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Election Opinion Roundup for 10 september 2008 September 10, 2008

Posted by tomflesher in Canada.
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Stephen Harper in a sweatervest! Four guys in suits! Stephane Dion doing his best to enfranchise one of the siphons of his power! All this and more… after the jump.

The issue on everyone’s mind is the TV consortium’s decision not to allow Elizabeth May to participate in the leaders’ debates for the October 14th federal election. May, who Norman Spector describes as “media-savvy and articulate” here, is the leader of the Green party of Canada. Former Prime Minister Joe Clark (the Progressive Conservative who gave Trudeau a lunch break from June 1979 to March 1980) argues in an editorial that May should be allowed to debate, on two grounds: the first is that May being included in the debate would make Canada appear inclusive. Aside from begging the question of why inclusiveness is necessarily good, Clark also fails to answer why the practices need changing in the first place – that is, he assumes his conclusion.

Clark’s second ground is that “[i]n nine provinces and three territories, the Greens have much more support than the Bloc Québécois, which is not only invited to the debates but has the power to veto other participants.” He attempts to reframe the debate, finally, as “Why keep the Greens out?” rather than “Why let the Greens debate?” (I won’t attempt to answer that question – that would be analysis.)

A noted activist on the Greens’ behalf is Stéphane Dion. Dion is apparently also contemplating a run for political office.

Norman Spector, cited above, discussed the nature of Stephen Harper’s minority government as the main point of today’s editorial. He argues that the one-party Liberal rule was bad for Canada, and therefore that the Conservative union was a net positive for the Canadian government. This position implicitly plays into the May Debate, of course – allowing May to debate would be a move toward legitimising the Greens in the eyes of Canadian voters.

It’s important, I think, to understand that Spector is with one breath praising the union of the right half of the Canadian political spectrum, and with the next, damning a Darwinistic swallowing-up of the Green agenda by the Liberals. (That works under an intuitive model similar to the United States’ system, where prominent single issues are generally absorbed by one of the major parties – witness, for example, the polarisation of environmentalism as a small-L liberal issue and the attendant political trend of the right denying anthropogenic global warming.)

The second portion of his article argues that the minority government by the Conservatives is positive politically because a majority government would raise the expectations of the hard right that he implement their policies, “including some that go well beyond the mainstream of Canadian public opinion.” Thus, a minority government allows for something of a middle way.

Finally, Jeffrey Simpson spends his daily column on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s attempts to look like a warm family man. (Does this remind anyone else of Al Gore in 2000?) He also praises Harper’s small, incremental, and constant reminders of the Conservatives’ party line of smaller government – the child tax credit increase, the lowering of the GST, and so on. He notes that the point appears to be to contrast the Conservatives’ tax-cut philosophy with the Grits’ Green Shift.

That the Conservatives are mangling the intent and details of the Liberal plan, ignoring its significant personal income tax reductions, was quite predictable.

They are winning the public-relations battle hands-down.

Gentlemen, we have an election.

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