Another Election: Why Now?

Rex Murphy returns with his Point of View - this week on the upcoming, apparently inevitable trip Canadians will be making to the electoral polls this fall.

Read the transcript of this Point of view

Rex Murphy Point of View

September 10, 2009

So it looks like we’re going to have another election.

Canadian politics; more reruns then Law and Order.

We almost had one in June you’ll remember.  There were a couple of days there when Michael Ignatieff went all Wyatt Earp on Stephen Harper.  High noon under the Peace Tower. It was all mixed up with his "Harper report cards" (whatever they were) and some bluster on E I.  The bluster fizzled; summer came; life went on.

Well it’s September now and a very different Michael Ignatieff, all steel and trumpets. Mr. Ignatieff has done all but take a blood oath to bring down Harper on the first available opportunity.  He seems, such is his way, very serious.   

Now if you’re a deep, partisan Liberal – "Stephen Harper must go" – is a self-evident truth, right up there with "peace, order, and good government," or the weekly specials at Canadian Tire.  Saving Canada from Stephen Harper is very much the mission statement of the current Liberal party.

Trouble is if you’re a deep, partisan Conservative – Saving Canada from Michael ("just visiting") Ignatieff – is an equally blatant moral urge.  As would be in Jack Layton’s case – Saving Canada from both of them ---  and Elizabeth May too, should that unlikely prospect become necessary.

I think, however, outside the feverish councils of insiders, consultants, appointees, and hacks of all stripes, the great wide sane swathe of Canadian public opinion holds that – other things being equal – whether Mr. Harper presides over a minority government, or whether Mr. Ignatieff does, is a matter of arctic indifference.

To put it really plainly:  most people don’t care. Harper is narrow and stern, Ignatieff is chilly and remote.  Each has a certain competency, neither has real style.  We’re not in Obama territory – this is almost delirious understatement –  with either of time.   Do we need another election to confirm the obvious?

The Liberals and Tories have pushed and prodded at each other over three elections, and Canadians each time have declined anything like a full embrace of either one.  Our two main political parties are more or less in stalemate because they are both of them dull and mediocre.  They’re predictable, shrill and equally, when it comes to fundamentals, unconvincing.

They campaign according to partisan templates; their ads are duds: the Tories attack ads rude, the Liberals, ‘Michael-in-a forest-glade,’ are flat.  In the House of Commons they neither inspire nor impress.  Since the last time we went to the polls, less than a year ago – neither party has done anything to change the equation between them.  

You could walk from one end of this country to the other and will not find ten people who think another high-cost election has the slightest justification.  

So why are we, in this season of swine flu and stock market roller-coasters, being threatened with the boredom and cost of another one?  Where’s the urgency?  What’s changed since June?  Nothing.

And yet ...we’re about to spend 300 million dollars to confirm (what we already know) that there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between them.

For the National, I’m Rex Murphy.