Polygonic

That weren't no DJ, that was hazy cosmic jive

It’s hard being a swinger

My girlfriend would insist that I elaborate on that.

Elections force decisions. For those in a “base” of any description, it’s not so much the case – and part of me envies it. Loyal partisans can dedicate their considerable energies to converting wavering voters to the cause, to plugging their predetermined messiahs, and they don’t have to spend quite as much time wondering to themselves who it is they want to vote for. It’s called loyalty for a reason.

I’m afraid I’m a fiercely disloyal, oscillating left-wing cruiser, who’s voted for both Labour and the Liberal Democrats in the UK, and for the NDP, Greens, and Liberals in Canada over a range of elections. It’s nice to come into a new campaign with fresh eyes. But there’s a struggle as well – perhaps I’m less disloyal, and more multiloyal. Every potential choice feels like a betrayal to the consequent non-choice. Hence a deep loathing for FPTP!

However addled I may be by indecision at this early stage, I thought I’d like to review the parties and leaders so far. Rather than Twitter’s 140 character shackles, let’s nonetheless be brief – 140 words per party! A few ruminations on how the campaign appears so far…

Greens: A funny place to start, since there’s nothing of import I’ve been able to glean about the Greens so far. Nor am I especially likely to vote for them. I feel for the party’s struggle to be heard on the national stage – a party that can command around 10% support deserves coverage. But, as they command around 0% of the seats, they just don’t get it. I fear for May’s prospects in Saanich – Gulf Islands. The hippyish Gulf Islands part I get, but Saanich? Wealthy retirees with monster homes do not strike me as fertile territory. It’s frankly a disaster of a riding for anyone. I do want to see May in the debates again, though; if she can’t demand the national stage normally, she can at least get the chance to hold her own in front of her rivals.

Liberals: I know I’m living abroad, but what I can tell, Ignatieff is actually doing brilliantly – as is the party write large. No gaffes yet. Quick, sharp rebuttals to dumb Harper policies like a “tax break for families, maybe, in five years.” He’s pouncing on Harper’s reference to “ethnics” as “you people.” He’s drumming away at key ethics slogans, and chipping away at the “prudent economic steward” garbage that Tories try to own. Liberals seem organised, serious, competitive, believeable, innovative and frank. The university grants scheme is smart. Would like to see it promote cross-provincial study, frankly. It blows my freaking mind that they aren’t yet 10 points ahead. Despair a bit at Ignatieff ruling out a coalition, but recognise his rationale. It’s just toxic in poor Canadia. If an election were held in five seconds, I’d vote for Iggy.

NDP: Layton’s the best leader of the lot, and the nicest, classiest, and most natural by far. I’m pleased he’s campaigning in Edmonton and Saskatchewan, and they need to keep it up. Would like to see other prominent NDPers taking up some campaign work too (are they?). Mulcair, Martin, Davies all out there, illustrating the “team” dynamic to contrast against Harper-authoritarianism. I feel “Jack Layton” branding on everything over-eggs his charm, and is slightly offensive to the depth/breadth of the party. Like many, I want NDP to grow, but not at expense of Liberals! Painful. Where’s it likely? Prairie urban centres, the Far North, much of B.C., and Quebec. I want them going whole hog in those areas. “CPC taking prairie voters for granted” is brilliant. Policy so far a bit middling. Credit card limits? What’s this about?

Conservatives: Regardless of Ibbitson’s praise, I honestly find the Harper campaign so far to be an embarrassment. I’m trying to see it from the perspective of loyal, or potential, CPC voters. Does yammering on about coalitions, like some sort of dysfunctional 1970s robot, when Ignatieff has gone so far as to rule it out explicitly, not reek of desperation? It’s not only dishonest, it’s pathetic. They seem to have no Plan B narrative to coalition-fear-mongering. “Ageist” and “you ethnic people” optics are nasty little bumps in the road for them. “Family tax breaks if you’re lucky in 2016” is a joke, and they know it. No convincing defense of their record so far – I thought CPC was a well-oiled machine? Doesn’t seem at ease, and will fail badly in debates, I reckon. What will “real Canadians” think, eh?

Bloc: Sigh. Ballsy and clever to trot out the 2004 coalition letter. Nice way to put Harper on the back foot. Otherwise, what can you say? No sovereigntist talk, just “Quebec is great” talk. Am frankly glad Parizeau emerged from sarcophagus to call for big separate Quebec state, as it flummoxes Duceppe plans to morph BQ into a fuzzy regionalist social democrat party without any serious separation leanings. I think he’s been a useful thorn in Harper’s Quebec ambitions, but that’s perhaps a bit of spiteful glee on my part. What I’d love to see is Duceppe campaigning cross-Canada trying to explain his vision of the universe and, specifically, the Canadian federation. Wouldn’t that be in Quebec’s interests too? To show the softer, gentler, cuddlier side of Quebec nationalism? Oh well, perhaps he is not ballsy after all. Ha ha.

O.K., the “ha ha” may not be the cleverest way to get to 140 words on the Bloc, but anyhoo, it’s no less clever than some of the analysis we’ve seen on the Globe and Mail so far.

