Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Ones to Watch

First, I'd like to note all the areas where I was wrong in my pre-election predictions. The Liberals had a lot of strength that was undiscovered by pollsters. I suspect this was due to many people who said they were undecided, or simply refused to talk to pollsters, parking their votes with the Liberals. It's probably hard to say out loud: "Yes, I know some of them are corrupt, but I still want to vote for them."

I was too cynical about the NDP and Liberal chances here in B.C. I forgot that we left coasters are completely, amazingly insane, and will buck any trend we see coming. Tory government? Let's elect fewer of them. I would have been happy with 24 or 25 NDP members, I was pretty shocked to see them with 29.

I completely missed the Quebec breakthrough by the Tories. I figured they would simply get an increased vote count in safe Bloc seats.

Now, on to the MPs who will bear close watching in the next few months.

The Independent

The last independent member was Chuck Cadman, from Surrey. He started as a member of the Reform/Alliance, then was bumped during a nomination battle in his own riding. He ran anyway and won on his immense personal popularity. While he was a bit hawkish on crime for me (no surprise, he got into politics because of his son's murder) he was well respected across the political spectrum. He had a reputation very much as an ordinary guy, very approachable to every one of his constituents. He sadly died of cancer.

Now, we have Andre Arthur, the newest independent. From a riding outside Quebec City, he's an ex-shock jock with a penchant for making racist comments. From CBC.ca:

Arthur, 62, had an outspoken style that spawned many lawsuits, including legal actions launched by former Quebec premiers Lucien Bouchard and Daniel Johnson. His mainstream radio career ended just before Christmas, when his employer did not renew his contract.

He once said that African students at Laval University were the children of dictators and cannibals. That remark was one reason why the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission decided to strip Quebec City radio station CHOI-FM of its licence in 2004.

I'm assuming he won based on a two-pronged strategy. First, scoop up the protest votes of disatisfied Tories and Liberals who just want to punish Ottawa but aren't happy with the Bloc. Second, he captured the under-utilized fuckwit vote. Your basic Canadian fuckwit likes racist jokes, porn, oversized trucks and the company of his fellow asshats. He doesn't usually come out to vote at all, and sees electing his morning drive hero as a knee-slapping joke. "King" Arthur is likely to make news, but no serious policy.

The Libertarian?

Dr. Keith Martin won again in his Vancouver Island riding. He's an interesting case: a Liberal who defected from the Alliance caucus and sat as an independent for a while. There are several ex-Progressive Conservatives in the Liberal tent (Scott Brison, Belinda Stronach) but few former Reformers.

Martin might be the closest thing to a libertarian, of the right-leaning variety, in the House of Commons right now. A medical doctor, he has called for private health care, but he clashed with his former Reform colleagues over euthanasia and abortion. He might prove an asset to NDP-sponsored civil rights issues, but will likely be able to speak out more strongly for his free-market values as an opposition member than he ever was as a Liberal.

Whether he is a classical, Lockean liberal, a near-libertarian or a vulgar libertarian remains to be seen. As any of those, he might prove a spoiler in the upcoming Liberal Party leadership race.

The Sock Puppet

Nina Grewal just squeeked back in to her Surrey riding. Her husband Gurmant, of course, wasn't running after his bizarre behaviour after he taped Liberal MPs allegedly offering him incentives to cross the floor. Both during and after that fiasco, Nina Grewal had very little to say. The fact that she is likely still being run by remote control by Gurmant didn't quite disuade voters. While she might melt down spectacularly, I really expect her to just fade away as an MP. Worth watching, to see if we can spot the strings.

The Wicked Witch

Belinda Stronach won, amazingly, after defecting the Libs from the new Conservative Party she helped bring into being. She'll never lead the Liberals, but with her experience at backroom leadership deals, she'll be a factor in the leadership contest. She seems like a classic "The Economist" type: socially liberal as much out of disinterest as anything, fiscally conservative but a believer in firm government. Probably should have been a Liberal all along.

The Tories will never forgive her for crossing the floor. I was at a Tory candidate's campaign office as the results came in (I was working), and she was booed every time her face appeared on the TV. She'll be a constant target even now that they've won.

The Power Couple

Jack Layton and Olivia Chow are finally together - and he displayed some genuine emotion in a morning press conference when he talked about how happy he was that they'll be together in Ottawa this time.

I dislike couples who run in seperate ridings (see above, re: Grewals), because one of them is by definition a parachute candidate. I also have some fears about Layton trying to drag the NDP too far from its populist-labour roots into some kind of Tony Blairish Third Way nonsense. Those worries have been assuaged by his last term. He seems to be trying to desperately merge the rural populist and urban social-rights elements of his party together into a workable whole. The populists are generally pro-gun (Layton astutely stayed away from the Liberals' gun policy during the election), believe in cooperativism, the social gospel and are skeptical of big business. In B.C. and Ontario, there's a strong labour element as well. They want the government to provide an insurance policy for tough times through health care, EI and social programs. The urban contingent includes a lot more environmentalists, gays and lesbians, students, teachers and civil libertarians. They are suspicious of big business too, but are a lot more comfortable with big government.

