If you folks down south are feeling blue about your impending November presidential elections, feel free to commiserate with us. Studies have shown that voter participation in Canada has dwindled – and even a baboon can explain that it’s because all the candidates suck. “The trick is to pick the one who lies the least,” an octegenarian winked at us as we stood at the polling line.
Fortunately, the Canadian campaign period is only a month and a half – a sharp contrast to the year-long election jamboree in the US. I guess we just want to get it over with. Ballots list the names of our local candidates – not the leaders of their respective parties – in a bid to make voters choose the best local representative for the job. Yes, this does occasionally lead to awkward situations where a party may win the majority vote, but their leader loses in his/her own riding (In this case, someone who got voted in steps down, and they switch places).
Here are the dramatis personae:
The “Grits” are currently the ones in the driver’s seat, having enjoyed two back-to-back majority governments for the past eleven years under Jean Chretien. However, they currently have egg on their face due to the recent “AdScam”, a sponsorship scandal that they are suspected of orchestrating.
Throw in a few unpopular decisions they’ve made throughout their tenure, add a general feeling that it’s time for some new blood, and you can see it’s an uphill battle for them. The recently elected Liberal provincial government in Ontario has also added healthcare premiums (a broken election promise), which hasn’t helped things.
Despite their name, they are only moderately left-wing. Well, by Canadian standards anyway.
Conservative Party of Canada (CPC)
The CPC was initially three parties: the Reform Party, Canadian Alliance, and the Progressive Conservatives. The Progressives, a moderately rightwing party, were the favourites in the late 1980’s, where they enjoyed two consecutive terms under Brian Mulroney. Mulroney is famous for creating the an 8% sales tax (the GST), and ratifying the NAFTA free trade agreement. Anyway, the PC Party or “Tories” was clobbered by the Liberals in the election afterwards. They only won two seats in the House of Commons.
Reform and Alliance were both extreme right parties, most famous for making statements that could be construed as racist or sexist.
Desperate times call for desperate measures I suppose, hence this Frankenstein of a political party. They seem to have trouble consolidating their position on several key issues, but their U.S. Republican-esque mandates to increase military spending, privatizing healthcare and tax cuts has disturbed more than a few voters.
New Democrat Party (NDP)
Many a book has been written about the Canadian quirk that is the NDP. Always trying to grapple for attention, and yet always in third place. Their platform is more left-wing than the Liberals, but strangely enough their target audience, unions, want no part with them. Their current leader is most famous for making outlandish accusations (i.e. that the Liberal leader is personally responsible for the murder of the homeless), which frankly just hurts their credibility. Some have also labelled their economic strategies as sheer lunacy.
Bloc Quebecois (BQ)
The Bloc was born in 1993 with one goal in mind: to annex Quebec from the rest of Canada. This position appeals to the francophone’s patriotic heart, but unfortunately it doesn’t appeal to the patriotic brain: For one thing, sovereignty would be financial and economic suicide, and they’ve never given a good answer as to how they’ll pull it off at all. A key moment in Bloc history is when their chief supporter, a former Quebec premier, appeared drunk as a sailor after the narrow 1995 referendum defeat.
Today’s Bloc is more moderate: a semi-conservative platform, but Quebec gets top priority. Not exactly a crowd pleaser with the other provinces, but their platform is actually milder than the CPC’s in comparison.
Then there are the one-trick pony parties: the Green Party, the Marijiuana Party, the Marxist-Leninists, and the Canadian Communist Party (yes, they’re different, and they hate it when they get confused). You can probably guess what their respective mandates are, and write then down in one sentence each to boot. Sadly, the Rhino Party and Natural Law Party (aka the yogic flyers – no, I am not joking) are missing this time around.
But yes, I did vote.
I focused on the local candidates in my riding of Parkdale-High Park. It’s the weirdest riding I’ve ever seen – one half is a well-to-do residential ‘burb, the other a poorer, urbanized ‘hood. Naturally all the candidates are in the rich part. Anyhoo, the Liberal candidate was no good, since she supported an anti-user Internet copyright law I disagreed with. I ended up picking the local candidate I felt was least likely to stab me in the back.
You can find more info on Canadian political parties at Freedictionary.