| Jan 18, 2007


Feature Article - January 18, 2007

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Januay 11, 2007

Election year again (editorial)

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If it feels like it’s been election year every year, that’s because it has been. At least once a year there is a flurry of speculation, followed by the sprouting of election signs by the roadside. Then comes a vote, and it’s over for a time.

Four years ago in the fall there was a provincial election. A year later there was a municipal election. The next year there was a federal election. A year later the federal government fell and we had an election over Christmas, and then there was another municipal election this past fall. If the activity among riding associations is any indication, we could be having another federal election within months, and there will be a provincial election in the fall.

Federal elections have become so common that a Scott Reid supporter has left an election sign up on Highway 7 for the past three years.

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But there is good news for those among us who wish the politicians would stop knocking on our doors and asking for our support. There will be no election for at least three years after this year. At least that’s how it looks right now.

Federally, the Conservatives are poised to either win an outright majority or come pretty close to doing so, close enough that a stable regime will be established.

Recent events have made this even more likely. When the Liberals lost one seat to the Conservatives earlier this month, it gave the NDP the balance of power. The NDP has nothing to gain in an election, but in order to demonstrate their relevance they need to show they can move the government on an important issue, either a budgetary or an environmental issue. The NDP will have to draw a line in the sand somewhere, and the Conservatives will then have an opportunity to say no, bringing on an election when they are most likely to win one.

And they will win, unless some outside event changes a dynamic that has been at play in federal politics ever since the sponsorship scandal broke several years ago. The electorate lost faith with the Liberals years ago, but have been slow to accept the Harper Conservatives. The Liberals were reduced to a minority; then the Conservatives got a minority, and with each election the Liberals have had less to campaign on.

Although Stephen Harper has shown himself to be anti-democratic in some ways, by shutting down his ministers and caucus members and refusing to follow the established protocol with the national media, he has shown himself to be competent, and highly political.

His handling of the contentious same-sex marriage debate, a potential problem, was masterful. He allowed a free vote, satisfying an election promise, lost the vote and then said the matter is settled. When asked if he would revisit it if he won a majority, he re-iterated that the matter is settled. This will not be popular with same sex marriage opponents, but they have nowhere else to go with their vote. All the other parties support same-sex marriage. What Harper has done is taken away an issue from the opposition. He has harmed the one line of attack the Liberals have had: the fear of a hidden Conservative right wing agenda.

The only real vulnerability the Conservatives have is on the environment, but there is quite a crowd of parties fighting for the status of champion of the environment. The Conservatives can allow themselves to be pushed quite a long way on this, probably far enough to satisfy the 40% of the population whose votes they seek, and still say with conviction that theirs is the only policy that won’t diminish the economic prospects that Canadians remain most interested in.

The environment might be the “number one issue” for Canadians, but that is because the economy keeps humming along and employment is at historic lows. Fear of an economic collapse is still stronger in most people’s minds than fear of environmental collapse. The Conservatives know this, and can play it to their advantage as long as their environmental policy moves towards the mainstream of Canadian thinking over the next couple of months.

There will be no tidal wave of support coming to the Conservatives when they orchestrate an election this spring. They don’t need one. They only need the waters to keep moving steadily in their direction, and there is nothing to indicate this won’t happen. Nothing has happened since the last election to alter the basic voting trends. Most ridings will see no change. Our own riding, which has become a Conservative stronghold, belongs to Scott Reid for as long as he wants it. He is popular, especially in Lanark, where he has been the MP for about 7 years, and he is devoted to providing federal services to his constituents.

The only scenario under which Reid could lose would be one where the local electorate turns on the Conservative Party as a whole. That only happens when people tire of a government, such as they did in Ontario with the Harris Tories. The federal Conservatives have never really been in power yet. It is way too early for a “throw the bums out” movement to kick in. We need to elect the bums first.

Provincially, the Liberals should be able to hang onto their majority, because even if they aren’t particularly popular as a government, they have demonstrated political competence. People say nasty things about them, but most of those people are affiliated with other parties. Ontario isn’t quite ready to throw them out. They spent at least half of this past term dealing with the fiscal and policy hangover from the previous government. They should have four years to make their own mark.

So, if my predictions come true, the two elections we will be subjected to this year will lead to governments that will remain in power for their full mandates.

Remember, you heard it here first. - JG

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Third time lucky for South, North Frontenac:The 3rd and final intake of submissions to the Canada Ontario Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund (COMRIF) resulted in funding support for relatively small initiatives in South and North Frontenac.

Flinton Habitat build: Executive members from the Prince Edward Hastings Affiliate of Habitat for Humanity met with the newly formed Flinton Build committee and the public at the Flinton Rec. Hall on Jan. 16Biosphere, Committees, and the bridge: South Frontenac Council meetingThree strikes at Comrif for Addington Highlands: Addington Highlands Council meeting of January 15.Frontenac Heritage Festival It's Election Year, again: EditorialLetters

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