New fractured scene in Ottawa .. Canadians should just get used to it?

Oct 19th, 2006 | By | Category: Ottawa Scene

It is a certainty that the American people will be voting this coming November 7. And who knows what wonders may be wrought? But the latest gurglings from Ottawa suggest that the Canadian people could be waiting quite a while longer. (And seeing that the last Canadian federal election was less than nine months ago, that may not be such a bad thing.)

A new Strategic Counsel poll now shows the Harper Conservatives in a 32%-32% dead heat with the still leaderless Liberals. It also shows that Bob Rae is at the moment the Liberal leadership candidate who does best against Stephen Harper. But Mr. Harper still beats Mr. Rae 36%-26%. On these numbers neither the minority governing Conservatives nor the official opposition Liberals have an interest in yet another federal election any time very soon. Meanwhile a few new strange things are already transpiring on Parliament Hill, and across the country too.

The end of the 1957-1958 sudden-leap-to-a-Conservative-majority scenario?

All good conservatives honour the past, of course. But ever since it assumed office this past February Stephen Harper’s “new government of Canada” seems to have been obsessed by the Canadian federal elections of 1957 and 1958.

On June 10, 1957 John Diefenbaker from the West (though also born in Ontario) led the Conservatives to a slender minority government, against Eastern-led Liberals still reeling from the old Pipeline scandal. Then, just over nine months later, on March 31, 1958 Diefenbaker’s Conservatives went on to win the biggest majority government in Canadian history, thanks especially to some help from Premier Maurice Duplessis of the Union Nationale in Quebec.

Meanwhile, back in the present of October 2006 some kind of early 21st century repeat of this historical scenario has increasingly been losing whatever credibility it may have had last spring for the past several months. The latest Strategic Counsel poll would seem to deflate it almost entirely. At the same time, things don’t look good for some kind of near-instant Liberal comeback either. As things stand, the cross-Canada electorate still at least seems to like Prime Minister Harper somewhat better than any of his potential Liberal rivals.

All this does throw quite a lot of cold water on the until recently popular speculation that the next Canadian federal election will come in the spring of 2007, not long after the Liberals select their new leader this December 2, 2006. John Ibbitson at the Globe and Mail is now reporting that the Conservatives “would probably be well advised to govern for another year, while letting the Quebec and Ontario elections play out, and go to the people in 2008. The Liberals would probably support them.”

So what lies ahead for minority Government and Parliament now?

Assuming both the Conservatives and Liberals follow Mr. Ibbitson’s good advice, they and the Bloc Quebecois and the New Democrats will have to be settling down to governing Canada as best as can be managed for a while yet.

The Harper minority government’s introduction of its new environmental plan to replace the Kyoto Accord in Canada – the proposed so-called Clean Air Act – is one example of the kind of foot forward it’s placing here. Most environmental activists and enthusiasts don’t like it, of course. But the more crucial political question is will it at least get the environmental issue off the Harper government’s back in the eyes of the electorate? Stay tuned. Meanwhile, here are a few other bits of flotsam and jetsam floating around in the pond – in Ottawa and beyond:


A recent EKOS Research poll for the Toronto Star shows that the “federal Conservatives are dogged by the public’s lack of enthusiasm for Canada’s Afghanistan mission and skepticism over their pledge to improve the environment … But Prime Minister Stephen Harper has a winner’ with his proposal for an elected Senate … pollster Frank Graves says. I found that result surprising,’ said Graves … Of the things they’ve been talking about lately, this is one that gets real clear enthusiasm from most Canadians.'”

As if to show that he is a true man of the people, the Canadian Press has reported as well that “Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald says he wants senators to support a bill that would limit their terms in office to eight years … MacDonald also said he would like to see senators stand for election … The premier said he would welcome elections in Nova Scotia to fill any vacancies in the province if Prime Minister Stephen Harper wishes to hold them.” Mmmm … that’s at least gotta be good news for all Canadians who, whatever else, like Mr. Harper’s current “step-by-step” approach to the impossible dream of Senate reform in Canada. This particular grand old cause is not dead yet, despite some reports elsewhere to the contrary.


The latest wrinkle in the ongoing Six Nations Iroquois land claims saga in Caledonia Ontario – a demonstration by outside agitators allegedly determined to uphold the rule of law – has come and gone without great incident.

