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Canadian 2011 federal election, April 30th update

John Walker’s already written a post covering some of the basics. I thought it’d be good to write up a follow up for those interested, or ex-patriot Canadian firepups who haven’t been keeping up. Before I get started, I should note I am a member of New Democratic Party (of Canada). Anyhow, I’ll do my best to inform you readers with my personal take on the election, and how it’ll end. I’ve also included my thoughts on each of the different political parties vying for seats in the Parliament of Canada.

In polling, the Conservative Party sits in first place, while the NDP has vaulted into second place, taking many by surprise. The Liberal Party has slid to third place, which has shocked the electorate, and possibly demoralized its party supports. The final member party of parliament before dissolution, and fourth place party (in polling), is the Bloc Québécois, which has also lost major ground in the latest polls. There is also another major national party, the Green Party, which is polling a little under its results from the 2008 election. Aside from these parties, there are a number of minor parties that either aren’t contesting all ridings, or have no seats in parliament.

The final seat count could vary quite a bit, since the polling has been so volatile. The Conservatives will finish with 130-165 seats. The Liberals with 40-70 seats. The NDP, however, could finish anywhere from 50 to 100 seats! The Bloc could finish with 10-40 seats. The numbers are so volatile and unprecedented, that who knows how it’ll end? Let’s all cross our fingers for a high voter turnout as that would be most likely to upset the status quo of Canadian politics.Alright, here is some background, and the basics for those who are interested in Canadian politics:

I’ll skip the history and structure of The Parliament of Canada, and concentrate on the House of Commons, since it’s the only level of government that actually holds any power in Canada. The House of Commons  has 308 ridings. Any party that wins a majority of seats (154+) takes control of the cabinet, where all the political power in Canada is concentrated. The leader of the majority party of parliament becomes the Prime Minister. Any party polling above %40 is likely to gain majority status. However, if no party wins a majority of seats, the party with the most seats can control cabinet, unless two or more parties with more seats either reach an accord or form a coalition. However, a minority parliament is tenuous and uncertain, but the Canadian electorate has favored it over the past few elections in lieu of trusting any party with too much power.

An accord is a simple agreement where two parties with more seats combined than any other party promise to not vote down the government, but cabinet power is not shared in this scenario. A coalition is a far more complex agreement, whereupon two parties agree to share cabinet power.

There are quite a number of limits placed upon political and third parties in regards to donations and election spending. Only people can donate to political parties, and only up $1100, maximum, yearly. Candidates, depending upon their riding, have a hard limit placed on their election spending, whereas parties have a hard limit placed upon their national advertising. The party limit is based upon how many ridings in which a party is contesting. Third parties can only spend up to $188,250 nationally, and $3,765 within any single riding.

The Conservatives are a right wing party, and the only (major) conservative party in Canada. Although they’ve inched leftward in order to appeal to more Canadian voters, they continue to poll at less than the necessary magical number to gain majority status. In comparison to US political parties, they’re similar in ideology to conservative Democrats and, and more especially Republicans. Barack Obama would be a moderate Conservative, while Ron Paul would be quite comfortable, too. The party proposes hard line justice, tax cuts, military spending, and deregulation as its major policies. The party also wants to continue involvement in the Afghanistan conflict. It is hard-line federalist. The party leader is Stephan Harper whose favorite line is, “You won’t recognize Canada when I get through with it.”

The New Democratic Party is a left wing party. It is a social-democratic party. Traditionally, it has been Canada’s third place party, often affecting politics only in the rare circumstances of a minority party parliament. Its policies are social justice, progressive taxation, and strengthening the social safety net. It has socialist leanings toward what it considers public interest, meaning it may nationalize a corporation or create a government agency to provide what it considers necessary services for the public. The party also allows for the Keynesian view of regulating industries, with further support of such policies as cap and trade. It supports unionization (and receives in kind strong union support). In comparison US political parties, is quite a ways left of the Democratic Party; Dennis Kucinich and Bernie Sanders would be quite at home in the NDP. It is soft-line federalist. The current leader is Jack Layton.

The Liberal Party is a centrist party. Depending on circumstances, depending on the party leader’s leanings, the party when in governance has expanded and contracted differing government services. It is moderately progressive in taxation, but also supports tax cuts. Half the party opposes deregulation, whereas the half other accepts it. It is either pulled left or right depending on the motivations and strength of its supporters, which changes and fluctuates as time progresses. However, lately, the party has had unstable leadership, with its third new leader in seven years. Compared with US politics, Nancy Pelosi would at home in the Liberal party, but so would Barack Obama. It used to receive much support from corporations, but when the electoral financing rules were changed, it adapted slowly  to the changes, which even now effects its grass roots organizing, which has contributed to its slide in the polls. It is hard-line federalist. The current leader is Michael Ignatieff.

The Bloc Québécois is a regional party that only contests riding in Quebec, Canada’s only native French-speaking province. It is a hard-line Québécois sovereignty party, which means it proposes to the electorate of Quebec that their province becomes an equal partner to Canada as an independent state rather than a province. It is an even more pronounced left-wing party than the NDP. However, in the current election, it is losing support to the NDP, which is fast gaining ground in the province through younger voters, who seem to be considering the NDP’s soft federalism appealing. The current leader is Gilles Duceppe.

The Green Party is actively trying to win a seat, running as a centrist party. Its stance on taxation evolves as time progresses. It supports a moderate progressive tax system, but also proposes tax shifting to better identify and demonstrate how tax dollars are being spent. If the party wins a seat this election, it’ll be its first in the federal election level (it has won on the provincial level). The current leader is Elizabeth May.

A few other issues parties contest are immigration, diplomacy, and First Nations (or American Indians) issues. On immigration, the Conservatives are hard-line, but have proven arbitrary, depending on your skin colour and last names, whereas the Liberals prefer the status quo, and the NDP are for loosening rules regarding refugees (the BQ are a regional party, so they really add nothing to this debate). On diplomacy, the Conservatives and Liberals are hawks, whereas the NDP and Bloc are doves.

First Nations (or American Indian) policies, though, are something close to my heart (as I am Secwepemc), and something the USA will probably begin to realize as necessary for its own population of First Nations as more and more time passes. Registered First Nations make up about one percent of the Canadian population, and perhaps there’s just as many unregistered First Nations. However, First Nations own a considerable amount of land, which is called reserve (just as in the USA), and contest far more lands as stolen by the Canadian government through its court of laws. Also, First Nations have considerable organizational power and political influence, punching above its weight on the national level for public attention. First Nations policies by the government is something that does affect elections on a humanitarian level. The Conservatives and Liberal are both hard-line federalist parties, and so dismiss First Nations land claims, whereas the NDP accepts First Nations self-determination arguments, and sides with First Nations leaders on arguments for specifically alleviating First Nations poverty on reserves and in the cities (the BQ’s stance on First Nations’ self determination is evolving to grudging accept the argument).

Anyhow, if you’ve read through the whole post, and still have questions (I wouldn’t be surprised), here are some helpful links for further reading:

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