The View From Here Came True!

The View From Here Came True!

(this was written the day after the election)

by Peter Stuart

Well, what a difference a day makes. They say that a day in politics is a long time, and a year is an eternity. I’d have to dig up the exact quote from a long-dead British Prime Minister, but I’ll settle for a decent paraphrase. I sat up last night until 11:00 P.M. watching the results come in on Radio Canada long enough to get the big picture: The Conservative majority which I’d predicted in a previous column had most certainly come to pass. I knew that Stephen Harper was going to make gains in southern Ontario, because he’s a master strategist and tactician, and had targeted a few dozen ridings in central Canada even before the campaign began, as being the swing ridings that were the key to unlocking the doors to his long sought-after majority.

It had always been a struggle for the stealth Reform wolf in Conservative clothing to break out beyond the Lake head, beyond his safe power base in western Canada, and to make headway in vote-rich Ontario, especially in the longstanding Toronto-area strongholds in the 416 and 905 area code districts. It took years to shake off that ‘scary, yahoo, redneck from Alberta’ image that he and his party had seemingly inherited from Preston Manning and Stockwell Day.

He found the solution in large part with guys such as Tony Clement, and Jason Kenney. Kenney began reaching out to the heretofore almost exclusively Liberal constituencies of new Canadians who’d almost always voted Liberal in the past, and had been admitted to this country under the St. Laurent, Pearson, Trudeau, and Chrétien governments, filled with the now familiar Liberal-Canadiana images and icons of bilingualism, the Maple Leaf flag, Multiculturalism, Medicare, Canada Pension Plan, and the opportunity to make good in a country which cared about people, not just property.

Kenney found a lot of new Canadians from countries which still embraced a lot of traditional views on such things as the family, procreation, gender, education, marriage, and faith. He tapped into this base of support, and began building on it. Soon, the Conservatives were attracting a larger and larger base of immigrant business and community leaders, and packing halls, which had been unseen in decades.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, so to speak, in La Belle Province, support for Mr. Harper’s Conservative Party was dwindling. The Liberals had already been dead in the water in Québec, especially outside Montréal, practically from the get go, and were trying to put a brave face on it. The local Liberal candidates here in Québec city, apart from Jean Beaupré in Louis Hébert, were virtual unknowns, and in the pecking order of signage, placed a poor fourth after the Bloc, the Conservatives, and the NDP. The Liberal campaign posters were the last to go up, and were smaller and less visible, and more forlorn-looking than the others, the red and white colours seeming to fade into oblivion compared to the way the blue and orange of the others jumped out at you.

In the final analysis, though, I don’t think anybody saw this ‘Orange Crush’ or ‘Orange Wave’ thing coming. I think even the Bloc was taken by surprise. Some are suggesting that it spells the end of secessionism in Québec. I’d say far from it. I think that Québecers put their fingers up into the air, saw which way the wind was blowing, took a look at the various leaders and what they stood for and how they felt about them, and decided to give ‘un bon Jack’ a kick at the can. Many people in my entourage whom I spoke with told me they were voting NDP, because of Jack Layton’s upbeat personality. They had no idea what his party platform was or what his policies were about, but he was up there every day at those rallies, looking like he was having a good time, smiling, scrappy, overcoming adversity waving that cane around (shades of Lucien Bouchard maybe?), whereas Gilles Duceppe looked drawn, severe, like he was always ticked off, and angry with something or someone.

So Québecers, being the group-centred people that they are, voted as a group, with 58 of the 102 NDP seats being won in Québec, many by virtual unknowns, including Alexandrine Latendresse, who beat the incumbent Conservative cabinet minister José Verner in the Québec city riding of Louis St. Laurent. Other Québec city ridings which went NDP, were the ridings of Québec, where Annick Papillon beat Bloc candidate Christiane Gagnon, Louis Hébert, where Denis Blanchette beat Bloc incumbent Pascal-Pierre Paillé, with Liberal Jean Beaupré not even in contention this time around. In Portneuf-Jacques Cartier, Independent former broadcaster André Arthur was beaten by NDP candidate Élaine Michaud. And NDPer Raymond Côté beat Bloc candidate Sylvie Boucher in Beauport Limoilou.

The only place in the Québec city area where the Conservatives held on to seats was on the South Shore, which is closer to the U.S. border, and perhaps more concerned with a more pro-business agenda. Local boy Maxime Bernier held onto his Conservative seat in Beauce, Steven Blaney held on in Lévis-Bellechasse, and Jacques Gourde kept his job in Lotbinière-Chute-de-la-Chaudière.

So basically, Stephen Harper has managed to execute the old Reform strategy of ruling Canada with a majority government, without the assent of the people of the province of Québec, which just goes to show you just how far apart our country has become split along east-west, left-right, French-English, as well as differing visions of nationalism: Québec, and English Canadian.

However, let’s not forget that 60% of the voting public did not vote Conservative, and the participation rate rose only slightly to 61, 4%. Imagine if a new leader emerged, one who could ‘reach across the great divide’, as Sass Jordan referred to the English-French cleavage, one who could reach out to Canadians both East, West, North and South, men and women, young and old, established citizens, as well as new arrivals.

We can only ‘imagine’, as Lennon sang, or ‘Dream until your dreams come true’, as Aerosmith sang. Regardless, it going to take a lot of concerted effort, organization, time, money, patience, and prayer, before we get the kind of Canada we all deserve and desire in our heart of hearts.

In the meantime, Stephen Harper has vowed, if he ever got a majority, to cut off public funding to political parties, something which would help put him and his corporate cronies in the driver’s seat for decades to come. He’s mused publicly about either cutting back drastically or even abolishing public broadcasting in this country, ‘harmonizing’ our food safety and labour laws with Mexico and the U.S.A under the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP, look it up, folks!), and removing worker’s rights to strike or to even bargain collectively.

This is a man, who upon seeing the Chief of the Defence Staff in Ottawa, all decked out in his military uniform, remarked only half-jokingly: ‘I wish I could wear a uniform like that’. Basically we’ve elected a stealth neo-proto-corporate fascist dictator in a suit with a really bad hairdo. What is to follow is anybody’s guess.

I guess the people get what they voted for, not necessarily what they deserve. Another firm argument for proportional representation. Watch this space. Yesterday was the end of one thing, but the beginning of a whole new ball game and nobody knows if it’ll end after nine innings.
Article: Peter Stuart

About the author:

Peter Stuart is a freelance journalist and writer based in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. He has a degree in Canadian Studies from the University of Ottawa.
He has written Op-Ed pieces for the last ten years for publications including: Le Soleil, La Presse, Quebec Chronicle Telegraph and Impact Campus.
Peter writes in both French and English, and is currently working on the publication of his first book. 
You can read more of Peter’s work by visiting his blog.

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