We’ve heard a lot about Canada’s limited experience with coalition governments in the past week. Engaged citizens today are as familiar as ever with the 1917 Union Government, the 1925-26 King-Byng Affair, and the Ontario episode in 1985. One prominent example of Canadian coalition government has been lost in all of the talk, however. And there are important lessons to be learned from it.
I was heartened to hear that both sides in the current constitutional debate will be staging public events to drum up support for their causes. Beyond a suggestion to dress warmly, I want to offer a quick blessing, and caution, to both sides as they plan to attend a series of rallies later this week. If John McCain’s recent presidential campaign offers any lessons, be wary: keep the most ignorant among you from upstaging the event. Cameras from the media and the opposing side will be on the lookout for acts of anger and zealotry, like burning effigies or inflammatory statements. That’s what will air on the evening news and Youtube.
This said, best of luck to all. Keep the messages positive, and be sure to dress in layers!
I spent 12 hours Christmas shopping and listening to talk radio shows yesterday, as I made my monthly drive from Winnipeg to Calgary. If the media buzz is any indication, it seems almost everyone in Western Canada has an opinion on the quagmire on Parliament Hill. From Canadian Tire to Suzy Shier, Tim Horton’s to Starbucks, pundits to academics, leaders to followers – everyone appears to have chosen sides between the government and the coalition. With each side talking past each other, viewing moment-by-moment events through their own unique set of partisan lenses, it’s not difficult to see how we’ve come to this point. For Canadians just tuning into the saga, finding "facts" and "truths" amid the rhetoric can be challenging and frustrating.
Strategic voting is wrong. Not because it perverts some high-minded view of democracy, where every citizen sticks to her principles when casting a ballot. (Quite frankly, that view of democracy is visible only through high-prescription, rose-coloured glasses.) Rather, strategic voting is wrong because it is self-defeating. What these people need is electoral reform, and that’s the last thing they’ll get by casting their ballots for either of the two most-successful parties.
Elections Canada has released its preliminary advance poll figures. The bottom line: Turnout in these early polls is down 6.5% relative to the last election (see table above). Between the lines, there are a lot of interesting stories.
In a campaign that was among the nastiest in recent memory, history will record: Stephane Dion had the last gaffe. Dion’s belly flop in Atlantic Canada came on the last full day of the campaign, as Canadians prepare for the extended Thanksgiving long weekend. Words don’t do it justice — watch for yourself.