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Foreign Correspondent

Being the Ongoing Tales, Triumphs, Struggles (mostly struggles) and Occasional Adventures of Freelance Foreign Correspondent Shawn Gerald Blore, based in Rio de Janeiro

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Elections in Canada: Why Care?

Today is election day in Canada. Last night I wait until midnight to begin surfing the web, only to discover that with daylight savings pulling in opposite directions this time of year, Rio is actually three hours ahead of EST. No way am I waiting until 1am just to start watching the results.

I log in again at 7:30am. Rio time. A Conservative minority. As predicted. 134 to 103(Liberal) to 29(NDP) to 51(Bloc) to 1, or something like that. I surf the Globe and CBC sites for local races.

Vancouver centre: poor old Svend goes down to the utterly useless Hedy Fry. How does that woman keep getting elected? Bill Siksay is back. As is Stephen Owen. Penny Priddy takes Surrey North. The contemptible Ujal returns, albeit to opposition, which is better than he deserves. Ian Waddell does not get to live off the public taxpayer yet again. And BC once again gives a kick in the face to the party in power, dropping the conservative seats. Good for us.

I check the entire province, riding by riding. The Globe’s assertion that the NDP got a windfall from a split in the vote is not quite supported by the numbers. Or rather it is, but the same thing benefited the Conservatives in at least as many ridings.

Then I do spot checks in Ontario – Olivia Chow in Trinity Spadina. My parent’s riding in Ottawa Orleans goes Conservative. My brother’s in Toronto Danforth goes Liberal.

I check Manitoba. Charleswood, where my aunt lives. Conservative. St. Boniface, my cousin, Liberal. Where are the province’s NDP seats hidden?

I surf the Globe’s interactive map. Saskatchewan – mostly Conservative. Poor old Tommy Douglas. Quebec. Who’s voting Conservative in Quebec. Check the numbers and discover the Conservative’s are actually the second party in many ridings, with the Liberals a rump third.

The big question: why do I care? In Rio none of this will affect me. Hell, in Vancouver it arguably didn’t affect me. The big answer: I don’t know. It’s a compulsion. Like biting nails or picking toes. I can’t help myself.

Grander political thoughts: In Bush’s first election, he ran from the centre and governed from the far right. Such is the power of the conservative media machine in the US (plus the serendipitous aid of Bin Laden) that even after four years pandering to the wealthy few and ignoring or screwing over the many, he won re-election. Could this happen in Canada? I doubt it.

For one, Harper needs the other parties to govern, and he has no right-wing allies. For two, the machinery of right-wing media spin is largely absent in Canada. Yes there is the Fraser institute – but their brief is pseudo-science studies. They serve now and again as quote sluts, they’re not really an echo chamber. Beyond that, there is no cadre of willing columnists at the ready, willing to applaud every move no matter how radical, off the wall or just plain nasty. (Witness them lining up in favour of the president’s claim that his inherent powers as commander in chief give him the legal right to break the law. What’s next: summary executions for swarthy-faced Americans. All within my powers as commander in chief)

Other thoughts: Liberal successor? Michael Ignatief. Let’s hope not. I think Rick Salutin had Ignatief’s number. Here’s a man who’s made a living as a public policy intellectual, not by speaking truth to power, but by flattering power, by sucking up to the powers that be. He’s a man with no cojones, a court jester who knows his classics. Ujjal Dosanjh? Betcha he’s thinking about it. Brian Tobin? I rather like the idea of former reporter becomes PM.