Sunday, September 06, 2009

An Unnecessary Federal Election? That was in 2008

Before you get mad at the Liberals and the NDP and the Bloc for pulling the plug and triggering another fall election, remember this: it was the October 2008 election that was unnecessary, and it was orchestrated by the Conservatives, not the Liberals. Steve and the boys in the PMO saw the recession coming, and figured this was this was their last best bet for a majority government. So they wrote up guidebooks for their MPs instructing them on how to make Parliament and parliamentary committees not work. And they stepped up their personal attack ads on Stephane Dion---a new low in Canadian politics, since such ads had never been seen before between elections, before the writ was even dropped.

In contrast, the fall election of 2009, if there is to be one, is actually necessary. It will be a referendum on the way this government has managed the recession, but I suspect that the government will actually want you to believe that the issues are much smaller than they really are: that this election is about the GST tax cut and the home renovation tax credit; about the "sensible" way that this government has "managed" these issues; and about Michael Ignatieff's resume. The election really should be about the appropriateness of such a government in the middle of the worst ecological crisis in human history; in the middle of the worst recession in 75 years. The contrast between Harper's long years of denial about climate change and hostility to Kyoto and his sudden enthusiasm for responding to one of the symptoms of climate change by militarizing the arctic is, well, unseemly. In its response to the recession, the Harper government not only stumbled badly out of the starting blocks with its attacks on real and imagined opponents and talk about selling public assets. It made our politics seem smaller than they really were.

The coming election should actually about whether this government has (1) effectively responded to these crises and (2) more importantly, whether it has effectively seized the opportunities that these crises contain. Canada, as a signatory to the Kyoto Accord in 1997 and a country rich in both human and natural resources, should be a leader in building green infrastructure and pioneering green technology. Is it? Is the government using the recession as an opportunity to promote our human capital, our scientific and research potential, and diversifying our energy mix? My sense is that we are not--that we are falling behind Germany and United States while our governments "manage" the economic crisis. And that is just a shame.

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