Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Previewing the 2011 Canadian federal election: Blue, Red, or Orange

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[For extensive coverage of the 2011 Canadian federal election, check out all the articles at CanadianCrossing.com.]

UPDATE: C-SPAN 2 will carry the CBC feed starting at 10 pm Eastern on Monday. The results can’t be broadcast nationwide until 10 pm due to Canadian law. The coverage is scheduled to go for 4 hours. Set your DVR for all the fun.

Hopefully by now, you are aware of an upcoming federal election in Canada on Monday. Canadian voters go to the polls to select a MP in their riding, and then in turn, the party in power selects a prime minister.

Now there are five choices for prime minister, though two of them fall into the “not likely” category: Elizabeth May is the head of the Green Party, and while the party had just under a million votes in 2008, there are no current Green MPs. Gilles Duceppe is head of the Bloc Quebecois, a party that is separatist and only running MP candidates in Quebec.

Canadian prime ministers have either been red (Liberal) or blue (Conservative), but if polls are to be believed, orange (NDP) may be the color of 2011. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Jack Layton will be the next prime minister. However, Layton may have a lot of say in the next government, assuming the polls hold up. But as the Greens can attest, the race isn’t about votes, but ridings. If votes are split, other parties can capture the seat, even if it’s close. And MPs often don’t get 50% of the vote in a riding.

Then there are Stephen Harper (blue) and Michael Ignatieff (red). Harper has run the last two minority governments, stretching 5 years (the length of a standard majority government). And though Harper has come close to a majority, voters don’t seem to trust him or his party with that responsibility. While the Harper government doesn’t have the “super-scandal,” there are a lot of mini-scandals, including being the first government to be found in contempt of Parliament, which brought down this government and forced the election.

The Liberal Party is the opposition party (second most MPs in Parliament), yet is running third in the polls. And while the Liberals have dominated the prime minister’s office in the last 50 years, the party is lost. Not as lost as American Democratic politicians, but much more lost than the party has been.

Ignatieff is the 4th Liberal Party leader in the last five elections. And Stephane Dion, who ran as the party’s leader in 2008, was the first Liberal leader who ran in an election but stepped down without becoming prime minister since the 19th century. And Ignatieff has the baggage of spending much of his adult life in the United Kingdom and the United States. Plus, the Harper government has been running attack ads against Ignatieff long before the election started, a new precedent in Canadian politics.

Igantieff has proven to be a better candidate than Dion, and not the scary American monster that the attack ads tried to make him appear. In the English language debate, Ignatieff came across as fiery and passionate, while Harper ignored the rest of the group to robotically stare in the direction of the TV camera.

But Ignatieff’s ceiling for this election was prime minister in a minority government. He has ruled out an official coalition, talked into that by attacks from Harper. Then again, Harper has run an unofficial coalition for the last 5 years.

The safest prediction for Monday is that Canadians will give Harper yet another minority government, his third and Canada’s fourth in a row, dating back to 2004. But…

  • IF young people actually get out to vote, and the early voting numbers are significantly up over 2008.
  • IF the voting percentage gets back well above 60%.
  • IF more Quebec voters pick a federalist party instead of a separatist party.
  • IF the social media campaign — voter mobs, as they have been called — makes a vital impact.
  • IF Canadians who are unhappy that this is the 4th election in 7 years pick a government that will be around for awhile.

As for why Americans should care or follow what is going on: social media helped the 2008 U.S. campaign, but seemed pretty quiet in 2010. The young people, some of whom couldn’t vote in 2008 or 2010, will learn what worked and what didn’t in Canada from a social media perspective. Same continent, same primary language (French is Canada’s other official language; Spanish is the U.S. unofficial language).

The U.S. 2008 election had a higher turnout than Canada’s 2008 federal election, but that went against everything in the past. If history returns to form, the U.S. will want to know more about what makes Canada better, and if the downfall continues, that pattern will be worth studying.

If the NDP does come out of nowhere, the frustration in the American two-party system might be ripe to form a real third party.

The hope is that one of the C-SPAN channels will carry the CBC’s coverage of Election Night. C-SPAN carried the 2008 election coverage, and I know I watched the 2006 election coverage from somewhere; this might have been via C-SPAN as well. Check your local listings and/or stay close to CanadianCrossing.com for further updates.

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Written by democracysoup

April 29, 2011 at 7:27 am

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