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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Federal Election Counter Spin - ABC easy as 123

On Wednesday Canada woke up to the equivalent of the “Ground Hog Day” movie. A situation where, like in the movie, the same circumstances are repeated ad-nauseam.

After the taxpayers funded a $300 million dollar election campaign, called for no reason and in spite of legislation intended to prevent it, the Harper Conservatives are still leading a minority government, Stephane Dion is still under attack for his leadership ability and other than shuffling of a few deck chairs around it’s almost as if the federal election never really happened.


One thing has changed as a result of this process and that's the provincial / federal dynamic, especially in Quebec and Newfoundland & Labrador. Two jurisdictions that have soundly rejected the current federal government.

After weeks of party slogans, attack ads, cross Country tours, millions in marketing and tons of jet fuel carbon emissions, in the end the final outcome (minority vs. majority) came about, in spite of all the spin, because of the actions of people in those two provinces and two of their political leaders.

Going into this election Stephen Harper, no matter how much he denies it, was confident of winning a majority mandate. This and his desire to side step an economic situation that was beginning to sputter are the only reasons the election even happened in the first place.

This election wasn’t about some burning National issue. It was about the Conservatives wanting to gain a stranglehold on power.

At the end of the day however Mr. Harper was denied his much sought after majority and no doubt he is now laboring under the misguided belief that he has Newfoundland & Labrador and Quebec, along with Gilles Duceppe and Danny Williams, to blame for that.

Mr. Harper’s perspective on this, like the ideology he is foisting on Canada, is wrong.

Yes, Gilles Duceppe fought hard to fend off any kind of growth for the Conservatives in Quebec.

Yes, Danny Williams’ ABC (Anyone But Conservative) campaign in Newfoundland and Labrador may have had some influence in ensuring that the Conservatives were completely shut out in the province.

Both of those facts are true but they don’t tell the entire story.

Saying Mr. Harper lost out on an opportunity for a majority government thanks to those two provinces is not the same thing as saying that any blame for that loss should rest with anyone there.

The reality is that both Mr. Duceppe and Premier Williams are merely conduits for the feelings of many people in their respective jurisdictions. It is Mr. Harper himself who was the chief architect of his undoing. He accomplished this by virtue of a litany of broken promises and his adherence to right wing ideologies.

It isn’t the electorate in these two jurisdictions or their political bent that is to blame for shattering Mr. Harper’s aspirations. It is the actions of the man himself. Of that there is no doubt.

The Harper slide in Quebec came in the middle of the campaign after the PM callously brushed aside concerns over cuts to arts programs and his push for adult style sentencing of young offenders, two positions that got under the skin of Quebec voters and produced an irritating itch that only Mr. Duceppe was able to scratch.

For the sake of a paltry $40 million dollars Mr. Harper's hopes in Quebec during this $300 million dollar campaign were dashed.

In Newfoundland and Labrador problems with the Harper campaign started long before the writ was dropped.

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are a different people in many respects from most Canadians. Like the people of Quebec their culture is also unique within Canada.

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have a very, very long memory.

While most Canadians went to the polls on Tuesday and marked their X based on the campaign itself most Newfoundlanders and Labradorians were not as highly impacted by the hype and spin produced in the past month or so. Instead they quietly considered the happenings of the past two and half years knowing full well that a government cannot be judged solely on what it does during an election but what it does while actually in office.

By calling on their cultural, or perhaps even genetic, predisposition for recalling the past and learning from it, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador found their decision to oust all Conservative representatives from the Province an easy one.

Ask anyone in the Province about past political events that directly affected them. Ask them about the Upper Churchill contract or Confederation with Canada in 1949 and they'll tell you all about it as it has been handed down from parent to child.

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians simply don’t forget.

While many political analysts and pundits have tried to determine the full effect of the ABC campaign the fact that it even existed was far less important to the outcome of this election than the collective memory in the people.

Multiple broken promises and the underhanded breaking of the Atlantic Accord contract were at the root of the shutout in Newfoundland and Labrador and the people didn't need an ABC campaign to remind them of those trangressions.

The Atlantic Accord debacle was more than the side stepping of a contract, it was a slap in the face to everyone in the province. This was a contract that had been so hard fought for, not only by the provincial government, but by the people of Newfoundland and Labrador themselves and the promises broken were not small ones. They were promises that could have finally pulled the Province out of debt and put it on a solid foundation for generations. The cost of those events to the province is an estimated $11 billion dollars, a far greater injustice than the $40 million dollar debacle that limited Mr. Harper's hopes in Quebec.

When it comes to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, in addition to having a long memory, it's fair to say that it take a lot to make them angry, but when they are you better watch out.

Political junkies, pundits, strategists and students will no doubt study the outcome of this election for some time to come. There will be those who wonder what would have happened if...but at the end of the day Mr. Harper has nobody to blame for this rejection by two of Canada's Eatern Provinces but himself and when the rest of Canada wakes up to what kind of government they have put in power nobody, and I mean nobody, will be able to pin any of the blame on the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.


Anonymous said...

You're right on.

I'm so tired of local politicians blaming the ABC campaign for their loss. I find it condescending.

What they are saying is that the voters of Newfoundland and Labrador don't have minds of their own and can't make their own decisions. In other words they believe that the voters simply do everything Danny Williams tells them to do. Is that any attitude to have about the people you would like to represent and who you want to support you?

This belittling of the voters intelligence by Conservative candidates since the election and during it speaks shows they don't really know the people who they say they want to represent.

It's attitudes like this that led to their demise here, not ABC.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you on the point that we have our own minds and made our decisions based on what has occured over the past two years. But what have we chosen in place of the Conservatives? We have simply sent off seven more representatives of national parties who will in the end go along with the national party line. We keep doing this over and over again. I believe one of the definitions of going insane is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. We actually had in some ridings during this election a chance to break that way of voting and thinking by voting for a party that would represent Newfoundland and Labrador interests. And how many votes did they get? Not many. The Green Party actually beat them out. So why we may not forget, we don't learn a hell of a lot from our mistakes.

Anonymous said...

Well anonymous, if you really want to see what Canadians think of how Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans think go here.


As a Newfoundlander I simply cannot get over the sheer raw haltered that festers today in the bellies of a great number of Canadians. After reading the posts that were allowed to be shown by the CBC has put me in disgust for this country called Canada. How can a company owned by the people of Canada allow some of the language that was used there to be seen on the internet? The language itself goes against everything and anything that Canada stands for in my eyes. I have never read so much misinformation about my home province in all my life. I can say that my disgust is no were near my shock or disbelief that Canadians can or are as stupid as they make themselves out to be here. When I sit and think about why Quebec has the Bloc and the Parti Quebecois I cannot say that I blame them one bit. After reading the statements put forth by the CBC, I can say that my heart has been broken and my beliefs have been shattered.

The nationalist voice in Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec has said it for years. Canada does not know us or our people. After reading these statements made by my fellow Canadians I can say that I totally agree with the rising voice of anger in our province. We are laying with a group of people that are ignorant to fact and disbelieving of the truth.

To me my views of my country and the principles for it stands have been washed away. I think I will move to Quebec so I can help save it from Canada.