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Thursday, October 16, 2008

All elections are about power, this one was no different

Yesterday I didn’t have time to post my reaction to the election results. I was performing what has to be the most irritating job in Canadian politics; I was taking down our signs after being defeated. For in my riding (or rather the riding I was working in) the Conservative candidate was defeated. 

As I was taking down the signs a few people asked me who won. A few people hurled insults at me such as “Fuck the Conservatives.” I alternated between the response, “Get a job hippy,” and “yes that seems to be the general opinion of the riding” (it was not a close race).

One person said to me, “What the hell was the point of this election. Harper just wasted millions of dollars.”

I paused to consider.

The results of this election were not so different from the 2006 election. The Conservatives received a larger number of Ontario seats than I had thought they would, but the basic balance of power in Parliament has not changed. The only real difference will be who leads the Liberals and perhaps the opposition’s control over the committee process will be weakened. All said though, this was not exactly a transformative election. 

So what was the point? Why did we spend so much money?

The reply I gave to the man on the street was, “democracy costs money.” And that is about as truthful of an explanation as I can think of. Was this election purely about one man trying to get more power? Maybe, but that’s the reality of politics. Politic under any political system is about the collection and the loss of power and politicians will always play that game. From the earliest tribal cultures to the most sophisticated democracies, it is simply human nature.

Consider how lucky we are to have the system that we have. This season of political warfare was battled without a single person being killed. There was no gunfire or explosions. No death and very little misery. Everything that was done was done to seek the grant of power from the electorate. We enjoy a political system that allows the competition of political elites to be fought in an essentially harmless way.

So do not whine about being perturbed by politics and do not complain to me about the cost of this election. The cost of not having elections is far higher.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on October 16, 2008 in Canadian Politics | Permalink


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Here's one difference.

No two parties combined can bring down this parliamment, since their numbers fall short of 143.

If all three parties bring down parliament, they'd better have a good reason.

Other than that, losers always whine.

Posted by: set you free | 2008-10-16 2:49:22 PM

As per Mr. Flanagan, this election was all about functionally bankrupting the Liberal Party. The Bonus is that the NDP are also there.

All this, while gaining seats in the HOC. Hard for harper to be too upset, really. And easy to see why the losers are so scared.

If this election was bad, the next is likely to be much worse.

Posted by: Q | 2008-10-16 3:03:02 PM

So do not whine about being perturbed by politics and do not complain to me about the cost of this election. The cost of not having elections is far higher.
Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on October 16, 2008

Libertarians would argue (I'm not a libertarian) that the election in fact cost nothing as we are using a "fiat currency". If we reverted to a gold based currency then there would have been a real cost. The fact that there isn't enough gold in the world for just the US economy to function as a gold based currency, unless the US government set the price at a $1 million an once, shows libertarian economists for what they are; four flushers.

Posted by: The Stig | 2008-10-16 3:49:21 PM

Such an important message that is ignored by a cynical media and apathetic public. Well done, Hugh. And thank you to you for volunteering. I have a lot of respect for anyone who volunteers in the political process regardless of party affiliation. (and I share your choice words for those that condemn your party affiliation!)


Posted by: epsilon | 2008-10-16 4:05:36 PM

Hugh, the cost of not having elections is higher indeed. This puts things into perspective a bit.

Epsi, I agree with you up to a point. I repsect people, generally, who volunteer in the political process. If Stalin or Hitler were running, I would not respect anyone who volunteered. Nor would I critisize anyone who did not vote if they were the only two candidates.

Posted by: TM | 2008-10-16 4:18:44 PM

Stig, what the hell are you talking about? Does this have anything to do with my post? Have you ever heard me making that argument? You like to take all libertarians and throw them into a single grouping, as if there was no diversity of thought within that label. I'm sure if you think about that you can see the fallacy.

Posted by: Hugh MacIntyre | 2008-10-16 4:24:59 PM

"...Elections are about power..." Whatever happened to principles? As winess the evidence below. Refs. for article below at my website. SJG

Harper’s “Conservatives”
By Stephen J. Gray

“He [Harper] can be slippier [sic.] than a greased pig” (Paul Wells, Maclean’s Magazine, September 17, 2008).

Conservative leadership is the buzz word of the election campaign. And Mr. Harper is being touted as a “leader.” So let us examine what Mr. Harper the leader says and does on a number of issues:

Free Speech: “Human rights commissions, as they are evolving, are an attack on our fundamental freedoms and the basic existence of a democratic society,” says Stephen Harper, president of the National Citizens' Coalition. “It is in fact totalitarianism. I find this is very scary stuff.” [1]

Yet, the Harper government intervenes against free speech: “The Attorney General of Canada, the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre and B'nai Brith Canada will be intervening in the Lemire case in support of Section 13, arguing that it is a reasonable restriction on freedom of speech” (Canadian Constitution Foundation Letter of April 28).

