I’m convinced that IF the Liberals run a great ground game, place their final ads well, AND (more importantly) rally additional Green and NDP supporters to their side in the final hours of the campaign then we will see the most progressive PM in Canadian history, Stephane Dion, elected to lead our country. But part of that involves getting the message out about what an even miniscule victory for Harper would mean for Canada and the future prospects of ALL progressive parties.
If Harper comes out with the most seats on election night I believe he will strike a deal with the Bloc Quebecois, seeing it as his only opportunity to regain favour in Quebec after badly blowing it there this time. That means Harper would have a blank cheque on votes in the House for likely up to two years and there’s not much Liberals and/or the NDP could do to defeat his legislation.
So what would this mean policy wise? Well it would mean that for at least two years there would be...
- No progress towards any new child care spaces or a national program
- Increased poverty levels across the country with the government having no plan to address it
- No new investments in post-secondary education, leaving Canada ill-equipped to compete on the world stage. Each year that goes by we would fall further behind
- Further embarrassments on the world stage as a successor to the Kyoto protocol is formally drafted and we are left with an even worse environmental stance than the United States
- Continued rises in greenhouse gas emissions as Conservatives continue to hold to intensity based targets only to please the oil sands
- Further backsliding on human rights: ignoring the practices Canadian mining companies in the 3rd world, ignoring our own citizens facing the death penalty abroad (and possibly bringing it back here), and continued opposition to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Aboriginal Peoples
- Further head in the sand economic management so that our financial situation ends up like how Mulroney left it
- Extending of the Afghan mission beyond 2011 despite the fact that we will have done our part and likely could be used in other troubled regions of the globe
- Further gutting of press freedoms
- Further gutting of the Access to Information Act as Harper's penchant for secrecy reaches new bounds
- Further cuts to Status of Women
- Further weakening of the Gun Registry by stealth
- A continued carbon copy foreign policy that takes cues from elsewhere (remember most foreign policy decisions are not even subject to votes in Parliament)
- Paltry contributions to foreign aid and abandonment of Africa just as they need our help more than ever
- The final elimination of any spending room left to ever launch without needing to raise taxes (which no political party is ever willing to do) and much more that will have progressives realizing his second term is even worse than the first.
Now if you are a progressive and you think you can live with that for at least two years (possibly more) thinking that as long as Harper is defeated in the NEXT election after this one things would be fine and easily reversed, you would be mistaken to think the effects wouldn’t be linger long beyond another year or two mandate or that wouldn’t be even more difficult to defeat him in the next election.
The reason for this is that Harper would make every effort to spend the cupboard bare with further focus group inspired tax credits, maybe even another cynical 1% cut to the GST. That’s not only bad economic management, but it would leave ALL parties with less to offer in the next election.
For Liberals that should be obvious just look at how much financial room there was in our platform this time for child care, Kelowna and education compared to last time. There was less on all fronts because of Harper’s GST cuts and all his focus group tax credits that did nothing for our economy. Given the reality that no leader of any party (except the Greens I guess) is going to promise to raise taxes to create fiscal room for the aforementioned priorities any new tax cuts would likely not be reversed.
For those NDPers who think corporate taxes could be raised this election makes clear that that’s a non-starter for 80% of the Canadian population, not to mention all the recent NDP provincial leaders, who realize we need to corporate taxes to get our economy going again. I guarantee if Layton is around next time he won’t be promising to raise corporate taxes as he’ll follow the lead of every other NDP leader in the country. Even this time Layton has gone around claiming that he will never raise corporate taxes just cancelled planned ones.
Which means if Harper gets in this time, even for just one more year, it could take 6 or 7 years to bring us back to a financial situation where a national child care program, meaningfully investing in post-secondary education, a real poverty plan, and tackling the infrastructure deficit would and a host of other programs all progressives believe in become financially possible again.
So with less money available Liberals (and all progressive parties) would have less to offer Canadians in the next election and Harper would have ample time to re-tool just like Jean Charest did in Quebec when everyone counted him out. And he would obviously have no shame in calling another election at the most opportune time. Of course the potential is always there to defeat him next time (and all of us will hard just as hard to do so), but it’s naïve to think it would be any easier than this time and it’s naïve to think that whatever he did in his next mandate could be easily reversed.
Plain and simple many people will suffer under another Harper mandate, our reputation will worsen, and Canada will fall further behind compared to other countries who seem to better understand that fostering a green economy and investing in PSE and child care are essential to being competitive in today’s world. It would be very hard to catch up with each year that goes by with Harper in charge. I don’t think any progressive wants to see this happen to our country.
So it should be clear that the stakes are VERY high for all progressives this time out.
We can work together to elect a progressive PM that would work with the NDP (and any Green) MPs to work on common priorities in a minority Parliament. Harper will NEVER listen to NDP and Green priorities and Dion definitely will, they would have far more influence than if Harper was PM.
We could have the most progressive Prime Minister in Canadian history or the most regressive one.
I hope NDP and Green supporters realize that all our parties and, more importantly, all Canadians, would be better off if Stéphane Dion becomes Prime Minister tomorrow night rather than Stephen Harper. Only one of those two can come out with the most seats.
So if you were thinking of voting NDP or Green but live in a riding where they finished 3rd, 4th or 5th last time, if you vote Liberal this time, I know that a year from now you will not regret that decision and see that in fact your own party has played a bigger role in Parliament than ever before. For Green supporters this is exactly what Elizabeth May has asked you to do, and for NDPers you should know your party will have far more influence if you did the same. If this happens we will definitely have a progressive Prime Minister elected tomorrow night.
We share a lot in common and I hope we can work together bringing progressive policy for Canadians in the next Parliament. But that all depends on how things go tomorrow…
N.B.: I’ll be back later tonight with my last two posts of this election.
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