Sunday, September 27, 2009

"Canadians don't want another election"

I caught myself wondering about this little
idée reçue today. Certainly Canadian opinion seems clear on the matter. Michael Ignatieff's continuing poor fortune in the polls, in fact, has been linked to his foolhardy threat of forcing an election.

But the NDP saved his uncharismatic butt and spared Canadians the agony of a Harper majority by swallowing hard, holding their noses, and voting with the government a few days ago. (I still think my party should have abstained, but no matter.)

I digress.

What is so tough about an actual election for the average Joe and Jane? Is a trip to the polls truly that arduous a task?

Well, John Snobelen (name ring a bell?) thinks so:

[I]f Canadians are dragged back to the polls for the second time in a year, there will be no doubt in our minds who dragged us there.

"Dragged," we are, reminding me of that other meme, "hauled before the Human Rights Tribunal." None of us, as I've mentioned before, seems to remember how to walk or drive anymore. But really: voting for most of us is a matter of an hour or two, and employers are obliged to provide time off at their own expense if employees cannot otherwise get to the polls in time. It's not, in other words, a Herculean task.

There are, of course, as indicated in my first paragraph, very good reasons for not having an election at this point. Ignatieff has not yet been able to define his leadership, share his vision (if any), or carve out a single issue upon which an election might be successfully fought. Add to that the bill to the taxpayers ($300 million or so), and the conclusion in the short term seems obvious enough.

Canadians also want a majority government. Without an election, the chances of that seem rather slim. But they aren't mindless: without a
reason to go to the polls, they--most of us--question the need for an election. It was up to the fellow from Harvard to tell us what that reason might be, and fire us up so that it became our reason too. But he has failed, magnificently, to do so.

Snobelen goes on, blaming Quebec for our string of minority governments, and making modest proposals like this one:

Ignatieff could table a motion to require all official federal parties to run candidates in every region of the country. It seems to me that the lack of confidence in government has more to do with the presence of Bloc MPs who care only about Quebec than with any difference between the Liberals and Conservatives.

But for all his faults Iggy is not, so far as I know, blindly suicidal. Although his election talk in the teeth of the polls has, admittedly, made me wonder.

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