Here we are again faced with the task of sorting through the issues and campaign materials and then choosing who will be our local Member of Parliament and subsequently who will govern Canada for the next four years. As with many things humans do, it is complicated, at times messy and depressing, but it is also our responsibility.
Millions of people around the world struggle and die just to have the right to vote, to have a voice and some control of their lives, yet some people here dismiss as meaningless this exercise in democracy. This is simply nonsense as evidenced by the attempt by right wing parties here and in the US to exclude and suppress voters, especially those in marginalized communities. True, it is a system that needs radical change to make it more representative of the citizens. Big money and the corporate media play a corrupting role in our elections and we need some form of proportional representation. But when it comes down to it, with ‘one person, one vote’ we could have a radically different country if a majority of Canadians could agree on a single course of action.
So what are the choices? In our system we only vote to choose our local MP. The party with the greatest number of MPs elected will form government and the leader of that party becomes Prime Minister. Of course that presupposes that one party wins an outright majority which in this election will be 170 seats. So, while it is true that the individual candidate is very important, for most voters the party they belong to carries equal or more weight. I imagine that is the justification for the Green Party to run a candidate against Gord Johns in Courtenay Alberni, an NDPer who is more environmentally active than most Green Party members.
So who are the ‘major’ federal parties in the two ridings in the Comox Valley?
There are the Conservatives. We still have bad memories from their terrible term in office from 2006-2015. But be assured, as their campaign door hanger stated, they are ‘under new management’ Really? Same type of candidates, same backward policies and same divisive language; the only difference I see is the name Scheer instead of Harper.
Then we have the other traditional party of the powerful, the Liberals. While I didn’t vote for their party and my instincts were not to trust them as far as I could throw them, I was happy after the last election that Harper was gone. Trudeau seemed progressive-ish, he said all the right things including the best line of that year “Because it is 2015” and so, like many others, I was willing to give him a chance. I should have stuck with my instincts. As Martin Lukacs said in a recent interview about his new book ‘The Trudeau Formula’, “The formula distilled to its most simple form is that the Liberal party plays on voters’ desire for far-reaching transformation while guaranteeing the endurance of the status quo. The Liberals effectively act as a kind of shock absorber of discontent and anger towards the elite.”
The Green Party, according to the media, is apparently a party on the way up. In the 2015 election they received 11.7% of the vote in Courtenay Alberni and 8.2% in North Island-Powell River so I guess they have no place to go but up. If you look at their policies in general they have much in common with the NDP. In fact at the Provincial level they have governed together with the NDP for the past two years, admittedly at times with some disagreements and tension but governing nonetheless. The Elizabeth May led party’s strong suit of course is the environment but they also have good social justice policies. Instead of fighting over scraps the Greens and NDP should be working together. However that is not the reality of today.
I do have some reservations about the Green Party besides the fact so many of their solutions are market oriented. Those deeper reservations are that the Greens seem to be very ‘middle class’ and so white. While I would not say the majority of Greens are anti-union they certain seem oblivious to the realities of most working folk. This used to be the attitude of many environmentalists – stop the seal hunt/logging/oil and gas and then walk away feeling you have won a great victory while ignoring the impact on workers and communities. The Green Party now has a policy around ‘just transition’ for workers but many workers are still skeptical .
The other reservation is the fact that only 12% of the Green candidates are people of colour. Even the anti-immigrant Peoples’Party is around 14%. I am sure Ms. May is aware of this but the Greens don’t seem to be taking any concrete action to correct it. The NDP, a number of years ago, developed enforceable policies to encourage women, LGBTQ+ people and people of colour to run as candidates which has resulted in almost half the candidates being women and 32% being people of colour.
The NDP is not a radical party, except in the context of the weird political climate of 2019, but their policies on the environment, on the economy, on social issues and on foreign affairs are the best package of all the parties. Their two candidates, MPs Rachel Blaney in North Island-Powell River and Gord Johns of Courtenay-Alberni, have shone in the four years they have been in Parliament. They are taking flack from some green voters for the provincial NDP actions on LNG subsidies and Site C which is unfair as the provincial and federal NDP have different policies. Jagmeet Singh has impressed when he has been given the opportunity such as the first televised debate and in local campaign stops.
It is still weeks away from E-Day so many things can change between now and then. Trying to predict the results of this election is a mug’s game but I can hope that Gord and Rachel get re-elected, that we do have a Liberal minority government and that the NDP holds the balance of power. And finally that every eligible voter gets out and exercises their democratic right to vote.