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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 9/14/15

Some thoughts on Canada's upcoming federal election on Oct. 19

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While America is being bombarded through the national mainstream media of the day-by-day antics of Donald Trump and, every once in a while, some other Republican Presidential candidate's outlandish comments while on the campaign trail, our neighbor to the north is preparing for their federal election on Monday, October 19.

Right now, this election is more important to Americans than America's Presidential election on November 8, 2016. At least, in terms of our own election being so far away on the time-linear scale. Incumbent Conservative Party Prime Minister Stephen Harper; Tom Mulcair, New Democratic Party candidate; and Justin Trudeau, Liberal Party candidate and eldest son of long-standing Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, and Margaret Trudeau, are currently splitting at around 30 percent each in the polls. The pick of a winner is just too close to call and Harper may win if he maintains his share at a little below 32 percent. Two small parties will also have PM candidates in this race: Polls indicate the Bloc Quebecois Party has about 2.5 percent of the vote while the Green Party has about 4 percent.

The Canadian flag flies proudly as Canada is prepping itself for a big federal election on Oct. 19.
The Canadian flag flies proudly as Canada is prepping itself for a big federal election on Oct. 19.
(Image by RicLaf)
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Have you seen any of these candidates for Canadian Prime Minister on the news or read about any of them in your local newspaper? The 58th quadrennial U.S. presidential election on November 8, 2016, is center stage and is all-encompassing. In a day and age where international politics, the global economy, and the world's environment are at stake, such a myopic view is scary.

The polls right now suggest a dead heat among Canada's top three PM candidates. This means that a highly controversial and even unpopular Prime Minister will keep his seat if he can maintain at least a bit over 30 percent of the overall vote. By the looks of things, Stephen Harper has a very good chance of winning the federal election for Canada's Prime Minister, a job he's had since Feb. 6, 2006, and it's a pretty good bet that Harper will maintain his one-third share of conservative voters. What's unsettling and frustrating for most Canadians is that the people who want change - people who align themselves as being social-democratic, liberal, leftist, progressive, or even centrist - have been scattered by the NDP, a social-democratic entity; and the Liberal Party, a more centrist organization; along with some fallout by the Bloc Quebecois Party and the Green Party - two parties that have platforms that most who like the NDP or Liberals would also be in favor of and support. It is easy to assume that backers of the two smallest parties would favor the NDP and the Liberal Party over the Conservatives, anyway.

Despite a few minor differences, the overall political platforms of the NDP and Liberal parties are very similar and in many ways mirror one another. Both want to bolster and create more opportunities for the middle class and younger Canadians. Both the NDP and Liberal Party want to create green infrastructure and take more aggressive measures in protecting the environment. Both the NDP and Liberals are promising good leadership free from all the scandals that the Harper administration has experienced. Both parties believe that by concentrating on job growth and a more vibrant economy, better communities will be the result. And both these parties are focusing on job creation. This is a big issue -- probably the biggest -- since Canada is suffering a stagnant economy that seems rooted in austerity. Canada's unemployment rate is 6.7 percent and this figure doesn't seem to be lowering any time soon. But this mark doesn't look too bad. Canada's labor force-participation rate, however, gives a better picture of the Canadian job economy's dynamics. The figure indicates the number of adults of working age who are either working, looking for work, or are unemployed. Revised figures show that this indicator now stands at 65.7 percent. Although the labor force-participation rate is now the lowest it has been since 2000, it is a stark illustration of how many Canadians are unemployed, underemployed, and/or dissatisfied with their jobs and actively seeking other work options. Down from its highest level of 67.7 percent, it's easy to see why so many Canadians are screaming for change.

The participation rate has been shrinking since 2008, when the world entered its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. It tends to drop in troubled economic times as some job-seekers become discouraged by poor prospects and drop out, while others return to school or for more training, writes Sunny Freeman in a Huffington Post article.

In a debate with Harper, Mulcair said, "You're the only Prime Minister who, when asked about recessions on his watch, has to ask 'which one?'"

Will Stephen Harper be reelected on Oct. 19? There is a good chance of it, although a little more than 30 percent of all eligible Canadian voters will pick him as their Prime Minister.
Will Stephen Harper be reelected on Oct. 19? There is a good chance of it, although a little more than 30 percent of all eligible Canadian voters will pick him as their Prime Minister.
(Image by Πρωθυπουργός της Ελλάδας)
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The Green Party, whose Prime Minister candidate is Elizabeth May, stands for many of the same things that the NDP and Liberals stand for, and is leftist and progressive. The Green Party is focused on four areas, according to May, and they are the economy, communities, government and climate. The Green Party's platform for the elimination of fossil-fuel use includes totally eliminating fossil fuels by mid-century. According to May, "Our short-term target is 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2015 while we are calling for 80 percent reductions below 1990 levels by 2050."

