What’s behind the NDP surge?

Jut a couple of weeks ago, this election nobody apparently wanted seemed destined to be an either/or conclusion: either Stephen Harper gets his majority, or not.

But strange things have been happening, and nothing more strange than the New Democrats and their glad-handing, used-car-salesman leader Jack Layton and his impossible promises pulling ahead of the Liberals and their leader, Michael Ignatieff. (I’ll bet the Tories are having second thoughts about their apparently successful smear campaign against Ignatieff now.)

Could it be, excited pundits are punditing, that we could have a Jack Layton led coalition government? Or even — gasp! — a New Democrat government?

Uh, no. There will not be an NDP national government in Canada, and never will be, because I’m not prepared to leave the country quite yet. And I have a hunch that the New Democrats are being set up for a bit of a comedown on election night.

The most recent poll put the NDP at an unheard of 30 per cent  nationally. Where does all this support come from?

Well, it’s primarily from Quebec, where as of the Harris-Decima poll Friday, the NDP was at an astonishing 42 per cent, 20 points ahead of the Bloc Quebecois. This is good news if it holds. It shows that the Quebec voter might just have grown exhausted with the BQ’s act, and it looking for something new. The Liberals have never recuperated in Quebec since the sponsorship scandal, and the Tories haven’t been strong in Quebec since Brian Mulroney. The option, for the disaffected Quebec voter, appears to be the NDP. Only in Quebec would I cheer that development.

But the backlash has begun. Stories are appearing about Quebec NDP candidates who were so certain of defeat, that they took holidays during the campaign. One candidate in an almost entirely French-speaking riding doesn’t even speak French! In the dying days of the campaign, more and more of these stories will begin to emerge, threatening the NDP revival.

But let’s look further in the so-called NDP surge. In Ontario, where elections are decided, the NDP is still a distant third. The Liberals, in the Friday poll, are the top party, followed by the Conservatives. Could it be that Ontario voters remember what it was like to have an NDP government, and are rallying behind the Liberals?

The Prairies are, with a couple of isolated cases, a lost cause for the NDP. In BC, they’re in second, but well behind the Tories.

So the NDP ‘surge’ is mostly in Quebec. Yes, they’ll pick up seats, but mostly at the expense of the BQ. I think, however, that when the unsuitability of NDP candidates becomes clearer, their support will soften.

Then there’s the fading Liberal vote. Ignatieff has not engaged the population, and the Liberals have run a miserable campaign, trying to out-flank the NDP on the left, giving the NDP a boost. I think a lot of Canadians are saying, ‘If I’m going to vote for a left-leaning party, might as well go with the real deal.’ But one thing the polls will do is galvanize the existing Liberal vote. They’re scared, and the thought of becoming Canada’s third place party will get soft or lazy Liberal voters out in droves to prevent a historic humiliation.

As for me, I don’t now which is worse. Jack Layton and the NDP having any kind of power in Ottawa, or Stephen Harper getting a majority. It’s like having your choice of execution methods — lethal injection or the chair.

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Harper in majority? Woe, Canada.

Woe, Canada.

A week from today, we will once again deliver ourselves in the hands of Stephen Harper, the cold-eyed autocrat with the immovable hair and insatiable desire for power.

There is still a chance that just enough Canadians will rise from their La-Z-Boys, turn off the Stanley Cup playoffs, and cast their votes for enough non-Conservative candidates that a Harper majority might be avoided. If the public keeps Harper to a minority, chances are his career is finished. But barring something entirely unexpected — something like Harper briefly turning into Mr. Hyde before reverting to Mr. Jekyll — Harper seems likely to pull off that elusive majority.

Pondering the prospect of a Harper majority, I am reminded of that famous line from Brian Mulroney, who in a moment of typically rhetorical exuberance, said: “Give me 10 years, and you won’t recognize this place.”

I’m afraid after even five years of a Harper majority, Canada may be unrecognizable. After all, look what the guy has done with five years of minority.

Canada’s world reputation under Harper has sunk so low, we couldn’t even get a seat on the UN Security Council, which has never happened before. Harper has essentially given Quebec carte blanche to do as it pleases, leading to a de facto separate state within Canada. His environmental record is dismal. He has consolidated power into his office unlike anyone before. He silences critics and threatens the civil service if they speak to the media.  Harper has adopted American-style politics and symbols, from the vicious attack ads against Michael Ignatieff  to the little Canadian flag in his lapel to his backdrops for press conferences. He has treated parliament, and the media, with complete contempt. And all of that is while in minority.

What will he do with a majority? We might start to find out on Tuesday morning.

Woe, Canada.

How Harper can block the Bloc.

Things have been pretty quiet on the political front lately, what with all the snow and cold and with most politicians taking a winter break somewhere warm.

But Mr. Warmth himself, Stephen Harper, sat down for an interview with whatever they call the company that owns the Journal now (Post-Southam? Post-Age? Postmedia?) where he floated the idea that it’s time to end subsidies to political parties.

Well, as you may recall, this little idea nearly scuttled his government in the past. When he made that same suggestion, the oppo parties banded together and threatened to bring down his government. That forced the first of his prorogation stalls, and his government was saved, and the country was saved from the spectacle of having Bloc Quebecois creeps in cabinet positions.

But Harper, despite his near-death experience from the last time, is at it again. He wants to end the subsidies the political parties get per vote won. We’re talking a fair amount of money here — a toonie for every vote won in the previous election, every year. The Conservatives last year got $10.4 million, the Liberals $7.3 million, the NDP $5 million, the Bloc Quebecois $2.8, and the Greens $1.9.

The Tories can afford to propose to end the subsidy because they are swimming in cash, well ahead of the other parties. The loss of $7.3 million could ruin the Liberals. Harper wants to make it an election issue, and it would probably be a good one for him.

And in a way, I agree with him. It’s clearly a politically motivated move — cripple the other guy is never a bad strategy — but in a couple of ways, he’s (shudder) correct. But he’s going at it the wrong way, all scorched earth and all. I have a couple of suggestions that some of the other parties might support.

First, how about matching, or close to matching subsidies? According to the Hill Times, in 2009 Last year, the Conservatives raised $17.7-million compared to the second place Liberals, who raised $12.58-million. The NDP raised $7.4-million while the Bloc raised $889,763.24. (Yes, 24 cents.) How about fifty cents for every dollar raised? That would give the Conservatives about $9 million, the Liberals $6, the NDP $3.5 million and the Bloc about $450,000. Everybody gets money, but only based on how much you can raise.

But an even better idea, and one I can’t believe Harper didn’t try, is to base subsidies on not just number of votes won, but on number of candidates. Frankly, it pisses me off to no end that the Bloc, a party that wants to destroy our country, gets taxpayer money to run their party. In fact, almost all of their operating money comes from federal taxpayers. So, to get the NDP and Liberals onside, make federal funding contingent not just on votes, but on a formula based on number of candidates run. Let’s say you get funding only if you have candidates in 90 per cent of Canadian ridings, or offer candidates to 90 per cent of  the Canadian population. Put enough restrictions on the funding so that the Bloc will be shut out of the money unless they find a way to run candidates outside of Quebec. Right now, the Bloc just sits in its Quebec enclave, runs for election and wins easily, and reaps the rewards. Subsidies should be for NATIONAL parties only. If Harper made a proposal along those lines, the NDP and Liberals would happily support it and drop the Bloc like a hot potato, perhaps delivering a death blow to their Quebec rivals.

It’s a disgrace that we give them money to support their cause, which is the slow destruction of Canada. Harper should show some gumption and propose a law aimed directly at the Bloc, and dare the other parties to vote against it.