Meanwhile, on Canada’s Pacific Coast in BC “the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation – a small community of Tsilhqot’in people (Chilcotin in the anglicized version) – are working to put together their final written argument” in their aboriginal land claim case, in the “Nemiah Valley … west of Williams Lake.” The associated trial “wrapped up last week in BC Supreme Court in Victoria.” It marks “the first time a First Nation has taken the historic 1997 Delgamukw decision from the Supreme Court of Canada, that stated aboriginal land title does exist in law, and tested it on the ground.”

(And Don Newman tells us on TV just today, October 19, the Parliament of Canada has been making some noise on the Kelowna Accord. And the BC provincial government is ready to move ahead with a few path-breaking treaties, that just need Ottawa to do its part. So there could be some interesting bigger action on this front too, even during Mr. Harper’s Conservative minority government of 2006-200?. Yet again, stay tuned.)


Former Quebec premier Lucien Bouchard (19962001) has sparked controversy inside Quebec with his recent “comments that Quebeckers don’t work as hard as Ontarians and Americans … with labour leaders and anti-poverty groups accusing the former Parti Qubcois premier of being out of touch … But some business leaders said they hope his remarks will encourage Quebeckers to rethink whether they can continue their current lifestyle.

At the same time, the “outlook for Ontario, Canada’s largest economy, does not look pretty’ as a strong currency pummels exports and domestic demand dwindles, University of Toronto economists said … They now expect a weak auto industry and a soft labour market will cause real economic growth to contract in the third quarter – the first drop in three years.”

And more generally the “Canadian economy is having more trouble than expected in adjusting to a new world of high commodity prices, a strong Canadian dollar and global competition, the Bank of Canada says … As a result, the most the Canadian economy can hope to grow over the next two years is 2.8 per cent … ”

According to the Bank of Canada, the Canadian economy “is undergoing significant structural adjustments in the face of large movements in commodity prices, the marked appreciation of the Canadian dollar, and new sources of competition from emerging Asia … This adjustment is ongoing and may be having a larger and more protracted impact on productivity growth than previously projected.” (Though none of this, of course, really applies to oil-rich Alberta – and possibly BC too, in some degree?)


Whatever else, Canadians still have their culture to comfort them – even if many recent migrants from abroad still think, with at least some good enough reasons, that there is no such thing.

Note, e.g., this October 11 report from Reuters: “Hollywood producer Ivan Reitman’s Canadian comedy Trailer Park Boys: The Movie earned an estimated C$1.3 million ($1.2 million) at the local box office last weekend, according to distributor Odeon Films … In a market dominated by Hollywood releases, few homegrown English-language films ever surpass the C$1 million box office mark, much less on their opening weekend.”

Note as well, from the same report: “Also at the box office, the Quebec comedy Bon Cop, Bad Cop this past weekend was expected to become the highest grossing Canadian movie of all time, beating out the 1982 low-brow hit Porky’s … Erik Canuel’s bilingual buddy picture, which bowed August 4, was within a whisker of the C$11.2 million ($10.2 million) in gross receipts reached by Porky’s, according to distributor Alliance Atlantis Motion Picture Distribution LP.”

Finally, Bill Harris in the Calgary Sun has noted that “At eight hours and spread over two months, the [new CBC TV] mini-series October 1970 goes on longer than the October crisis itself.” (Where the 1970 “October Crisis” was Canada’s own and finally rather successfully navigated odyssey with the terrorist fringes of the early Quebec independence movement, for those who may be too young to remember exactly.)

Mr. Harris has also said that “after seeing the first episode of October 1970, which air[ed] October 12 at 9PM., we can report the show is well-acted and we are interested in seeing more.”

But he has complained that: “Filmed in both English and French, the productions are made … as if French sensibilities are much more of a concern than English ones.” The producers seem to “fall all over themselves to humanize the French kidnappers while making every English person look like an idiot.”

Is anyone in Ottawa listening to this kind of talk, now that the West is in? You can still love Quebec, even passionately, and think that Mr. Harris may have a bit of a point. (Though we have yet to find time for an episode of October 1970 ourselves. But we did see Trailer Park Boys: The Movie. We can report at first hand that it was fun – and Lucy almost looks hot. You can see why Ricky loves her so much. )

Leave Comment