Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Pros and Cons of an Election

Watching several political panels today, I heard a few things which I tend to disagree with. Firstly, that none of the parties want an election. Secondly, that none of the parties look like they'll benefit from an election. And thirdly, we'll get the exact same thing as last time.

To explain why I disagree with all of these statements, here are what I see as the pros and cons of an election for each party.


Pros: If Canadians are truly exasperated with having to put up with an election once again, or if Michael Ignatieff turns out to be a horrible campaigner, the Conservatives could be returned to power with another strong minority (which would give them at least two more years of life) or even a majority. However, I think this is an unlikely scenario, unless, as a fellow blogger aptly put it, they find a brick of coke in Ignatieff's trunk.

Cons: If Ignatieff is a good campaigner or if the campaign goes badly for the Tories, the Conservatives would be returned to the opposition benches, and Stephen Harper would likely step down as leader.


Pros: They could form government. But even in a worst-case scenario, say winning 28% to 30% of the vote, would put the Liberals in a better position than they are currently in. A larger parliamentary caucus means more influence in governing the country in a minority situation.

Cons: They might not form government. Even with a larger caucus, the Liberals would be forced to maintain the Tories in power, or at least tolerate them there, for two years at the minimum.

New Democrats

Pros: It is unlikely that the NDP will do better than their near-historical-best result of 2008. But, even if they lose seats, they could find themselves in a position of greater influence, perhaps even in a coalition government - as long as the Liberals win enough seats to give them and the NDP more seats than the Conservatives. And if the Liberal/NDP combination forms a majority, that could change everything.

Cons: They could lose a large portion of their MPs, and lose the footholds they've made in provinces like Newfoundland & Labrador, Quebec, and Alberta.

Bloc Quebecois

Pros: The Bloc is unlikely to improve significantly over 49 seats, but with the Tories falling away in Quebec, the Bloc should be able to return to the Quebec City and Saguenay regions. These used to be their fortresses, and they definitely want to return to the region. In an excellent campaign for the Bloc they could even get back over the 50-seat mark.

Cons: The Bloc could find themselves with a smaller caucus than the one they currently have, and they probably will lose some of their seats in Montreal and the Outaouais.

The Canadian People

Pros: We are almost definitely going to have a minority government once again when this election is over. If that is the case, maybe parties will see that they need to co-operate more than they already do (the minority governments since 2004 have managed to pass legislation, and the parties often work well together in committee), and maybe they'll realise that Canadians actually want the parties to co-operate.

Cons: Voter turnout and interest could, and probably will, take a further hit. However, we should be facing this democratic problem head-on rather than giving in to the people who don't give a damn anyway.

So, clearly, some of the parties could benefit from an election (someone has to) and it would be false to say that all parties definitely do not want an election. And it is extremely unlikely that at the end of the campaign we will find ourselves with the exact same form of government.

If we get a Conservative majority, that will be a different situation. If we get a Conservative minority but with a larger Liberal caucus, that will be a different situation. If we get a Conservative minority where the Liberals and NDP have a majority, that will be a different situation. If we get a Liberal government of any kind, that will be a different situation.

People looking at the polls today should see that we are unlikely to get the same situation as we have currently. And as Chantal Hébert said so well on The National today, if pre-election polls were written in stone, Paul Martin would have won the 2006 election and Kim Campbell would have won in 1993. Elections change everything.

People still don't want an election? Too bad. This is our system of government, and we're damn lucky to have it. Billions of people on this planet aren't so lucky as to have a free, democratic, and peaceful system of government. So quit complaining, and do your civic duty, which is probably the least burdensome thing you'll have to do all year.