Opinion » Pique'n Yer Interest

And they're off ...



As a Canadian, it's easy to look at the two-party, shin-kicking contest south of the border and be glad we have choices. We've had no fewer than five minority governments in the last 50 years, and three different parties have served as the official opposition in the last three elections. Seven different parties and 10 independents (welcome to the no-party party, Jody Wilson-Raybould) currently hold seats in the House of Commons. That's what democracy is supposed to look like.

But while it's good to see a diversity of politics, this coming election feels like it's shaping up to be a two-party kind of affair. The NDP is imploding, squandering Jack Layton's hard-earned gains. The Green Party, which was poised to gain from that implosion, is somehow looking worse the more they're thrust into the spotlight.

People's Party of Canada founder Maxime Bernier (PPC—Sour Grapes, QC), if he beats Rhino Party joke candidate Maxime Bernier, will be lucky to win his old seat. Although his new party was expected to siphon off some votes from the Conservatives and Andrew Scheer, his nationalist platform and style isn't lighting up the scoreboard right now.

It's early days still, and a lot can happen between now and the election on Oct. 21, but it feels like voters on the centre-left of the political spectrum (roughly 60 per cent of us) are in the same position we were in before the 2015 election and the two elections before that: we can either unite behind one party or hand the reins back to the Conservatives.

This wasn't supposed to happen anymore. Justin Trudeau promised us electoral reform. Then he broke that promise and now here we are—a month to go and the Liberals polling in second place.

If Trudeau unites the left in the coming weeks and wins another mandate, it won't necessarily be because he had a great first term as PM, but because enough swing voters decided he was the least-bad choice. And if he loses and the Conservatives regain the House, then I really believe his broken electoral reform promise will be the reason why.

It's true that electoral reform has failed everywhere it's been tried in Canada, including three referendums in B.C. When all is said and done, it's obvious that Canadians aren't fed up enough with our electoral system—yet—to look past the fearmongering and change the system.

A significant number of Canadians, many of them NDP and Green supporters, united behind Trudeau in the 2015 election when he pledged, and I quote, "the 2015 election will be the last federal election using first-past-the-post." In fact, the press conference where he said those words was a turning point in his campaign, which was polling third behind the NDP until they stole one of the NDP's defining issues.

Here's why it matters all these years later: while a majority of Canadians may not want electoral reform, the fate of our national politics is ruled by a few million swing voters that weigh the alternatives, read platforms, watch the debates, and make up their minds on the eve of the election. I would bet you that swing voters and electoral reform voters are the same. In other words, the wrong group to piss off if you want to hold onto power.

Yet again, here we are. If the NDP and Green Party made it a bit easier to vote for them, then either party could make huge gains and create a minority situation for the Liberals or Conservatives. I generally consider politicians to be smart, calculating people who generally know the right thing to say in any given situation, but that's been sorely tested on the eve of this election. If you follow politics at all, you'll know what I mean.

For myself, I'm trying to keep an open mind. As usual, I will read all of the platforms and analysis, I'll watch the debates, I'll debate with friends and family members—and then throw all of that out and vote for the centre-left candidate with the best chance of winning in my riding.

It's not that I could never vote Conservative, because I have. I voted for Kim Campbell in 1993—one of maybe a dozen Canadians to do so—because I thought Mulroney got a raw deal. He signed a deal to stop acid rain, brought in the GST to counter debt, tried to unite the provinces, led the free world in opposing apartheid, expanded the National Park system, and more. The Progressive Conservative party split down the middle after he was pushed out, spent a decade rebuilding, and then reappeared as a reunited party under Stephen Harper. The Conservative Party of Canada was a lot less progressive in both name and deed.

I don't think anybody should always vote for the same party or base their vote on a single issue or the need to avenge a broken promise. I also wouldn't disregard the strengths and weakness of local candidates when deciding. There's a solid month of politics coming our way, and we need to pay attention to all of it.

But it's going to be hard looking at that ballot and wondering what the choices might look like if Trudeau had only kept his promise.