Canadian election round-up: News and analysis

All political hell has broken loose in Canada's 41st general election which comes to a head today.

Canadian Flag

All political hell has broken loose in Canada’s 41st general election which comes to a head today. The election was triggered by the incumbent prime minister, conservative leader Stephen Harper’s government losing a motion of no-confidence in March, that declared them to be in contempt of parliament.

The BBC reported:

“The vote came after a finding by a parliamentary committee led by the opposition parties that Mr Harper’s government had acted in contempt by failing to disclose the full costs of spending on anti-crime programmes, corporate tax cuts and plans to purchase stealth fighter jets.”

The Conservatives however, still under Harper’s leadership, are on top of the polls in this election. The centre-left New Democrat Party, NDP, who have 36 seats and are lead by Jack Layton, have risen from fourth place, on the back of fairly generous election promises, to look like the possible head of a coalition government.

The Toronto Star report:

“The latest Angus Reid poll, done in partnership with the Toronto Star and La Presse, puts the Conservatives at 35 per cent, down by one percentage point.

The NDP were close behind in the most recent poll at 30 per cent, the Liberals were at 22 per cent, the Bloc Québécois was at 7 per cent and the Green party was at 5 per cent.”

On the same page you can find an excellent time-line of the election news and issues.

There are 308 seats in the Canadian house of commons, the conservatives currently hold 143, the Liberal Party have the next largest share with 77 seats. Their leader, former journalist, Michael Ignatieff, has told the conservatives to “go to hell” and “ruled out any merger with the NDP if the Conservatives come out on top”.

After apparently suffering a bad political season Ignatieff is in “combative” mood to say the least. He told the Star he blamed conservative success on their attack ads:

“I am not going to complain about it because it seems to give the other guys too much damn credit. I don’t give these guys damn credit for anything,” the Liberal leader said, slamming his fist on the table. “I am not going to let other people frame me up … they can go to hell is what I have thought basically for two and a half years.

“I have spent my whole life dealing with bullies. Some of them had guns,” he said in a reference to his days as a journalist working in foreign countries. “You think this stuff shuts me down? You got to be kidding.”

Ignatieff has said that the Liberals are poised for a come back with party supporters providing funding at record rates, adding that the majority of the country are “sick and tired” of Harper’s conservatives. Liberals have also called Layton’s $70 billion in campaign pledges “science fiction”.

Someone else who questions the legitimacy of the NDP’s pledges is Kelly McParland at the National Post:

“Layton isn’t going to be able to keep any of his big promises. He can’t push up corporate taxes without hurting the economy and job creation. He can’t wave a hand and magically cap credit card interest rates (and neither of the other parties are daft enough to give him the votes he needs to try.) There is no cap-and-trade program and establishing one will take years, which means there will be no billions of dollars in new money to keep all the other wild pledges he’s made.”

McParland also dismissed the the party at large with acerbic venom:

“Picture an NDP minority government, swollen with dozens of inexperienced and wide-eyed MPs –  some of them recruited from university campuses and NDP youth groups because they thought campaigning would be a hoot, and be over before they had to start their summer jobs  — trying to put together a cabinet and a governing program while desperately pleading for ongoing support from a tired, angry and disillusioned Liberal rump, sharpening the knives for yet another leadership vote. That could be Canada’s government.”

Mr Layton does appear to have a certain charisma that other party leaders find hard to match, after recovering from surgery he has taken to the campaign trail with a cane that is now seen as “a symbol of power” according to CBS News. Thomas Walkom for The Star said:

“In a campaign that has been bereft of excitement, he (Layton) sparks a new enthusiasm.”

An Ipsos poll placed him second in the TV election debates, during which his “hashtag fail” line appeared to spark the excitement other leaders couldn’t.

Mr Layton told CBS News:

“The bar I set for myself and the team is let’s just keep building,..we’ll have to see late night on May 2nd if we have made that quantum type of leap, I think we’re laying the ground work for it.”

He admitted he did worry about the country’s finances and that the younger generation would be asking “how much can we afford”. He said:

 “I have some, but I certainly don’t have the total answer.”

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.