Unforeseen consequences

One of the best things about not having a blog anymore, and not really paying attention to blogs that aren’t jwz and USS Mariner, is that I have no idea what’s going on in the world. It’s very liberating — my blood pressure is much better, and I don’t get worked up about dumb shit anymore. I’m much calmer and much happier. s’great, actually. Highly recommended.

Unfortunately, one of the side effects of not paying attention is.. not paying attention. So major events pass me by. Not things like Pope Deathwatch or anything like that, but things like the electoral reform issue on the ballot on the 17th in British Columbia (I don’t know what STV is, and I’m not sure I want to find out). And things like the latest developments in AdScam. I knew there was an inquiry on, but had no idea what was happening until fairly recently, and I still don’t have a clear picture. Government throws money at problem, money ends up in hands of cronies. Got that. Not sure what to get worked up about, since we knew the Liberal Party was full o’ crooks years ago. But something happened in the past couple of days, the outrage has hit white-hot levels of intensity, and the PM addressed the nation last night to deal with it, promising an election within 30 days of the Gomrey Inquiry’s final report.

I have no real desire to go back to the polls anytime soon. I won’t vote for the Liberals, I can’t vote for the Conservatives (notwithstanding my qualified support in the last federal, they’ve lost me with their dumbshit position on same-sex marriage), I categorically refuse to vote NDP, and oops, that’s it. I’d vote Green, since they seem to be best aligned with me on the non-major policy issues, but I can’t shake the feeling they’re.. well.. hippies. And we know what happens when you give hippies power. (Nothing. Which actually.. might not be such a bad idea. Anyway.)

What’s funny about the PM’s statement is the reaction from the other parties to it. And the hell of it is that the reactions had almost nothing to do with the actual issues; you could have predicted it going in. Both the Conservatives and the Bloc are chomping at the bit, unable to contain their glee that an election is looming. They stand to win big from AdScam, so they have the most to gain, and they can’t really lose — voters pissed off at the corruption will vote for Someone Else, and that someone else, in many relevant parts of Canada, is going to be the Conservative candidate. For the Tories, they want to know whether they’ve managed to pick up enough pissed off former Liberal supporters in Ontario to form a government, majority or otherwise. I doubt it — the Liberals will have their lead cut by the Bloc, but I suspect those Ontario voters who could be persuaded to vote Tory would have done so already, and so the bulk of the support is going to shift to the NDP. (This is a well-documented trend in much of the country, where the second choice of Liberal voters tends not to be the Conservatives, but rather the Dippers.) To explain the Bloc’s reaction, replace “Conservative” in this argument with “Bloc,” and “Ontario” with “Quebec.” The irony is tough to swallow: A program that was designed to quell separatist rhetoric in Quebec may end up enhancing the profile of a separatist party in Parliament. Who knew?

(Diz-claimer: I don’t honestly believe most of the Bloc’s voters are itching to separate. That ship, it seems, has pretty much sailed for the current generation. I have no evidence of this, but that’s how it feels to me; the Bloc’s popularity right now is more a function of Liberal stupidity and Quebecois self-interest. It’s no different from westerners voting Reform.)

The Liberals’ reaction is easy to predict, too. Of course they want to wait. They want to see if they can ride it out and regain support in the next half-year or so. The NDP reaction was even more predictable: They’re the only other party with a vested interest in making sure that the government doesn’t fall. See, the problem is that if the government were to fall tomorrow, we’d probably end up with a minority again, but with the Conservatives holding most of the cards. You think a minority government under Harper is likely to cut deals with the NDP to advance a legislative agenda? You think they’d be willing to cut a deal with the Bloc to advance an agenda? (Now that I think about it, this might be kind of funny to watch.) Not likely. While the NDP is likely to pick up seats, their influence in the next minority government is probably going to be diminished. At the moment, Layton can play the role of negotiator, holding Martin’s feet to the fire over various issues in exchange for Parliamentary support. I can’t see Harper doing the same thing.

The hell of it is that that scenario — a Conservative-lead minority government, forming a coalition chiefly with the Liberals — might be in everyone’s best interests. They’re necessarily going to rely on consensus and deal-making in order to get anything done, and so you’d probably see the influence of the socially conservative wing of the Conservative party diminished significantly. They could do some pandering, of course, but how effectively can you pander when you can’t actually get anything done? It’s doubtful the economic policy would change significantly, and we might actually be able to have the Important National Conversations about health care that we really really need to have under a Harper government. Will I support it? Not a hope in hell — like Jay Currie, I’ve lost my patience with the Tories and I cannot in good conscience ever support a party that is willing to make principled arguments about why it’s OK to discriminate against a particular group of people. But it’s interesting to think about.

‘kay. I’m done writing unsubstantiated punditry for the next four months.