What did you expect?

When the Conservative Party of Canada had only a minority in the House of Commons, I thought that was quite bad enough, but at least the other parties could keep them in check. Without a majority, the Conservative government did not have carte blanche to push legislation through the House. They had to compromise. Opposition members could vote down any legislation that was totally unacceptable. And if it was a bill that a matter of confidence, such a vote would trigger an election.

Majority rules

I knew a Conservative majority would be a disaster for Canada. I said so over and over again during the election. I posted more than once on Facebook about the need to vote smart so that the Conservatives would not be allowed to win a majority. I am a proud member of the Liberal Party of Canada, but in my riding, I voted for the New Democratic Party candidate, because I did not want a vote split on the centre-left that might have allowed the Conservative candidate to slip up the middle. I hated not being able to vote for my party's candidate, but the NDP candidate (the incumbent MP) was much more likely to win. So I voted strategically. I don't think that's a great way to go, but unless we get rid of single member plurality ("first past the post") voting, it's an electoral reality. To me, nothing was more important than preventing a Conservative majority, one riding at a time.

There were many reasons that the Conservatives won a plurality of votes in a majority of ridings across the country. One, of course, is that they have the support of roughly a third of Canadian voters. This baffles me. Who are these people who actually think that Stephen Harper should be allowed to form a majority government? Do I know any of them? Is their vision of Canada really so radically different than mine? It would seem so.

I don't know if that core of support will ever shift. But it's only about a third of the vote. If enough other people had voted strategically in their ridings, as I did, it is very unlikely that the Conservatives would have won a majority of seats. There would have been more Liberal MPs from ridings where the Liberal candidate was stronger, and more NDP MPs from ridings where the NDP candidate was stronger. Sadly, or perhaps even tragically, not enough voters thought this way. In ridings where a non-Conservative candidate might have won, they stuck by their party's candidate, split the centre-left vote, and allowed the Conservative candidate to win. I consider those people to be partly responsible for the majority government we have suffered with for over a year, and with almost three more years to come.

The final group that is responsible for the Conservative majority is the vast number of elegible voters who did not vote. I don't have any data, but I think it most likely that if non-voters had stepped up, they would have voted somewhere on the centre-left. Conservative supporters did not stay home. They got out and voted. It's those who might have voted NDP or Liberal who stayed home.

Yes, I'm pointing fingers.

The predictable response

First Nations by themselves could not have changed the electoral outcome. I have to expect that they were unlikely to have voted Conservative. I imagine they knew well what a Conservative majority would do. Yet now they suffer probably more than any of us under the Harper government. So I applaud the Idle No More movement. The government needs to know that native people are opposed to its policies. Native leaders need to know that the way they are dealing with the government is not working. And the rest of us need to understand that there is a serious problem with relations between the country and its First Nations citizens.

Many non-natives are joining native people in demonstrations and expressions of solidarity with Chief Theresa Spence and with all native people. They are upset with the Harper government. They are ashamed of what it is doing in the name of Canada.

I wish they had prevented the Conservative majority when they had the chance. Seriously, what did they expect? The Conservative agenda wasn't hidden. I could have predicted that they would run roughshod over Canadian traditions, the democratic process, and human rights. In fact, I did.

Sadly, or perhaps tragically, Harper and his MPs form the duly elected government of Canada. Unless they do something illegal (no, wait, even that didn't work, since Harper was already found in contempt of Parliament), we're stuck with them until 2015. Does anyone really think Stephen Harper will back down and speak with Chief Spence? Her hunger strike is her own choice, and if she dies, it will also be her own choice. Harper has no incentive to admit that he has done anything wrong. And even if a person is absolutely in the right, coercion is still coercion, and a government would have to be in a serious position of weakness to respond to coercion. This government is not weak. There is no backbench rebellion brewing. Some polls show their support as high as 40 percent.

I'm not one for demonstrations. I think they are mostly exercises in feeling good about ourselves without actually doing anything other than taking time and going outside. But perhaps these demonstrations will bring the legitimate concerns of native people to the attention of more people. Perhaps they will even be an international embarrassment for Harper.

What I really want, though, is to see native leaders set out a plan for how we should move forward. The Indian Act has to go, but not without input from native people. There needs to be a framework for what will replace it that will allow native people to determine their own future. They have that right by treaty. Many of us are against the Harper government and the way it behaves. But we need to do something constructive while that government remains in power. It's easy to oppose. It's much more difficult to propose.

I also want to make sure that non-natives become allies but respect that this movement belongs to native people. I want the agenda to be theirs, not one imposed by non-native people with their own agendas. I have already seen signs of this movement being used by the many opposed to Harper for their own reasons. The last thing native people need is well-meaning non-natives of whatever political inclination taking their movement away.

1 comment:

C. Wiseman said...

One thing you didn't mention is that the Liberal Party did not field a leader who connected with the voting masses. Although the election is nominally about the candidate running in each riding, it's also very much about the party leaders. If voters don't like the leader, they won't vote for his/her party's candidate. Also, I think a lot of voters are still mad at the Liberals for whatever reason (Jean Chretien's shenanigans?) and voted Tory not because they love the Conservatives but because they wanted to spank the Liberals for past sins. It's a stupid reason to vote for anyone, but it is what it is. Finally, there are a lot more politically and socially conservative people in Canada that you might think. They elected Harper, and they couldn't be happier about it.