Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Gloomy skies ahead

In a November 23rd column in Macleans, Paul Wells made a pretty compelling case that it would be better for Canada if the Liberals lost this election. Bloggers of all political stripes agreed, including myself. Around the same time, several other political bloggers--most notably Warren Kinsella--argued that it would not only be better for the country if the Liberals lost, but also better for the Liberal party. And from what the latest polls are telling us, it looks like this motley crew of professional and amateur pundits may yet get their wish for a slim Conservative minority on January 23rd.

Well, I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm feeling decidedly unenthusiastic. Don't get me wrong, I can't bring myself to cry for the democratic world's
most successful political party ever, and I still think any bitchslaps they get from Canadian voters have been well-earned. But even if Prime Minister Stephen Harper isn't nearly as scary as the Liberals want us to believe, a Tory minority still means Stockwell Day holding a ministry in his grubby little hands, and the very thought nauseates me. Not to mention the fact that Harper has vowed not to form a coalition government with any other party, which will mean yet another castrated minority.

Oh, sure, a minority would provide some reassurances to those of us on the left who'd prefer that any Tory leader's hands be decisively tied. But the other side of the coin is that it would almost certainly mean more of the same shenanigans we saw in the last Parliament: the most dignified of MPs acting like children, parliamentary power games, backroom deals, and floor-crossing threats, all accompanied by more hot air than the Hindenburg. And for what? Kinsella's now predicting that the Martin dynasty will continue even if the Liberals get relegated to the opposition benches. So we may not even come out of this with a chastened Liberal party. It's enough to make a girl want to wash her hands of the whole lot of them.

Is it too soon to start making our wish lists for the 40th general election? Because while I'd love to see more NDP MPs, a Harper-and-Broadbent-led democratic renewal process, and a Liberal party with a shiny new leader, all I really want is a new voting system that would force these clowns to actually start talking and listening to each other.

Oh, and a pony.


Matt said...

Unfortunately, there is certainly precedent for Martin clinging to power, as predicted by Kinsella. I've just finished reading the chapters on the Turner years in the Clarkson book you linked to. Despite a crushing defeat in the 1984 election, the "dauphin", as Clarkson dubbed him, stuck around for another six years.

I'm finding reading that book rather frightening. The sense of various aspects of history repeating themselves is rather overpowering. Clarkson may have deliberately crafted the book with that in mind, but his argument is compelling.

ferrethouse said...

Good post. I don't think Martin can possibly survive if the Conservatives win. He is too old and there are too many bright young stars on the rise in the Liberal Party.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


I've got the book on order, but from everything I've seen of it, it looks like a fascinating yet frightening read. What's it like from the perspective of someone who's usually voted Liberal, if I may ask? Does it make you want to cheer or is it more upsetting?


There actually aren't all that many bright young stars in the Liberal party--not compared to the other parties, anyway. It's really quite an old party, in "mean age" terms. But here's hoping you're right. If we really have to have the Liberals at the helm for most of the upcoming century, I'd much rather it be a version of that party that doesn't behave like arrogant thugs a great deal of the time.

Matt said...

I should clarify first that I think I've voted NDP one more time than I've voted Liberal - and one of the times I voted Liberal was because our NDP candidate had been a TA for my undergrad political science course, and I wouldn't rely on him to feed my cat.

That being said, the book is upsetting because of how self-evident some of Clarkson's analysis is. The lessons from those elections are pretty well-known to historians and political scientists, (although he synthesizes it all very well) so to watch Martin blindly stumbling along through both elections does not inspire confidence in the party at all.

It's also depressing to look at how shallow the pool of possible replacements for Martin has become, especially when you compare it to the 1968 race that Trudeau won.

If Clarkson's parallel between Martin and Turner holds, Martin will not step down, nor be forced out. That could mean not just a Conservative minority in the next election, but a majority to follow, which is worrisome indeed. Of course, I'm suffering from severe electoral funk right now, so I may be overreacting.