Bilingualism: “As a religion, bilingualism is the god that failed. It has led to no fairness, produced no unity, and cost Canadian taxpayers untold millions.” (Stephen Harper) [2]

Now Mr. Harper says this: “My friends, for me a prime minister should speak French,” Harper said, calling French “the founding language of this country” (Source: The Gazette, Sept 8, 2008 [3]).

Same-sex marriage: “I don't see reopening this question [of same-sex marriage] in the future.” (Stephen Harper, CTV News Dec. 7, 2006 [4]).

Sexual orientation and its illegitimate offspring “same-sex marriage” were never in the Charter, yet we had the silly spectacle of a supposedly “conservative government introducing a motion on this that they knew would be defeated. A government with principles would have used the not-withstanding clause to return sanity to this country. But unfortunately Mr. Harper is on record as saying, regarding this nonsense called same-sex marriage, “I will never use the notwithstanding clause on that issue” (Lifesite News December 16, 2005, [5]).

The Status of Women: This group achieved increased funding under the Harper Conservatives as witness the following quote from a minister’s speech: “As a demonstration of our firm commitment to the success of Status of Women Canada, Budget 2007 provided $10 million in funding to the Agency, bringing the total budget to $29.9 million, a record for Status of Women [emphasis added] Canada” (Speech for The Honorable Josée Verner, P.C., M.P., Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages, on the occasion of an appearance before the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, House of Commons, Ottawa, February 5, 2008, [6]).

Abortion: “The Conservative government won't be initiating or supporting abortion legislation, and I'll use whatever influence I have in Parliament to be sure that such a matter doesn't come to a vote…” (Stephen Harper, [7]).

And we thought we lived in a democracy? Or is it a hypocrisy?

And talking about hypocrisy, based on the evidence we have seen from Mr. Harper’s government, are they really a conservative government? Or is it back to the days of the Red Tories and the Mulroney government? A former Reform party member and MP had this to say about Mr. Harper: “he will be remembered as an opportunistic, masterful tactician who, in the course of only three years completely purged the Conservative party of its Reform ideals and restored the Mulroney model of government.” (Lee Morrison, former Reform M.P. in the Calgary Herald, September 14, 2008 [8]).

Furthermore, a former Mulroney supporter is now in “charge of various files…” Read this:

“[Senator] Ms. LeBreton is one of the women Mr. Harper put in Cabinet and trusts. She was a staunch Progressive Conservative, most closely tied to Brian Mulroney, and made it into Mr. Harper's inner circle despite her vocal opposition to his vision to unite the right (the former Reformer Party/Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservatives). Mr. Harper appointed her Conservative leader in the Senate and put her in charge of various files,...” (National Post, September 22, 2008).

This makes one wonder, is Ms. LeBreton now in charge of the abortion “file?” Ms. Breton has said this on abortion:

“… there are certain issues, particularly those that concern women and children, and those of particular concern to women, and here I will use the abortion issue as an example, where even if 99.9 per cent of the members of my party were going one way, I would not support any policy that did not give women the right to choose” (http://www.parl.gc.ca/infoparl/english/issue.htm?param=147&art=983).

And on the “right to choose,” Mr .Harper is on the record as saying this: “Let me be very clear on the positions I’ve have taken on that. I want there to be no misunderstanding. I’ve said repeatedly, that I will not, that my Conservative government will not be tabling any legislation impacting in any way a woman’s right to choose” (June 27, 2006, LifeSiteNews,

Mr. Harper is heading for a majority government.( it's now a minority) But on moral issues is there really any difference between the “conservatives” and the other parties? Are we now immersed in “throw the dogs a bone politics” where we are being promised all kinds of goodies with our own tax dollars and moral issues are not even discussed? Are we back to what a former Reform M.P. called in his Calgary Herald article, “Liberal, Tory, same old story?” And will social conservative people buy the “story” that we have a “conservative” party to vote for and allow themselves to be fooled a second time by the Harper “conservatives?”

