Canada's Gods-Must-Be- Crazy Election
If you think the ongoing U.S. election is bizarre, look north. Yes, Canadians picked a clear winner in Monday's federal election, handing Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's Liberal Party a third consecutive victory, but the campaign was no less bizarre than the ongoing electoral morass in the U.S., says Ish Theilheimer, publisher of Canadian consumer news webzine
'The Liberal Party,' writes Theilheimer, 'often referred to as Canada's Natural Governing Party ('the NGP') did again what it has done repeatedly through Canada's history. It won. In fact, it won big... It wins by combining a moderate political tone capable of turning right or left on a dime with a well-earned reputation for pork-barrel politics and a carefully-polished image as progressive and at the same time pragmatic.'
Just three-and-a-half years into his second five-year term, and six months after the launch of the right-wing Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance Party, or CCRAP (really!), Chrétien caught everyone off-guard by calling a new election. (In a parliamentary system the PM can do that whenever he pleases.) The big losers, however, were not the Canadian Alliance (as the CCRAP now calls itself) but the Quebec separatist party Bloc Quebecois, and the European-style socialist New Democratic Party (NDP).
The NDP, not the conservatives, were Chrétien's real target, says Theilheimer. Founded in the 1960s, the NDP, which now controls three of ten provincial governments, was the driving force behind establishing Canada's system of universal health care, and 'has been an important force in Canadian politics and an irritant to the Liberals for years.' Employing a campaign tactic not unlike the U.S. Democrats' use of the specter of a right-wing supreme court to scare supporters of Ralph Nader back into the Democratic fold, Theilheimer says. 'Chrétien leaped on [Canadian Alliance leader] Stockwell Day as an opportunity to destroy the NDP, using him as a weapon to cow moderate and left-wing voters into voting Liberal.'
Discuss the Canadian election in the CafÈ Utne Canada conference