Wednesday, June 30, 2004

My earlier assertion was correct: Canadians do have an insatiable appetite for governments rife with graft and corruption. How else does one explain Monday night’s election results? For the first time in 11 years, Canadians were presented with a viable conservative alternative to the federal Liberal Party’s electoral juggernaut. So, what did they do? They ignored the tidal wave of scandals that have dogged the Liberals of late, and moved themselves even more leftward on the political spectrum. In a fit of “mass hysterical lunacy”, the voters rewarded the Liberals and the socialist NDP with enough seats in Parliament to form a minority government.

Actually, the real story of the night was how the combined PC/Alliance vote didn't materialize in the Maritimes or Ontario. The Maritimes proved last night, once and for all, that they are hopelessly addicted to social welfare spending. All the Tory talk of tax cuts and fostering a more amenable business environment fell on deaf ears. Maritimers salivate over big government make-work projects and free money for nothing. It's like crack to them now. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, but I thought at least a hint of that fabled Maritime common sense would have shown through last night, especially in the old Tory stomping grounds of Southern New Brunswick and Central Nova Scotia. Alas, my Maritime brethren are in desperate need of handout rehab.

By all accounts, the newly united Conservative Party of Canada should have dominated in the key Liberal stronghold of Ontario. In the past few elections, the plurality of votes for the former PC and Reform/Alliance parties dwarfed the Liberals’ totals in a large number of Ontario’s ridings. Carrying that math forward into Monday night should have translated into a bonanza for the Conservatives. In fact, the opposite was true. Across the province, there was a profound “reverse synergy” effect, wherein 2 + 2 equalled less than 4, leaving the Liberals with 70% of the seats. It seems voters just couldn't overcome their fear of the "Scary Prairie People". If there was a platform tailor-made to keep Ontario rich and happy as the economic engine of Canada, the Tory platform was it. But, no. Voters across Eastern and Southern Ontario decided to put regional bigotry over their personal well-being. "Oh, we can't have that Harper in power. He's from...gasp...Alberta!"

Hyperbole aside, how does one explain this blatant act of lunacy? One could say the Conservatives ran a poor campaign, which would simply be an incorrect assessment. One could say the income tax cut pledge didn’t play well in Ontario. This would seem counterintuitive, given the backlash the provincial Liberal government is currently facing over their latest tax hikes. One could say the Liberals’ characterization of the Conservatives as rabid, fundamentalist, prairie racists really did turn voters against them. Maybe, but the fact that Ontarians are sharply divided on social issues, like abortion and gay marriage, weakens the potency of that argument, as well. One could say Ontarians are now irrevocably liberal in their beliefs, leaving the Conservatives in the proverbial electoral hinterland for eternity. If that is true, how come the Mike Harris Tory machine is still a potent political force in the province?

So, once again, how does one explain the Conservatives’ inability to capitalize on their core strengths in vote-rich Ontario? I haven’t come to a firm conclusion yet. However, my friend Mark, an astute political observer, fed me this little tidbit, which I believe sheds some light on the odd machinations that occupy the minds of the typical Ontario voter; Mark was flabbergasted that a campaign issue that was getting decent play in Ontario was the Tory promise to remove the legislative mandate forcing Air Canada to provide bilingual service throughout its organization.

Excuse me, but last I checked Air Canada was a private corporation. Why is there legislation forcing a private entity to provide bilingual service in the first place? Mark also informed me that the law, known as the Air Canada Public Participation Act, also forces the company to maintain its headquarters in Montreal, as well as operate full maintenance hubs in Montreal, Toronto, and Winnipeg. No wonder the airline, despite a near monopoly on Canadian domestic air travel, is perpetually on the verge of bankruptcy.

Anyway, Mark’s broader point on this whole issue was why would Ontarians, the vast majority of whom aren’t even bilingual, care whether or not Air Canada provided bilingual service in, say, Kamloops, British Columbia? Furthermore, wouldn’t Ontario stand to benefit if Air Canada opted to move its HQ from stagnant Montreal to dynamic Toronto, the most likely destination if such a move wasn’t deemed illegal by Ottawa? Do Ontarians not understand that if closing the Winnipeg maintenance hub means helping the airline stave off full-scale bankruptcy, they would be dodging a potentially crippling economic bullet? Apparently, not. As long as everyone’s able to ask an Air Canada flight attendant for an extra bag of mixed nuts in both official languages, things are just peachy-keen for the good people of Ontario.

That’s a little peek into the sort of reasoning that kept the Conservatives from forming a government this time around. For the country’s sake, Canadians had better hope the Tories learn how to quell the “mass hysterical lunacy” phenomenon before the next writ is dropped.

(Note: whoever thought they were being funny by signing me up to receive the NDP’s email spam, you’re on my shit list. Permanently.)


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