For, as Andrew Coyne wrote in MacLean’s of September 10, 2008,

“…Harper's whole time in office has been spent reassuring the public he has no plans to lead them anywhere, that under a Conservative government nothing much would change — they would govern much like the Liberals,…” [9]

Stephen J. Gray
October 6, 2008.
[email protected] website: http://www.geocities.com/graysinfo

Posted by: Stephen J. Gray | 2008-10-16 4:31:56 PM

Does this have anything to do with my post?
Posted by: Hugh MacIntyre | 16-Oct-08 4:24:59 PM

Many libertarians have suggested that if we were paying the "real" cost of this election it would never have occurred.

You like to take all libertarians and throw them into a single grouping, as if there was no diversity of thought within that label.
Posted by: Hugh MacIntyre | 16-Oct-08 4:24:59 PM

When the only response that a libertarian gives to a question whether it's on immigration, national defence, the economy, etc. is "property rights" I do lump them all together.

Posted by: The Stig | 2008-10-16 5:25:51 PM

Iran, and the middle east in general would be an excellent place to use ERW's. It would get rid of the scum but leave the oilfields intact.
Posted by: The Stig | 13-Oct-08 1:24:57 PM

Just another Nazi Low life.

(but one who apparently understands better than ANYONE all about economics)

Posted by: JC | 2008-10-16 5:32:07 PM

Of course the elections are about power. Government equals power.

The only question is, whose power do you trust to satisfy your beliefs on how the rest of us should live?

In the case of classical liberals and libertarians, they believe the government is their to prevent the mob from telling you how to live.

In the case of the Lefties, they believe government is there to defy the laws of economics and human nature and force you to live according to their utopian dreams.

In the case of the rest, they believe the government is there to give them their goodies at the expense of others.

We could break this down into subgroups but you get the point.

Posted by: h2o273kk9 | 2008-10-16 6:08:15 PM

Iran, and the middle east in general would be an excellent place to use ERW's. It would get rid of the scum but leave the oilfields intact.
Posted by: The Stig | 13-Oct-08 1:24:57 PMJust another Nazi Low life.
Posted by: JC | 16-Oct-08 5:32:07 PM

You posted that about five or six times. Would you like an autographed copy of my quote?

but one who apparently understands better than ANYONE all about economics)
Posted by: JC | 16-Oct-08 5:32:07 PM

Oh please do let us all in on the JC wonder commodity currency that will save the world. I've asked at least half a dozen times for details but never get any. Until you do Fuck Off.

Posted by: The Stig | 2008-10-16 6:08:49 PM

Hugh, freedom is not free, never has been. The pampered lot exercising their freedom to not vote but rather ride along on the efforts of others is the core problem. A general debasement in the discussions about freedom, democracy and politics infest most leftish sites and some rightish sites is another.

A special thanks for your incisive political commentary JC, you reflect accurately the supporters of Hughs new Member of Parliament, the ones yelling obscenities. You and Stig can be off now to carry on your snit, I for one will not miss the invective.

And thank you for your effort to take down the signs, Hugh; I am especially irritated by the sloth of those political parties not removing their signs immediately.

Does this mean it's open season on leftover signs?

Posted by: Dana Arnason | 2008-10-16 6:57:51 PM

Hugh, excellent comments and I also agree with h2o. I would say that politics are about power, since power is the reason most people go into politics, never mind just the elections.

Dana also raises a most important point in that freedom is never ever free. The freedom (what remains) that we enjoy to-day did not come free, for many lives and much blood were spent for it. Unfortunately the complacent and self-absorbed seem to think it simply fell from the sky and have no understanding or appreciation for the fact.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-10-16 7:20:06 PM

Iran, and the middle east in general would be an excellent place to use ERW's. It would get rid of the scum but leave the oilfields intact.

Posted by: The Stig | 13-Oct-08 1:24:57 PM

Racist Nazi Low life.
Make that seven times.

Posted by: JC | 2008-10-16 8:48:40 PM

Hugh, freedom is not free, never has been. The pampered lot exercising their freedom to not vote but rather ride along on the efforts of others is the core problem. A general debasement in the discussions about freedom, democracy and politics infest most leftish sites and some rightish sites is another.
Posted by: Dana Arnason | 16-Oct-08 6:57:51 PM

When our choices are three socialists and a liberal named Harper...who in the hell are we supposed to vote for?

Posted by: JC | 2008-10-16 8:50:44 PM

I really don't care JC, who you vote for, as long as you vote. It is your responsibility to make a choice, and be glad many men gave their lives to make your vote even possible.
Tell me you are one of the motivated that actually got off your butt to vote.
And stop the insults.