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Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , , , , , , , , ,

The atom that wouldn’t split

Gilles Duceppe is courting European powers in support for his fantasy republic. Not sure that visiting Catalunya and Scotland with an independence drum to beat is going to especially endear the Spanish and British overall, but hey, solidarity has a price.

Duceppe points to one of his key principles here: “the indivisibility of the province.”

Sorry to split hairs, but if you can split Canada, you can certainly split Québec. You could even split Montréal. You could go on and split Outremont and Côte-St-Luc and Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.

I used to live in a block of flats on Boul. Décarie that I thought would make a stunning republic. A lovely garden to grow our veg, and a gym in the basement we could rig up to generate human-powered energy. And my national anthem would be the greatest song that ever took to air: the theme song from Star Trek Voyager (tell me that would not sound wicked after taking Olympic gold).

The “indivisibility” assertion is not uncommon among aspirant dividers. The moment that the Kosovar microstate split from Serbia, it unfurled a flag depicting a map of the new territory. The message being: these precise borders outline the very shape of our national heart. We will defy the merest snip with all kinds of merciless fury.

Lending sympathy to internal minorities doesn’t seem to be a major attribute of the great patriots. Goose and ganders, you guys. Goose and ganders.

Conversely, interesting news from Scandinavia. CO2-Art blog recently turned up this news:

When asked what they thought of the idea of creating a common Nordic state, 11 percent said they were “very favourable” and 31 percent said they were “favourable,” according to a poll conducted by the Oxford Research institute on behalf of the Nordic Council.

Over 40% support to unify five states with five languages? That’s incredible. They say that unity would allow for a better resourced social democratic system, and a better capacity to support the high quality of life they enjoy. Surely sentiments like that, if nothing else, put the sovereigntists to shame.

Filed under: Canada, International, Politics, UK, , , , , , , , , ,

Québec: Factor Orange

It’s St-Jean Baptiste Day! So, vive le Québec, vive le Canada…… and while we’re at it, vive le Brasserie Unibroue!

I can think of no better occasion to pore through a new EKOS poll of Canadians’ voting intentions (bottle of Maudite may be required), however sad it seems. But there’s an interesting feature in Québec, so I think it’s perfectly justified.

Overall, it’s a well-worn tale. Tories on 31%, Liberals on 27.7%. NDP on 16.5%, Green on 13% (again, if the NDP-GPC could get together and consolidate their demographic, would we not have a real fighting progressive party that’s statistically tied with the ruling Tories?). And the Bloc down on 9%.

So far, so uninteresting. But EKOS finds something that I (at least) would love to explore a lot more – page 5 of the survey report, regarding voters’ second choices.

There appears to be some predictable love between LPC and NDP supporters, as well as between NDP-Green. But while 38.7% of NDP supporters would back the Liberals as their second choice (unsurprising), a full 34.5% of NDP supporters would back the Bloc as their second choice. I thought this was quite wowwy.

This is good and bad news for the NDP, though, depending who’s doing the spinning. 🙂

Harper-For-Life types will love this news as it draws a link between “socialists and separatists.” Who could trust Jack Layton to babysit your kids, when 35% of his fans are also fans of Gilles Duceppe?

But NDP supporters have to be happy to learn that this means they’ve got a verifiable surge in Québec, and in the nationalist community as well. What seems quite astonishing is that the survey seems to suggest that, if a third of NDP supporters back the Bloc as a second choice, than at least a third of NDP supporters are living in Québec. No longer is La Belle Province the exclusive bastion of the Liberals and Tories when it comes to federalist support.

But there are problems for the NDP in these numbers too. The Liberals and Conservatives can fight over anglo federalist Montréal and the banlieues, but the NDP is charting new territory in nationalist areas. It’s good news in many ways, but this support must remain locked in the deep freeze of stalwart Bloquiste ridings that don’t appear likely to turn federalist soon. Or could they?

We first have to ask how the NDP, a party that errs on the side of a more centralised Canadian federation, are managing such support in the francophone Québec nationalist community.

Layton’s personal appeal in Québec is a big part of this, but we can’t forget the fact that a good number of Bloc voters are not actually anti-Canada “separatists” – they are just French-speaking, left-of-centre social democrats who like the Bloquistes’ daycare plans and like their policies on public investment in health and education.

And if they don’t believe a referendum is winnable or on the table anyway (CROP in April concurs – only 14% of Quebecers believe an independent state is on the cards), then this only empowers francophone progressives in Québec to “safely” give voice to the Bloc based on their social democratic credentials, and nothing else. I think that’s the logic in a lot of Québec.

So, after all, it may be the case that the NDP aren’t winning over Québec nationalists – they’re winning over social democrats (and soft nationalists at best) who just don’t fully identify with “distant” federal parties. So the question for the NDP is, how they convince francophone progressives that their natural home should be Team Orange, not Team Bleu?

Hard to do when identity is such a major feature of Québec voting trends. But if the NDP presents a respectable, federal, social democratic face to Québec, this has got to be good for unity. It says that there’s at least one well-regarded federal alternative in Québec amongst the soft-nationalist community, and that the federalist option isn’t necessarily the “stuffy, squareheaded” option.

Jack Layton should spend some serious time in Lac-St-Jean and the Townships this summer. Unless he’s there already for the Fête-Nationale?

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , , , , ,

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