Thursday, April 14, 2005

On June 30th of last year, after Canadians took to the polls to re-elect the feckless and shady Liberals to yet another term as the nation’s governing party, albeit in a minority capacity, I posited that voters had “an insatiable appetite for governments rife with graft and corruption”, and that a “mass hysterical lunacy” had overtaken the electorate. For this commentary, I caught a lot of flack from relatives of mine who hold the Liberal Party of Canada in great esteem, and were none too pleased to have both their sanity and the integrity of their venerated party called into question. I stood my ground, and was adamant that the myriad scandals of the previous 11 years were ample evidence of misconduct, and that voters who chose to ignore such deeds were mentally incapacitated. Today, I am even more confident that my assessment was dead-on.

For the past several days, testimony before the Gomery Inquiry, which is investigating charges of graft and corruption by the former Chretien government, has been explosive, and the entire nation is glued to what’s now become known at the Sponsorship Scandal. Several former politicos and henchmen have testified that there was widespread malfeasance at various levels involving large sums of federal funds earmarked for public relations efforts aimed at combating separatist forces within Quebec by promoting unity thru federalism. According to those involved, millions of taxpayers’ dollars were laundered thru a network of supposedly pro-federalist advertising agencies, only to end up in the pockets of the Liberal Party itself (*gasp*...say it isn’t so!).

Prime Minister Martin’s response has been two-fold: express disbelief, shock, and anger, then remind everyone that this occurred under his predecessor’s regime, and that it’s all water under the bridge now. His Liberals have taken a considerable hit in public opinion polls, and his minority government could be ousted sooner rather than later as a non-confidence vote in Parliament appears imminent. Curiously, some in the opposition, including those of the rival Conservative Party, are downplaying the prospect of a summer election. From what I can gather, it seems their reticence is based in large part on poll numbers in the all-important electoral battleground of Ontario, the key Liberal Party stronghold. Despite an overall deterioration in support nationwide, the Liberals are not fairing as badly in Ontario as might be expected given the magnitude of the Sponsorship Scandal. Poll averages show the party with an approval deficit of less than 10% to the front-running Conservatives. It’s a rather shallow gap, one which could easily be closed by the well-oiled Liberal machine during a heated election campaign. The poll results beg the obvious question: what the hell is wrong with Ontario voters?

In that June 30th post, I also wrote about the seemingly illogical approach Ontarians have taken towards federal politics. It was while compiling that analysis that I conceived the infamous “mass hysterical lunacy” hypothesis, as I could not find a rational explanation as to why Ontario still voted overwhelmingly for the Liberal Party, despite years of scandal plagued rule, and despite the existence of a unified, cogent alternative for the first time in over a decade. The muted response of Ontario voters to the latest, and perhaps largest, in a long line of Liberal Party scandals only reinforces my theory: there are many voters in Canada that appear to suffer some form of psychosis.

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