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Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Nov 25, 2005

So I got a note from Progressivebloggers, with which this blog is affiliated, that our comments will be aggregated by a major media network during the upcoming election campaign. I guess I'll have to pay more attention, then.

In all seriousness, I welcome the election, not because I expect that it will solve the logjam in Parliament (the current balance is, roughly, just about what Canadians actually want) but because it will make it clear that business as usual isn't an option any more.

Business as usual was what we had during the Chretien era, a period of time of prosperity and growth and of general contentment with the Liberal government. Contentment, that is, except within the Liberal government, some members of which couldn't leave well enough alone.

What transpired was the ouster of Chretien (and various Chretien loyalists) in what was in some corners charaterized as an internal coup. From my perspective, wht we saw was the right, despairing of any hope of electing a Conservative government, lining up behind right-wing factions in the Liberal party. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

And, surprise, they were successful. The moderate-left liberal government of Chretien was replaced with a moderate-right corporatist government headed by Paul Martin. And while outwardly they carried on as though nothing had changed, a closer look revealed a swing further and further to the right.

The corporatists must have thought they had it made when a Liberal-Conservative budget was tabled last spring, a paean to the siren call of lower corporate taxes, reduced social programs, and creeping privatization. We all know of the back-stabbing that followed, and so the Liberals were forced to pass an NDP amendment in an attempt to stay in power - an attempt that would have worked, long term, except that these Liberals are fundamentally uncomfortable with a left-wing agenda.

We are, in short, having an election because the Liberals want one, not because the opposition has forced one. Because the Liberals have some internal issues to decide, and most specifically, this: to stay the conservative course, follow the Martin agenda, and hope for a coalition to the right; or to engage in counter-coup, dump Martin, and follow the oft-promised but seldom delivered leftist agenda Canadians really want.

I think that the Liberals are in for a much deeper shock than they expect. Yes, they will bleed support to the Conservatives, who will benefit from a compliant press and corporate backing, but not so much as you might think, because Canadians are not ready for a Conservative government (they still remember - and are still paying for - the last time we got one). And the moderate right - mostly economic conservatives with little or no social agenda - haven't abandoned the Liberals completely.

The Liberals will lose support to the Bloc Quebecois, which is the closest thing to an alternative voters in that province have (there is no NDP support to speak of, and the Conservatives are, if anything, anti-Quebec these days). And they will lose support to the NDP, especially in the Ontario heartland, hard hit by the ongoing free trade issue, and in British Columbia, where the NDP missed out on big gains last time by only the slightest margin.

This is, in my view, a good thing. This election should result in a more populist government. It should, all other factors being equal, reflect the left-wing sentiments of the Canadian people, underscored with western conservatism. It should, in other words, reflect a people's agenda, rather than a big business agenda. It should split the elctorate into roughly four equal parts, and should be enough for a Liberal-NDP coalition - but one which Paul Martin will not survive.

Is it too early to say Prime Minister Jack Layton? Perhaps. But it sure sounds good. And, from where I sit, it sounds like the kind of government Canadians want. And will vote for in increasing numbers this time out.

This time out, my lawn sign - and my vote - will be with Jack Layton and the NDP.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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