Layton has to deal with a caucus that is almost evenly split between those two factions.

With Chow, he'll have disproportionate influence with his own caucus to put whatever policies he has onto their agenda. If his fusion is successful, and not just a watering down of both sides, it could bring a new element into parliament.

My hope is that the urban-rural NDP combination might really come together, as something with a libertarian socialist tinge. Probably not, but you never know.

Addendum I forgot about The Warmonger, but Larry Gambone at the Porcupine Blog has nicely taken him apart.

Perhaps even worse than Harper’s partial victory, is Michael Ignatiev’s victory as a Liberal candidate. This member of the US War Party is being touted as a possible future Liberal leader. It’s not hard to see what’s going on here. The Neocons are attempting to capture both parties for their war plans and reproduce as closely as possible in Canada the situation in the US - two parties with identical viewpoints except for minor shadings and all other views marginalized. Here is where the anti-war movement can have a political impact and derail these fiendish plans. The Ig should not be able to make a public appearance without being surrounded by demonstrators who denounce him as a Gringo stooge and warmonger. Make him a political liability, rather than a (pseudo) intellectual asset.


Anonymous said...

I think it does Chow a disservice to say she was a "parachute candidate" based on her connection to Layton.

The two met while involved with Toronto politics and she has been just as outspoken on issues of homelessness and the environment.

That said, generally speaking, I agree with your concerns about couples in power. And I would love to see a more libertarian socialist NDP, also. Not holding my breath though...


Anonymous said...

Oops, forgot to mention:

Keith Martin won in the Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca riding, not Vancouver Island North.

The "King Arthur" character that won the independent seat in Quebec is also (supposedly) something of a "libertarian". Why do so many libertarians also seem to be racist? I don't see the connection. Weird.

Matthew said...

Thanks for dropping by, Wes.

I know Chow is a real politician on her own, but I've always liked when candidates actually live in the ridings they represent.

Also, imagine the awkwardness at an NDP caucus meeting if one of the other members has to say "You know, Jack, I think Olivia might be wrong about that." Might be hard to do.

King Arthur, a libertarian? I disagree with right-libertarians on a lot of things, but I'm not going to show them the disrespect of lumping this guy in with them. Too many people think that libertarian just means "Yeah, I'm an asshole, so what?"

Anonymous said...


Was just going through blogs who talked about the election results, trying to get a feel for the general opinion of poeple online. I usually am a lurker but I have been seeing something that bothers me somewhat.

I am a french canadian currently living in Montreal, originally from Quebec City. And it bothers me to see quotes taken out of context to reflect things that were never meant, no matter from who it comes, and the whole "Cannibal" comment by Arthur seems to be travelling around and is one of those things that seem horrible until you know what he was talking about.

First thing is that there really were students at the Laval university sent their by their parents from africans country who happened to be either the dictators themselves or high ministers for dictatorial regimes. These students were given special treatments because of the money their parents transfered to the university, it was a local scandal when all of this came out. And the cannibal comment came from that, not from the act of eating human flesh, but rather as a reference to the way these regimes were eating up the ressources of their own country while their people died.

It was an outraged comment on a situation where the university was accepting money that was cannibalized by dictators from their own country.

Just wanted to clarify that, since he may be a lot of things by a racist he aint. But I agree that he wont have much impact beside the occasional soundbite.

Take care and good and interesting overall comment by the way,

Anonymous said...

Hey Matthew,

I just thought that I'd set the record a bit straight on one of your comments. Jack Layton actually is the parachute, he lives in Trinity-Spadina where Olivia is now the newly elected MP. Those were the burroughs that they each represented on Toronto City Council ( I believe that the Toronto ridings closely mimic the federal and provincial boundaries). But really, they still are both residents of Toronto, does it matter too much if one person lives a feew blocks outside of the riding they represent? The real parachutes are the people who move in from different cities not different neighbourhoods.

I think that your concern about Jack taking the "third way" bullshit was probably misplaced. We already have a third way party, they're called the Liberals. The NDP is sufficiantly different and progressive in its politics. I don't see us falling in to that ideological trap.

Also one of the interesting results from the election outside of Quebec was the shape of the races across the country. In rural areas the Tories had the edge with the NDP coming in at second and picking up a few seat in Northern Ontario and BC. In the urban areas (outside of the prairies) were dominated by the Liberals with the NDP coming in second, and winning a few urban ridings across the country. I think that shows that the NDP has a nice broad base of support across the country, in someways moreso that the two other national parties. The Liberals get rocked in the counrtyside and the Tories geet smashed on the cities. We in the NDP bridge the gap fairly effectively.