Saturday, 28 April 2012
Canadian Politics This Week
Alberta led the growth in the Canadian economy, which expanded 2.6% in 2011, well behind the 3.4% expansion in 2010. Alberta and Saskatchewan were well ahead of the remainder of Canada with an expansion of 5.2% and 4.8% respectively. In contrast Ontario and Quebec expanded 2.0% and 1.7%. The economies in P.E.I, N.B. and N.S. are all but at a standstill ranging from 1.1 to .01%, while Newfoundland is above the national average at 2.9%. Manitoba at 1.1% growth is the only Western Province below the national average. The Yukon and Nunavut far exceeded the national average, while the economy of the North West Territories contracted by 5.5%.
Turning to the Alberta elections, Monday nights results were a major misreading of the polling organizations. Pollsters had predicted a Wildrose sweep, yet when it was all said and done, Alison Redford's Progressive Conservative Party had an overwhelming majority, capturing 61 of 87 seats in the Alberta Legislature. The big loser is the Alberta Liberal Party, which went from 26% of the popular vote in 2008 to just 10% in Monday's election. While the Wildrose Party did not meet the expectations of the polls, it nonetheless gained 16 seats over 2008 and now forms the official opposition. Many analysts believe that the election turned into Redford's favour during the last three days of the campaign. The politics of fear worked and many Liberals joined the Redford camp, especially the unions and teachers.
Alison Redford has a job on her hands to keep her promises, improve the ailing health care system and stamp out corruption and intimidation in her party. The Wildrose Party will, no doubt, hold her and the Progressive Conservatives to account. It should make for an interesting four years in the Alberta Legislature.
In Ontario, the Liberal government is one seat short of a majority and after the Progressive Conservative leader rejected the proposed the budget outright, Premier Dalton McGuinty made concessions to the New Democrats to pass his budget, another deficit budget, which resulted in Ontario's credit rating being downgraded.
The fortunes seem to be turning in the favour of the Ontario Liberals though, since Tory MPP Elizabeth Witmer resigned on Friday, triggering a byelection. Witmer is the MPP for Kitchener-Waterloo. In last October's vote, Witmer had 21,356 votes while Liberal candidate Eric Davis finished second with 17,837 votes. That riding is now up for grabs in a byelection that must be called within six months.
Then there was the issued of student protests and violence in Montreal over tuition fees. Even with the newly proposed increases by the Charest government, Quebec students pay the lowest tuition fees anywhere in Canada. In Alberta for full time tuition the cost is double compared to Quebec students. If Quebec students ever had the sympathy of the public, it is unlikely that anyone is on their side after the violence and destruction caused by their protests. Every day they strike costs the taxpayer additional fund to pay for police forces. Go figure.
On the national scene a private members motion once again ignited the fire between pro-life and pro-choice forces. The motion called for a committee to be formed to examine when life starts. While the bill will go nowhere, it again raised doubts as to the Prime Minister's secret agenda. The Prime Minister already indicated he would vote against the motion. In likelihood most of his caucus will as well. The Liberals will allow a free vote on the issue, while the NDP has instructed its MPs to vote against the motion. One has to shake his head and wonder why this issue has to be raised yet again. These issues have been settled decades ago.
As it became know this week that there may be a request by the U.S. for Canada to leave some troops in Afghanistan past 2014, the debate was once again ignited. The NDP is absolutely against any troops remaining in Afghanistan, while the government indicated they would consider it.
"As we approach that date, we will examine all options and we will take the decision that is in the best interest of this country and in the best interest of our security objectives for the globe," PM Harper said.
When Mulcair asked the prime minister about the extension, Harper attacked the NDP for being pacifists regardless of the situation. "In 1939, the NDP leader didn’t even want to support the fight against Hitler," said Harper. Of course the PM was referring to the CCF, the predecessor of the NDP. This created a lot of chatter in the twitter sphere, with Canadians offering history lessons to the PM.
All in all it has been a busy week in Canada, with the election campaign heating up in British Columbia, the Question Period comedy hour, student violence and demonstrations in Quebec and the Alberta election.