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1/24/2006

Oh, Canada

I feel wholly unqualified to say anything whatsoever about the election in Canada, but like everyone, I think, I was concerned to hear that the right-wing party had emerged victorious. According to some observers, though, it's not that bad. E.g., Socialist Swine says:
I think this is about the best outcome that could be realistically hoped for. The Liberals will be out of power and the Conservatives will be far too weak to implement anything too outrageous, the NDP sits poised as the deciding factor in the House and the Bloc, while making some gains did not get anywhere near the support they need to start pushing for another referendum. Furthermore, I think this session of parliament will be rather interesting. I don't think Canadian politics has been this engaging for a very long time.
And Tom Hurka, commenting on Brian Leiter's blog, expresses similar sentiments:
I wouldn't exaggerate how far Canada has "swung to the right."

1. The current Conservative party, though descended from the more radically right-wing Reform Party of the 1990s, is much more moderate. They had to become so in order to win the election. For example, the social conservatives in the party were pretty much muzzled during the campaign. The leadership knows those guys are vote-losers and will keep them quiet. The party has also committed itself to maintaining the current medicare system. Even slight hints that they might not do so cost them badly in previous elections. They will be more conservative than the Liberals, but not much.

2. The Conservative government won't have a majority in Parliament -- not even close (125 seats when they need 155). To get legislation through the House of Commons they'll need the support of one or more of the other parties, all of which are to the left of them.

3. The Liberal Party did much better than the polls were predicting: 103 seats. If that's how well they do after corruption scandals, a gaffe-filled campaign, and a long time (13 years) in office, they're still a powerful force, still very much the "natural governing party." The prize of the Liberal leadership, which would not have been very attractive had they won, say 65 seats, is very attractive now. There will be a serious race with serious candidates and a re-invigorated party should emerge from it. (Michael Ignatieff is talked about as a candidate. But the lesson of Paul Martin's failed Prime Ministership is that there's no substitute for political judgement, which his predecessor Jean Chretien had in spades but Martin hadn't picked up in 17 years in politics. Why should the Liberals believe Ignatieff has any given his zero years in politics?)

4. More generally, there are two possibilities. One is that the Conservatives govern from the right -- in which case they won't last long in government. The other is that they govern more from the centre -- in which case they won't be so much of a change from the Liberals. Either way, looking at it long-term, the "swing to the right" will not be large.

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