Thoughts on the Canadian Election

This is political, and not directly related to writing or fantasy in general.

We had an interesting election here in Canada this Tuesday. A man who has held power for over almost a decade and has been an influence on Canadian politics for even longer has been defeated resoundingly, even taking losses in places where he was though to be invulnerable.

stephen-harper1

Stephen Harper

Harper was a conservative’s conservative. His greatest accomplishments were political, uniting the fragmented Canadian right wing which was lost in the wilderness after many years of Liberal rule and leading them to power. If the CPC survives his defeat then he deserves credit for that, at least. He, along with his media allies, are also responsible for the crushing defeat of the Liberal party, their longtime rivals. At one point the party was declared dead, losing even official opposition status as Harper’s CPC trampled them into the dirt. This led to the rise of the NDP, my favoured party, which captured official opposition status.

Mulcair and Layton

Jack Layton and Tom Mulcair

Jack Layton was a popular figure in Canadian politics. He died from Cancer in 2011, and was succeeded by Tom Mulcair, who led the party this election. The NDP kept the faith for left leaning political junkies like myself after the Liberals were beaten down. Layton was much loved, engineering the NDPs highest seat total ever, and a hard act for Mulcair to follow. And then there’s Justin Trudeau:

justin-trudeau-20141112

Justin Trudeau

Trudeau was the last great hope for the Liberals and the worst nightmare of the Conservatives, who hated his father, a popular prime-minister (But not popular in all of the country, of course). He came on strong at first, weathering the CPC media assault as only someone who has been under media scrutiny his entire life can. He seemed to stumble a year before the election, but ended up convincing the people of Canada that he was the best choice to unseat Stephen Harper, showing great acumen in defeating opponents who led him for most of the race.

Here are some salient points about the Canadian Election

The Lead Up

  • A year before the election the CPC were on shaky ground. A scandal broke out over the way the Prime Minister’s Office handled one Mike Duffy, a CPC senate appointee. Stephen Harper gave contradictory testimony in question period and his credibility dipped.
  • Then ISIS became an international sensation, which coincided with a series of attacks in Canada that left two soldiers dead, and an assailant shot dead in parliament. Security is a conservative strongpoint and so PM Harper immediately took control. He introduced bill C-51, which is Canada’s version of the patriot act, which Trudeau signed on and Mulcair opposed. He also introduced C-24, which received less attention, but was kind of a big deal as well (we will get to that later)
  • Mulcair stood firm against C-51. This was his proudest moment. He was initially hammered in the media (which usually ignores the NDP), but as Canadians examined the bill he ended up looking better and better for opposing such a knee jerk reactionary, monstrous bull. Eventually he took the lead in polls. Meanwhile Trudeau and his liberals looked weak for not opposing the bill, essentially for political reasons and dropped to their lowest point in years. Harper strengthened his base, and readied to attack the NDP.

The Campaign

  • Harper’s Strategy should be familiar to anyone who has seen a modern conservative campaign. Many of the bills he passed made it harder for people to vote. C-51 declared war on terrorists, which oddly enough also included people who harm the “economic interests” of Canada, which played to conservative fantasies of jailing hippies. C-24 literally introduced the idea of SECOND CLASS CITIZENS in Canada, which certainly nabbed the nationalist, anti-immigration vote. He was for oil, against renewable energy, muzzled scientists, and ignored a plee to start an inquiry into missing aboriginal women. Going into the election Harper had all the weapons he needed to win, despite being scandal ridden and unpopular, he just needed to deploy them properly.
  • Harper, using rules that he wrote, made the campaign longer to give the CPC opportunity to bring its deep coffers to bear.
  • Harper refused to engage in traditional debates at the CBC, opting for friendlier broadcasters where questions could be controlled. He strictly limited media access to himself and his candidates, showing unparalleled message control, but looking a little like a paranoid micro-manager at times.
  • Mulcair was riding high for most of the Campaign. Unfortunately for him, the traditional media are allergic to the NDP, and basically criticized him for anything they could. At one point they actually called him arrogant for running like a front-runner, when he was the front-runner. This is the cross the NDP must bear, and will bear until they get some media support of their own.
  • Trudeau seemed to flounder in the early days of the campaign. The conservatives bashed him constantly with ads noting how he was young and not ready to be PM (Harper was the same age when he became PM, with exactly the same amount of experience) and also a teacher (conservatives these days hate teachers, something about unions and lefty propaganda). He made some odd statements about running a deficit and growing the economy from the heart outwards that were roundly mocked by the media (but not by voters, which is key here)
  • The Conservatives engineered themselves several boosts during the midpoint of the campaign. A sudden budget surplus, which mas mostly smoke and mirrors (selling of assets and dipping into EI funds) gave them a boost among their base who really care about security, taxes, and the economy (except the jobs part).
  • A second boost came from new baby bonus cheques — these are the conservative strategy of ’boutique’ tax cuts meant to win them support with certain groups, essentially by bribing them with some sort of fiscal incentive. This is where Trudeau showed an acumen that really should have warned his opponents: he hopped in with Mulcair to show that the baby bonus was smoke and mirrors since it was taxable, but then he offered his own, better version of said bonus, tax-free, and aimed right at lower/middle income Canadians. (I think the line was “Ill cancel Stephen Harper’s baby bonus, which Tom Mulcair supports, and stop sending cheques to millionaires. I’ll use that money to give middle class families a bigger bonus, tax free.)
  • As the midway point was reached the media turned to the Duffy trial, which had proven to be an achilles heel for the conservatives before. The CPC was smashed and sunk to third in the polls. Harper looked finished, but he knew this was coming and had actually prepared.
  • As Harper sunk, Trudeau and Mulcair began to battle each other. Nobody really questionned why Trudeau was rising though, at least not in the coverage I watched.
  • As the Duffy trial became boring again, Harper deployed his secret weapon. It is pretty much confirmed that he hired Lynton Crosby, a monstrous asshole who engineers xenophobia into victory for conservative parties from australia to the UK. He started using words like “old stock canadians” in his speeches. He stripped a terrorist of citizenship using the powers given to him by C-24. Then he deployed his greatest weapon of the campaign — the Niqab.
  • The Niqab ‘debate’ was an example of dog-whistle politics. A woman wanted to wear her Niqab during part of an citizenship cerimony. She even offered to wear a wire so they knew she was saying the words and so on. But the press went into a frenzy of islamophobia. The CPC surged and the Duffy affair was forgotten as the Canadian election suddenly became about us versus them.
  • The NDP, which was strong in Quebec, was smashed as Mulcair stood his ground on the right of people to wear the Niqab. Unfortunately for the NDP, much of their strength came from the places where the anti-Niqab crowd was the most rabid. This was exactly what Harper wanted, and is actually a very astute, if incredibly ugly strategy when it comes down to it. Most Canadians were offended by the debate in the end, but with his base behind him 100% (all of the time, no matter what — as long as he wins) and his enemies splitting the remaining vote, Harper was withing striking distance of a minority Government.

