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Quo Vadis, Canada?

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The 2008 Canadian Federal Election will be held on October 14, when it is expected that incumbent Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party will win. As he stated in an interview with Senior Editor Paul Jay on www.therealnews.com, Barry Kay* believes that while issues are important to many, it is the personalities and communication skills of the party leader that will determine the outcome of the election. For those who do give priority to issues and policy stances, the protection of public health care is seen as the most important issue to Canadians and a political non-starter for those like Harper who have called for health care privatization in the past.

Americans are told repeatedly by right wingers in this country that Canadians are unhappy with their health care system. Nothing could be further from the truth. Health care is THE issue for Canadians, particularly for the English speaking majority, and consistently appears as the top issue in polls with other issues in single digits. Even Canadian Conservatives understand this, yet in Canadian politics the posture and convictions of the party leader set the position of the party on all important issues.

Canadians are not particularly sophisticated about their sense of what Harper will do with a majority government. Polls consistently indicate Canadians do not want public health care privatized. Even so, Harper appears to be on the verge of a majority though Canadians are clearly aware he will privatize health care if he thinks he can get away with it. How to explain this? Widespread skepticism might be one way, a situation which ironically favors Harper & the Conservatives, but also is related to the increase in popularity of the Green Party which appears poised to gain a few seats in Parliament. Their position has so strengthened that they have a fairly unlikely shot at more seats than the Bloc Quebecois which, for those who follow Canadian cultural affairs and politics, comes as a bit of a shock. It's hard to imagine the Bloc Quebecois losing its position as number three in Parliament. Which leads us to another possible reason- Stephane Dion. If Canada does find itself with a Conservative majority in Parliament, it appears much more directly connected to Dion's ineffectiveness as the leader of the Liberal Party than any significant depth of affection for Harper.

In the 1990's, Sweden nationalized their banks during a crisis similar to what we are seeing today. England has partially nationalized its banking system. The American right has also seriously embraced partial nationalization of the American banking system with its "purchase" of toxic assets from banks at risk. The Soviet Union disintegrated in part as a result of its efforts to move toward a free market system in the face of a banking sector that was simply not up to the task. The American economy now appears to be in a similar situation, with a banking system wholly unable to regulate itself in an atmosphere driven by encompassing greed and a delusional obsession with deregulation and privatization on the part of a Conservative majority in Congress. The question begs to be asked: "Quo Vadis, Canada?"

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* Dr. Barry Kay is a Professor of Political Science at Wilfrid Laurier University. His research focuses on the topics of elections and public opinion. He is a past member of the Canadian National Election Study team, and recent publications pertain to electoral systems, public opinion polling, and the impact of single-issue interest groups. He has developed a model for projecting parliamentary seat distributions from popular vote or opinion polls, which is updated regularly and can be found at www.wlu.ca/lispop. He is also a political analyst with Global Television, for their national election coverage.


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Richard W. Overfield is an artist/writer currently based in New Mexico after living in Vancouver, Canada for 20 years.His paintings are represented in over 300 public & private collections in the U.S., Canada, Switzerland, France, England, Japan & (more...)

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