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Ben Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

We Screwed Up

The war drums are sounding once again, and another election looms. The Liberals, led by the accomplished but detached Michael Ignatieff, are channelling Twisted Sister and are calling Prime Minister Harper out. But Harper says that Canadians don't want an election.

So what?

I don't want to take yucky-tasting medicine, but I do it anyway so I get better. I don't want to pay more than $1 per litre of gas, but I do it anyway so my car will run. I don't want an election, but we should have one anyway so Parliament will actually do something. The whining electorate complaining about our frequent elections miss one important fact: we're part of the problem. We may not want another election, but at this point, we need one.

Do Not Pass Go; Do Not Collect $200

Much of the resistance to another election is purely about timing: there's a sentiment that we just had an election, and it's "too soon" for another. At first glance, this reasoning seems sound: the parties have not changed much in a year, and aside from one new leader--who, let's face it, really isn't that different from the old leader so far--it's the same old faces and names. Why would an election this fall have a very different result from last fall? We'd just waste more time and money only to end up in the exact some spot.

The apparent futility of an election does not negate the necessity for one. Parliament will dissolve when it shows it has lost confidence in the government. Elections are a mechanism whereby Canadians voice their confidence in those parties; as the past few years have shown, confidence about all the major parties is low. Only 59.1% of the electorate voted; coupled with their shaky minority government, this barely gives the Conservatives a mandate to govern. The repetitive generation of a minority government doesn't mean we should give up on holding elections--that's absurd. It means that the political parties have to change the way they campaign and govern. If Harper wants to stop going to the polls every year, he has to either win a majority or govern well enough to keep the confidence of Parliament. The onus is on him to perform well.

Post and Propter, Meet Ergo and Hoc

Minister of Transport and Infrastructure John Baird says that "Ignatieff is just asking for an election for reasons of political opportunism," and that's probably true. It's also beside the point.

What Baird's misdirection obscures is the simple fact that this election has been coming ever since the Governor General prorogued Parliament last December deflated the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition juggernaught. The Liberal party has always intended to topple the current government, even before Ignatieff became the leader. As much as Ignatieff may want power for himself, he's carrying out a party strategy that's a year or more in the making. None of this is news.

What I do find interesting are the actions of NDP leader Jack Layton, who has announced his willingness to prostitute his party to Harper. This is the same Jack Layton who said he was going to work with the Liberals last year in a coalition government, the same Jack Layton who likes to give speeches about how the Conservatives have failed Canadians and we need a "third option." And now, even as Ignatieff switches from sabre-rattling to sabre-sharpening, Layton's trying to the brakes on this election and give Harper one more chance. That's political opportunism. Despite any misgivings about Ignatieff's suitability as a leader, at least he's firm in his resolve to put an end to our playground Parliament.

You Are Our Only Hope

Yes, you, the eligible Canadian voter. Last year we went to the polls--well, 59 per cent of us did--and collectively decided to elect a minority Conservative government. Again. Yes, if we do have a fall election, it means that the Conservatives have failed twice to promote a working Parliament--regardless of their lofty goals or attempts to stabilize the economy.

This is our chance to change that. And if you don't want to be back here in October 2010, once again trying to decide among Mikey, Jackie, Stevie, or even Lizzie, then you have a responsibility to yourself and to Canada to actually do something.

I'm not telling you for whom to vote. As my attitude suggests, I won't be voting for my Conservative candidate, and it wouldn't be my first choice for the rest of you. But at this point, even a Conservative majority would be give our Parliament a chance to actually pass legislation and make policy for awhile. It may not be the legislation and policy that I want, but that's a risk I'm willing to take--that's the compromise of living in a democracy. Nevertheless, it is important that you do vote, that you cast off your apathy this once. Regardless of whether you vote or not, if you pay taxes, you pay for these elections and you pay the salaries of our MPs. Isn't it about time they actually earn their keep?

We got us into this mess. And let's face it: our politicians aren't doing much in the way of getting us out of it, so it's up to us to put a working government in power.