In Canada we’re about to enter our fifth year of Conservative (AKA “Tory”) minority government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper. They’ve been uninspiring and not terribly likable, but reasonably competent; enough to stay out of real trouble with the voters. I’m no Tory but I’ve mostly been “well, whatever”. No longer; it’s time to bounce these bozos and see if we can do better.
Harper’s posse have pushed my hot buttons four separate times in the last few weeks; any one of these might’ve been enough to flip me into toss-the-turkeys mode. First, at the recent Copenhagen summit, we were clearly Part Of The Problem not the solution. Even at the symbolic level; apparently Canada missed the opening plenary. What kind of amateurish BS is that?
Second, when the “Yes Men” took a satiric cheap shot at Canada’s Copenhagen underperformance, the Tories reacted with image control as in censorship. This is low-rent bullying pure and simple, which as a side-effect nuked 4,500 innocent Web sites. Is this the kind of country I want to be a citizen of?
Third, when things started getting a little hot in Parliament around year-end, the Tories decided to run not fight, as in shutting the House of Commons down till March. A good place to catch up on this issue is, oddly enough, over on Facebook, where the Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament group will have over 100,000 members by the time you read this, and is growing fast.
Fourth, they recently spent fifty grand on PR expenses in Washington DC. This is a perfectly reasonable thing for Canada to do, except for, they spent it on Republican hack Ari Fleischer, Dubya’s spokesman, who organized dinner with Harper for a collection of prominent Washington right-wingers: Charles Krauthammer, David Frum, Peggy Noonan, David Brooks, Anne Applebaum, Fred Barnes, William Kristol, and Laura Ingraham. This was in March 2009, maybe six weeks after the inauguration of Barack Obama, who, you know, won the election in the face of ferocious opposition from precisely this cabal of Iraq war cheerleaders, Palin boosters, Fox News bobbleheads, and fundamentalist Bible-thumpers.
Think the Democrats noticed? Me too. Way to burn taxpayers’ money on cultivating the losers and blowing off the winners, guys.
What’s Next? · The problem with being pissed at the Tories is that the alternatives aren’t that great. The Liberals, Canada’s party of the great squishy center, are exciting approximately nobody with the leadership of Michael Ignatieff, who seems like a bright guy in theory but smarmy and predictable in practice.
There’s been some talk of dumping him in favor of Bob Rae and I’m actually sort of friendly to that idea because Rae seems like a Good Person. And as @BobRaeMP, he occasionally skips political posturing and exhibits what seems like a human voice.
The NDP are our Social Democrats (Americans: You’d say “Commies”) and have gotten my vote a few times over the years, but Jack Layton panders inexcusably and just gets up my nose; also their performance on Green issues is pretty weak.
The Green Party is probably my vote’s natural home these days, but they’ve fumbled tactically and in a complex three-party election, I might end up voting tactically.
Speaking Of Green · Canadian politics is boring. This is by and large a good thing, a symptom of a lack of existential problems and serious threats to the nation. But I bet things are going to be less boring soon, and it’s the environmental issues that make me think so.
Canadians tend to be vaguely green in principle, wastefully profligate of energy in practice. And there is no policy move which, if it can possibly be portrayed as a “tax”, won’t flip at least one opposition party into full-on pander mode.
Then there are the Alberta Tar Sands, which they are furiously trying to rebrand as “oil” sands. Even the Wikipedia entry says “also known colloquially as the Athabasca Tar Sands, although there is no actual tar” which is bogus; I’ve seen that shit and you’d call it “tar” if you saw it. And most people who aren’t actually in the pay of the petroleum business think it’s an environmental disaster.
This is white-hot politically; a large majority of the 3.6 million citizens of Alberta have historically felt that their rights to exploit the fossil-fuel resources, earned by the sweat of their brows and the fact that they live between 110°W longitude and the Rocky Mountains, are sacred. Thus any meddling from elsewhere in the country is a declaration of war.
It’s really hard to see any meaningful progress on carbon-emissions control that’s compatible with the current tar-sands development strategy; thus political nastiness can safely be predicted.
But I Digress · I’m actually pretty mainstream by the standards of Canadian politics. I bet that there are a lot of people out there who, like me, have moved their view of the Tories from mostly-harmless to national-embarrassment.
Time to roll the dice.