic reform seriously when he boasts that Alberta will be awash in a sea of blue, drowning out any representation by dissenting voices.

There’s no doubt it’s the Conservative heartland, receiving just over over 60% of the popular vote in the 2004 election. And I certainly wouldn’t expect Harper to embrace any progressive notions such as proportional representation, which would radically propose that their 60% support should translate into roughly 60% of the seats. No, he wants it all, and could very well get it all this go round.

I of course expect the Conservatives to try and will all the seats they can, and there is no doubt that unseating the Deputy Prime Minister would be a significant victory. But to boast that they are going clear away the meagre remaining opposition goes beyond wishing Conservative success, it takes delight in the inequalities inherent in our voting system. These are the words of a man concerned not with democracy, but with power.

It may be easy to dismiss this as sour grapes coming from electoral losers, and certainly the Liberals are worse offenders in the realm of electoral reform. Even Layton, with all the capital he had to spend in the last Parliament, didn’t press the one issue that could fundamentally change the system which determines how all other issues are decided.

“Our voting system is broken. It’s time for a rebirth of our democracy,” Layton said in 2004, in a speech which indicated NDP support of a minority government would hinge on this issue. With luck, this time he’ll get a do-over. If he drops this ball again, who knows when the chance will come again.

Channel 4, 7pm: Election Debate (Repeat)

With nothing spectuacular arising from the debates, this election is starting to feel like a rather dissapointing re-run. The 2004 election was interesting because of the new configuration of the parties and new leaders, but it didn’t have the replay value of, say, the Marine Biologist episode of Seinfeld.

Perhaps the only interesting event of the week is the resurfacing of some Classic Harper , specifically, a 1997 speech to an American policy group. While the speech is delivered with what passes for humour, the real joke is picturing Harper bashing his country while fawning over the Republican party to the conservative Americans he so clearly envies. Footage of this speech would be a godsend for the Liberals, though even in print the highlights of the speech are far more amusing then the two debates we’ve just been treated to.

It’s too bad Classic Harper isn’t around much anymore. Any election featuring him could go into syndication.

“Mr. Harper, do you love Canada?”

“Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it.”

The Big Board

The predictions are in for the M&G Election 2006 pool. While nearly unanimous in predicting wins for Liberals Anne McLellan, Keith Martin, Belinda Stronach, Tony Valeri, and Michael Ignatieff, M&Gers are of differing opinions on the other races. In particular, Newton-North Delta and Churchill saw predictions from three different parties, with no party receiving a majority.

The most optimistic predictions for Liberal fortunes were made by Manatee, who has them taking 9 out the 14 seats in the pool. O’Smiley is unexpectedly the one who painted the best picture for the NDP’s prospects, with 4 of the 14 seats. Three contributors, Gnomes, Manatee, and Patsy, gave nothing to the Conservatives, with Dexter and Stevo’s predictions formed that party’s best hopes.

On average, here’s what M&Gers think will happen:

BC – Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca – Keith Martin retains his seat. (5/6)
BC – Newton-North Delta – NDP pickup. (3/6)
BC – Vancouver Centre – Hedy Fry beats Svend Robinson. (4/6)
AB – Edmonton Centre – Anne McLellan wins again. (5/6)
SK – Regina-Qu’Appelle – Nystrom returns! (4/6)
MB – Churchill – Desjarlais returns as an independent. (3/6)
ON – Trinity-Spadina – Olivia Chow wins. (5/6)
ON – Hamilton East-Stoney Creek – Tony Valeri wins. (5/6)
ON – Newmarket-Aurora – Belinda Stronach wins. (5/6)
ON – London-Fanshawe – Tie vote between the Liberals and NDP, with 3 votes each.
ON – Etobicoke-Lakeshore – Ignatieff wins. (5/6)
QC – Papineau – The Bloc unseats Pierre Pettigrew. (4/6)
QC – Jeanne-Le Ber – The Bloc unseats Liza Frulla. (5/6)
NT – Western Arctic – The Liberals hold. (4/6)

Harper’s bazaar

Is it me, or is Harper actually running surprisingly strong campaign this time around? He certainly has the appearance of setting the agenda, and I’m sure he’s got enough policy points to last us through until then end of next year, let alone this one. Everything is out on display in the new Conservative party. No hidden agenda here.

Martin thinks that Harper will burn out the public. Maybe, but that might not be before they decide to vote for him. As Harper focuses less on the scandal we already know about and more on centrist policy alternatives, he is looking daily more and more primeministerial and less and less angry. A little less puffy lately too, but the holiday season is just ahead.

The Liberals are answering each of Harper’s policy points competently, but if this election is fought on policy points between two similar agendas, the Liberals are in trouble. Not because one side or the other has more popular ideas, but because any ostensibly credible alternative to the current government would attract a lot of disgruntled votes. For many, the Liberals have been a Hobson’s choice on the ballot for years. Harper, this time, has finally figured out that any decent alternative was what people were looking for, and is doing his best to give it to them. If the game is only to appear more credible then the status quo, even Harper might be able to pull it off.