Old, new and green democrats take heed

"The United States elections have left many Canadians scratching their heads at the goings on south of the border."

The United States elections have left many Canadians scratching their heads at the goings on south of the border.

There has been two years of endless campaigning since the mid-term elections in 2010; billions of dollars spent on the process including massive advertising drives not only for and against candidates but also relating to every manner of initiatives on ballots; a few loony-tune candidates; electoral district gerrymandering and attempts in some states to keep certain classes of voters (poor people) away from the polls; seemingly endless waits at polling stations as electors fill out encyclopedic ballots; breathtakingly wild statements by some candidates and their supporters. In other words, it was typical U.S. election.

After all of the time, money and effort put into the process, and despite the fact that President Barack Obama won the electoral college count and a slim majority of the popular vote, some Americans think his re-election is somehow illegitimate, simply because they don’t agree with him. Prime among these is bad-hair billionaire Donald Trump who on election night was calling for “a revolution in this country.”

How terribly boring Canadian politics seem when compared with the blood-and-guts election wars waged by our neighbours to the south. But although many citizens in the True North are prone to tut-tutting about these excesses, there is at least one lesson that could be learned by a large portion of the Canadian body politic.

Obama faced a mighty uphill battle for re-election given the economic conditions he inherited and dissatisfaction among many voters with his recipe of pump priming and bailouts for dealing with the recession, however orthodox these measures may be. But a unified Democratic Party managed to gather its ideas – to the extent that either party had any – and then identified those people who agreed with them and made sure they voted.

Before that could happen a broad coalition of politically-active citizens had to agree to work together in the party. These are the types of people with views who, if they were Canadians, would be New Democrats, Liberals, and Greens.

Some Americans consider the 50.4 per cent of the popular vote captured by Obama not much of a mandate, especially since it is smaller margin of victory than in 2008. But in Canada it would be a landslide. The Harper Conservatives obtained a solid majority government last year with 39.6 per cent of the vote in our multi-party, parliamentary democracy. The total vote achieved by Canada’s three Democratic Party cousins was 53.4 per cent.

The floundering trinity is alarmed that the Conservatives intend to eliminate the per-vote public subsidy of political parties, while continuing the public subsidy of contributions to political parties though tax credits. But this could be a good thing for their electoral chances.

Without per-vote subsidies, small parties like to Greens would be encouraged to come to terms and merge with larger ones. Being part of a larger party would mean compromising their principles, but surely having some influence in a party with a chance of electoral success beats the near zip, zero, zilch that the Greens have accomplished since their inception.

Unfortunately, the New Democrats are unlikely to agree to a merger. Fired up by the surge in seats and official opposition status achieved in the last election, they are now dreaming of the ultimate electoral glory.

They can keep dreaming. Short of some kind of sustained and unforeseen calamity befalling the Conservatives (current vote suppression allegations, if proven, won’t do) Stephen Harper could be end up being our longest-serving prime minister, with his portrait on the currency along with Sir Isaac Brock and John Diefenbaker.

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It will be interesting to see how the Washington state vote in favour of legalizing the possession of small quantities of marijuana plays out in British Columbia. As criminal law is solely the jurisdiction of the federal government in Canada, there is no chance B.C. will follow Washington’s lead.

But what impact will this change have on the pot industry in this province, which a provincial government report valued at $6 billion annually a decade ago? Will Nelson have to forgo a few dozen bars, restaurants and outdoor shops if the pot exports to Washington are eliminated, or will other markets be developed?

Perhaps it’s time we started looking at the feasibility of liquefying the product, piping it to the coast and tankering it to China. As it is a natural aboveground product, the environmental concerns around leaks and spills would presumably be negligible.

Raymond Masleck is a retired Trail Times reporter.

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