The Bloc Quebecois Party is devoted protecting Quebec's House of Commons of Canada interests and Quebec's sovereignty. The Bloc Quebecois Party wants eventually for Quebec to secede from Canada. This party campaigns during Canada's federal election throughout the province. Gilles Duceppe was a member of the House of Commons of Canada for more than 20 years and has been the leader of the Bloc Quebecois Party for 15 years. The Bloc Quebecois Party is a social-democratic body.

Polls for seat projections for the House of Commons on September 12 indicated that the Conservatives will be filling 112 seats, the Liberals 104, with the NDP projected to hold 121 seats. In contrast, the 41st Canadian Parliament, which convened on June 2, 2011, saw the Conservatives having 166 seats with the New Democratic Party taking 103 and the Liberals 34 seats. There were 308 members in the 41st Parliament but this figure will rise to 338 with the Oct. 19 federal election. Although Harper enjoyed having a majority of his party's members in the 41st Parliament, the newly elected House of Commons will be almost split into thirds, too, and if Harper wins, he will surely face gridlock, if the polls' predictions come true. Conversely, if either Mulcair or Trudeau win, they will most likely find more pragmatism and a willingness to work on commonly held goals with 225 Parliament members aligning themselves with social-democratic focuses.

Even though Harper has a good shot at being reelected as PM, with his current poll figures at just below 32 percent, he'd fail miserably at the voting booth if this was predominantly a two-party race. The Liberals, the NDP, the Green Party and the Bloc Quebecois Party have split the liberal/progressive vote. If either the NDP or the Liberal Party pulls their PM candidate, Harper would surely lose this election. Even if the smaller Green or NQ parties pull their top leader out of the race, it may be enough of a surge of voters picking Mulcair and Trudeau to give one of them the edge, since voters currently aligning themselves with the Green and BQ parties would most likely vote for a liberal/progressive, social-democratic candidate rather than a conservative PM.

In an opinion that ran online on Ottawa Citizen, writer Peter Loewen describes the current state of affairs for Canada's pick of a Prime Minister: The logic of our system is fairly simple. In a three-way constituency race, Conservative candidates can win office with just more than one-third of the vote, assuming that the Liberals and the NDP split the remaining votes. (If we factor in some support for the Greens, this becomes even easier).[sic] But if supporters of the NDP and the Liberals could instead settle on one candidate to support, then the Conservative candidate could be easily defeated. This logic aggregates to the national level. Voters of the left and the centre left face a coordination challenge which could return Stephen Harper to government with as little as one-third of the vote.

The Harper administration has been plagued by scandals. So many, in fact, that it's impossible to list them even briefly in an op-ed piece. This has crushed the Prime Minister's credibility and much of Canada's populace do not trust Harper or his Conservative counterparts much. He is also seen by many as being a callous and arrogantly insensitive leader. When asked about more than 1,100 missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada, Harper's response was: "It isn't really high on our radar, to be honest." This infuriated Canadian Indians and this little quip garnished much notice by North American publications devoted to First Nations people and also, liberal alternative magazines and newspapers. Harper's claims for helping refugees and Canada's willingness to be the most helpful of any country falls incredibly short with the current Syrian refugee problem, Harper's critics allege. The boreal forests, the gargantuan rain forests of Alberta, have been decimated for the harvesting of oil sands crude. And now, Harper, dubbed the world's 'Petrolero', has been blamed for over $30 billion in annual losses for focusing so much of his economic platform on harvesting this dirty oil. Insufficient refining capacity, insufficient pipeline and shipping infrastructure and a weak labor pool have led many to call Harper's focus on the oil sands "Harper's Folly". Although mining and logging have depleted the boreal forests, much of this annihilation is the result of exposing the greasy oil sands for harvesting. The majority of trees cut down for this purpose are not even harvested. Hundreds of thousands of acres of forest have been decimated under the Harper government for oil-sands extraction and this will ultimately lead to climate-change consequences for the world. Rain forests are necessary for keeping the atmosphere intact and allowing for healthy breathing of this big blue, brown and white globe. Civil liberties are also being questioned with the Harper government giving sweeping authority to Canadian security forces. Just like the American Patriot Act and its Homeland Security operative, Harper has declared war on terrorism and the civil liberties of the Canadian people will surely be diminished in the long run.

October is a big month for North America and Canadian voters will soon decide if it will be more of the same or if change will come to their country. A lot can happen within the next few weeks and it is important for America to look northward at this very important federal election, since it not only will effect Canada, but the world, too.

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Samuel Vargo worked as a full-time reporter and editor for more than 20 years at a number of daily newspapers and business journals. He was also an adjunct English professor at colleges and universities in Ohio, West Virginia, Mississippi (more...)

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