Wednesday, June 23, 2004

The Canadian election

Canadians vote on Monday, and analysts claim the election is too close to call, with the possibility of the newly reconstituted Conservative Party beating the governing Liberals. It is not an exaggeration to suggest that this would be much like Canadians electing as their government Jörg Haider's Freedom Party (there are direct connections in that they share a major backer). Although they have appropriated the name and much of the membership of the old Progressive Conservative Party (which was bad enough but had its good points and wasn't a radical party), the new Conservative Party will be a party entirely devoted to the interests of big business, and will clearly be anti-human rights and anti-immigration, and in favor of destroying or significantly weakening every single social program that doesn't benefit the rich. They have particular plans to turn the Canadian health care system into a clone of the American one, eventually leaving poor people to the mercies of the capitalist marketplace. Canadians can say goodbye to gay marriages, abortion rights, gun control, most funding for the arts, and even the tiniest sliver of a separation between Canadian foreign policy and American foreign policy (Canadians would certainly be dying in Iraq now if the Conservatives were in government). The irony of all this is that Canadians are mad at the governing Liberals largely because the Liberals themselves lost sight of their historic extreme centrism, neither right-wing nor left-wing, and have, under the leadership of shipping magnate Paul Martin (whose shipping firm has a very questionable environmental and labor history), turned sharply right. This shift also caused them to lose the steely focus they always had under Chrétien, and has led to them losing their largely-deserved reputation for competence. The disgusting Canadian media has been obviously cheerleading for the Conservatives (although the Globe and Mail is, perhaps surprisingly, endorsing the Liberals), and there is some indication that things aren't quite as bad for the Liberals as has been depicted in the media. Nevertheless, the possibility exists that on Monday night, Canada may stop existing as the country that it used to be. The Liberals were no picnic, having fixed some alleged problems in the Canadian economy on the backs of the poor (when Martin was finance minister), but they are largely responsible for the way that Canada is now, and some people think that Canada, and the idea of Canada, is a good thing. It would be a tragedy if Canadians were so stupid to throw it all away on one bad election.