The Canadian Imagination

What it means to be Canadian; examining and reworking Canada as a nation.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Jump-start

If I do not begin writing here and now on the looming election, I will not manage to catch up in other backfilling until the election is over. Besides which, I intend to (attempt to) predict, as soon as I can reasonably catch this up, all of the election results: not in their generality as last time, but riding by riding. I hope to get to this, at the latest, by December 20.

Honestly, I will be laughing all the way through this election campaign, because I am finding the whole thing just a little ridiculous. The previous election results indicated that while some Canadians individually may have felt that this leader or that was the devil incarnate while another was the Second Coming, post-Gomery Canadians as a whole did not trust any existing party with a majority. (In other words, learn to share your sandbox, boys! Just about every other democratic power in the world somehow manages it.) So, naturally, the very first possible action of a session, the Throne Speech, was already met with a vote of non-confidence -- and we came as close to watching a Canadian government collapse through utter ineptitude as I have yet seen in my lifetime. Not one of the parties in power would have been served well by such collapse and they all knew it: and yet not one of them had been willing in the slightest to step back from their brinksmanship. It was as though the people of Canada had told Parliament to learn to work together, and every party immediately decided to seek a second opinion from the same source.

So was set the tone for this session of Parliament ... and so much subsequent floor-crossing (elected members changing parties) that the carpet between must have been worn thin. Indeed, this last catalysed a proposed (protest) bill by the New Democrats to ban such floor-crossing, which died, as expected, on the first reading.

At that, this session of Parliament did set in motion more than I had really expected it to, after the debaucle of the throne speech, a budget which passed on a defection and a single independent vote, and at least one leader who at times seemed to have no other purpose in life than to take down this parliament, whether it benefitted his own party or not. (And if not: who inevitably would be -- however reluctantly -- entrusted with the reigns of power again?) Federal assistance with increased household and transit costs due to unusually high oil prices was approved. Native autonomy was established over resource exploration and development on treaty lands. The first steps toward decriminalising marijuana are in place. The very pressure brought to bear on every party leader by President Bush on missile defense during his whirlwind thank-you tour (three years) post 9/11 resulted in something almost unheard of: every party leader unanimous against it. (Had it not been for that pressure, Stephen Harper would probably have supported it.) Almost in the final hours of this parliament the same sex marriage issue was spun as a rights issue and thereby legalised: and at least one cabinet minister gave up his position over this issue rather than voting with the government, and another member of parliament resigned the Liberal party to become an independent. (One wonders what might have happened if the language of the proposed union -- the determined "marriage" -- had been bypassed altogether: turning it into a rights issue in truth.)

One defeated bill had attempted to overhaul the (un)employment insurance legislation: something that I would argue needs overhauling -- but other attempts remain in process. The issue of bringing in outside replacement workers during strikes continues to remain a thorny one: and if old traditions hold true, would have been overturned in any case by the first government to disagree with the existing legislation, whatever it happened to be at the time. The issue of acceptable student debtload and occasional consequent bankruptcy remains unresolved. A fair amount of legislation continues to work toward finding an equitable common tax ground, especially between Canada and the United States, in an international labour market. Worth noting, perhaps, that one of the defeated bills -- proposed by the Bloc Qu├ębecois, the separatist party of Canada -- to prevent psychological harassment in the workplace and to amend the Canada Labour Code accordingly, was voted down by this parliament.

One thing I had high hopes for in this parliament in particular -- for a majority parliament will never touch it -- was not broached after all: beginning a true implementation of proportional government on a federal scale. We may be far from alone in this among the dominant British-heritage governments of the world: but each nation-state is ultimately responsible for its own development, and it seems we are not yet ready to grow up and become a truly representative democracy.

Oh, and I may as well go out on a limb right now and predict that, for the second time ever, the Bloc Qu├ębecois will be elected Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition for a Liberal minority government. Only in Canada.


O little town of Ottawa, the heart of all the spin,
Enjoy thy deep and dreamless sleep before campaigns begin.
For in thy dark streets waiteth the avaricious hordes;
The tightly-wound PR machines are poised on two short words.

For "nay" it will be tomorrow, and waiting on the ground,
While MPs fan, their agents plan their platforms to expound.
O cit'zenry together, proclaim the righteous act,
And sing the praises of these men who could not but attack.

How noisily, how noisily, echo the parliament walls,
For from all hearts decorum parts when prox'mate power enthralls;
Almost taste its coming, awaited for so long:
Who in this race a single pace will yield, but hurl headlong?

Where public health care rationing kills people on the lists,
Where gang gunplay and anti-gay injustice still persists,
Where single mothers cry out, and homeless quietly starve,
Be sure these men have gone away: for this isn't where votes are.

O citiz'nry together, give power to us this day;
O teasing glimpse of fed'ral seats, don't let it just relay?
We need a clear majority, we cannot compromise,
We'll promise anything you want -- and hope you've not grown wise.

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