Posted by: Dana Arnason | 2008-10-16 8:57:58 PM

Dana, good points for the most point. But you are wrong about saying we should vote, not matter who we vote for. Imagine if Hitler and Stalin were running. Surely you would not say vote for anyone, so long as you vote.

Voting is not as rational as you may think. Read Bryan Caplan's book "The Myth of the Rational Voter..." And besides, not voting sends a message too.

Posted by: TM | 2008-10-16 9:23:28 PM

Voting is not wrong, except when coerced. Which drives home the sanctity of the secret ballot.
And Hitler was elected to office remember. It is not an in-(un?)alienable right, but a precious gift made possible by the sacrifices of the men that came before us.
I do agree that voting is not rational, and the message from 41% of the electorate is...

Posted by: Dana Arnason | 2008-10-16 9:38:30 PM

Dana, voting may not be wrong, but not voting is not wrong either.

I voted, so I didn't send a message. But I would guess there are many reasons why some didn't vote. Maybe they just didn't pay attention. Maybe they didn't trust anyone and couldn't hold their nose and vote.

But if I were a politician, I would see 41% of the electorate and worth trying to persuade to vote for me next time. I might ask myself why they didn't vote and try to correct that. I might realize that just a small increase in support from the non voters could push from strong minority to a majority.

Not voting says something just as voting does. It just says something different.

There is no problem with 41% not voting. Would you rather they not think and then go vote? Or not understand the issues or candidates positions and then go vote? People not voting is just not an issue. Most are young, and they will grow up and vote just like I did.

There will always be voters!

Posted by: TM | 2008-10-16 9:52:48 PM

TM, not voting for whatever reason denies the responsibility every voter has to send a message, one single vote that likely would not make a difference in any particular riding, but failing to vote leaves you mute. Dumb.
In my own riding there are over 22,000 voters that did not vote. That's a huge base of unmotivated citizens, larger than the very large plurality the incumbent won with.
The reasons they sit on the couch, rather than vote, and the ways to get them out for the next vote should be the focus of politicians.

People not voting is an issue, and wrong.

Posted by: Dana Arnason | 2008-10-16 10:09:13 PM

" all elections are about power" and Lord Acton stated: "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Perhaps it's about time that politicians had to sign a "conditions of employment." Most of us "voters" in our employment had to do this. So why not politicians? They also vote themselves big fat raises, and have all the perks of political office. We have seen over the last number of years floorcrossers and doublecrossers, and there are those who say one thing and do another. In other words some of them lie. We need some control on politicians. Unfortunately Recall and referendum was ditched. And now there is no way to make these people accountable, except of course at election time years later, when the damage is already done.

Posted by: Stephen J. Gray | 2008-10-16 10:21:27 PM

If I am free to vote, it also means I am free to not vote. And the only reason I would want a politician to focus on ways to get people out, is if they were able to find ways to engage them and inspire them to understand the issues.

About the only other thing they can do is make voting mandatory.

Caplan said telling people to vote because it is their duty: "This is very much like saying, 'It's our civic duty to give surgery advice,"

It is clearly better that some people stay home. People who do not understand the issues. If anything is wrong, it is that these people vote.

Posted by: TM | 2008-10-16 10:27:49 PM

Okay first of all in regards to signs. They should all be down by now. If they are not down within 72 hours the candidate is hit with a heavy fine (which I think is unfair). If they are still up please take them down wherever you see them. They are likely up because the volunteers took off and there was no one left to do all the work.

As for voting,

My sister refused to vote this election. My parents both tried to get her to vote but she remained stubborn (she even waited in the car while they voted). Her reasoning was this; she had recently given birth and thus had little spare time to look into the political parties. Being uninformed she did not feel she should be making a decision that would effect many people's lives. Really I think she did the most responsible thing by not voting.

I am not going to claim an indifference to how people vote. I will never say, "no matter who you vote for just vote." In fact if you are not voting for my candidate of choice I full heartily encourage you to stay home.

Finally, the problem of the Hitler vs Stalin choice; one of the view electoral reforms I support is a none of the above option on the ballot. It allows the electorate to be much more clear about their distaste than merely remaining home or spoiling a ballot. (In Russia the rejection option has actually won the plurality a few times)

Posted by: Hugh MacIntyre | 2008-10-17 8:35:49 AM

Hugh, thank you for an interesting article.

I tend to agree with the message conveyed. Complaints over the cost or necessity of the election have been overdone. However, I should point out that there were incidents in different Ontario cities of politically-motivated, life-threatening vandalism. This seems to suggest that the process was less than "harmless".