The Grand Finale

  • The Last week was a frenzy of activity.
  • Voter turnout increased by a massive amount. (61% up to 68%, a huge jump)
  • First Nations leaders, angered at Harper’s refusal to call an inquiry about the missing aboriginal women, called on their people to vote en masse, creation an increase of 270% in first nations voters,
  • Some idiot dissed Atlantic Canada, saying that it had too few seats to matter.
  • To shore up support Harper held a rally with the Crack dealing and Crack smoking Ford brothers, conservative stalwarts.
  • Trudeau kept moving up. As the election day dawned most people thought he would get a majority. It turns out that he was constantly consulting voters and creating an appealing platform while trying to be as positive as possible (the Jack Layton strategy). He actually moved left of the NDP, who were too busy trying not to alienate people who thought they might be secret communists to notice (can you tell how much I hate the way our media portrays the NDP?). In the end he came out strongly against the Niqab ban, smashed C-24 as uncanadian, and even managed to seem like he might be ok on C-51 and the TPP. Canadians saw him as the clear alternative and rewarded him with a majority.
  • VISION mattered. Trudeau articulated a vision of Canada that brought people out to vote.
  • Jon Oliver delivered an awesome plea for Canadians not to vote Harper.
  • The American Media noticed that Trudeau was handsome.

Lessons Learned

  • The conservatives underestimated Trudeau and his team.
    • Trudeau is smarter then thy think he is: The Conservatives famously said during one debate that the bar for success for Trudeau is to show up with his pants on. While this is red meat to their base, who reveled in hating Trudeau, it seems that many of them believed it and were caught with their own pants down when he turned out to be more than just a pretty face.
    • Trudeau’s political team had a smart plan that involved Canadians in creating a winning platform. The slow and steady gains show that this was a winning strategy.
    • Conservatives will blame everyone under the sun for their loss, including maybe dear leader, but it might be time to rework the old platform. Trickle down and wedge politics is getting old, guys.
  • The NDP got hammered, yes, but their strategy going forward is much clearer,
    • Mulcair scored points on C-51 and opposing the TPP.
    • Tech leaders seemed attracted to the NDP because they opposed C-51 and the TPP, which harm the businesses of the future in favour of the current dominant interests. Marrying the NDPs socially progressive policies with innovative business support could be a winning platform.
    • Relying too heavily on one region (Quebec) was bad. Most of Canada is politically volatile. (see insulting Atlantic Canada)
    • The NDP needs a strong media ally.
  • Social Media mattered. Strategic voting was very strong in this election. People also showed up to early voting in crazy amounts and
  • Dog Whistle politics can win, but it can also backfire. Harper’s use of the Niqab to get back in the campaign after the Duffy Dip was sleazy, but cunning.
  • Trudeau and his advisers were much, much smarter than anyone thought, Their strategy was solid, building a platform that Canadians could love, and stealing NDP votes by leaning left while the NDP moved to the centre to rumble with the CPC.
  • Whoever pissed off Atlantic Canada should have kept their mouth shut. Having an entire region vote for a single party in every riding is usually reserved for conservatives. Atlantic Canada has now demonstrated just how important it is, politically. They can give support, and they are willing to take it away.
  • There were very few promises made by any side this campaign. I remember campaigns where politicians would come up with hundreds of promises. The new media makes that type of campaign a liability since people can track promises much more easily.
  • The Conservatives ran on their economic record. The finance minister lost his seat,
  • The Conservatives ran on their support for the troops. Canadian Veterans ran against them.
  • It is fucking stupid to call a gruelling, long, brutal campaign against a guy who is a decade younger than you and immune to attack ads. While Harper and Mulcair were tiring, Trudeau was hitting his stride.
  • Ultimately Canadians did not fall for the politics of division. Good for us.

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