Further, I don't think we're getting the best "bang for buck" with our federal elections. If pollsters like Nick Nanos can predict our election accurately to decimal places with a sample size of 1,200, perhaps we should hire him and forget about Elections Canada. I'm sure he can do it for less. Alternatively, we can look at why voter turnout was the lowest ever. A 22% prime minister is unsettling. Something's broken. Who's going to fix it?

Posted by: cms | 2008-10-17 11:12:57 AM

cms, no fixing required. Even the Libs, at their peak, getting about 40% popular vote, with maybe 65% voter turnout, would get a majority with 26%. But it is even worse than a 22% Prime Miniter because they had a majority. So a few more points but total control of parliment!

Nothing is broken cms, in regards to voter turn out. In terms of freedom it is though. But that is for another post.

Posted by: cms | 2008-10-17 11:42:09 AM

You don't think anything is broken when a majority is 26%? People don't vote because they know their vote isn't going to mean anything. We need to change that.

Posted by: cms | 2008-10-17 11:47:39 AM


What Prime Minister got 22% of the vote?

Posted by: set you free | 2008-10-17 12:14:32 PM

From Straight.com:

"The Conservatives won 37.6 percent of the popular vote in an election that only attracted 59.1 percent of registered voters. The low turnout made it easier for Harper’s party, which had more money and better organizational capacity to get supporters out to vote. Even with the advantages of incumbency and the editorial support of big newspapers like the Globe and Mail, the National Post, the Vancouver Sun, and the Province, the Conservatives only won the support of 22 percent of registered voters."

Posted by: cms | 2008-10-17 12:22:35 PM

cms, I used cms instead of my usual TM above, where I started off "no fixing required." Sorry for the mistake.

I agree with you that 22 or 26% is concerning. Very concerning! But how to fix it is one thing, and being worried about low voter turnout is another.

Democracy is ugly as far as I'm concerned. It is Tyranny of the majority (or minority really). It works by imposing by force, the will of some, on to everyone. Fixing this is difficult.

Low voter turnout is just not a concern. It doesn't change much at all. And the implications of changing this are that people will vote how don't know a thing about the issues. That is worse. A minority at 22% is better than a majority at 25%. Gridlock can be good for freedom.

Posted by: TM | 2008-10-17 12:31:09 PM


Using the same methodology, do you have percentage figures for the Liberals and NDP?

Blocheads and Lizzie May are irrelevant.

Please enlighten me on the question about what percentage Liberals and NDP got.

Posted by: set you free | 2008-10-17 12:33:35 PM

Hi TM,

Thanks for your response. No worries about the name confusion, it happens.

I agree that democracy isn't pretty. Our current electoral system is designed for two parties: the government and the official opposition. This is hardly representative of Canadian voices. Calgary Herald columnist Kevin Brooker wrote the following:

"Take the last election,

in 2004. I was among the half-million Canadians who voted Green, but saw not a single seat won. Meanwhile, roughly the same number of voters in the Maritimes installed 22 Liberals in Parliament.

In 1984, Mulroney and company polled 50 per cent of the votes, but won 75 per cent of the seats. Nine years later, however, the Tories didn't fare quite so well: Kim Campbell's crew claimed two million votes, but only two seats. Compare that million-to-one ratio with how the Liberals did that year. They earned a seat for every 32,000 votes."

An MP can be elected with as little as one third of the votes and the other two thirds of the votes don't count. No wonder no one is voting.

Posted by: cms | 2008-10-17 12:54:16 PM

cms, indeed. Another thing to think about, is with two main parties, you can have one party winning 155 seats, each by a slim margin, and the other winning 153, each by a huge margin. In this case the majority would be a minority.

Posted by: TM | 2008-10-17 1:12:54 PM

Definitely not pretty, TM.

Certainly more people would vote if their votes were counted more fairly. Proportional representation looks like a probable solution.

Posted by: cms | 2008-10-17 2:04:53 PM

"However, I should point out that there were incidents in different Ontario cities of politically-motivated, life-threatening vandalism. This seems to suggest that the process was less than "harmless"."

Relatively harmless, still no one was killed. I find those actions to be troublesome but they were not wide spread and they were universally condemned. I think that shows a healthy system.

Posted by: hughmacintyre | 2008-10-17 8:34:15 PM

I didn't vote. The candidate I would have voted for lost, by much more than one vote. The candidate I didn't want to win won, by much more than one vote. Would someone care to tell me just how I let them and the country down by not voting? Can anyone show me any respect in which they'd be better off today if I'd voted on Teusday?

Posted by: ebt | 2008-10-18 3:45:31 PM

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