The Summer Begins
That sigh of relief you heard from Ottawa was the sound of pleasure uttered by Members of Parliament as the House of Commons rose for the summer and all the nasty unfinished business of a minority government was left on the cutting room floor, so to speak.
Now a long summer on the bar-b-que circuit looms for all the political leaders, from the ultra-green, back-pack toting Stephane Dion, to the “on again, off again” Bloc Quebecois head guy, Gilles Duceppe.
Even Jack Layton, desperate to squeeze votes from a squeezed centre-left, will be glad-handing in the sunshine (if we actually ever get any).
This spring, you will recall, was supposed to be about an election between the struggling new Liberal leader and the Conservatives, as the government tried to leverage its hard-one minority territory into a majority government.
There were moments when the government came very close to being toppled by a non-confidence vote, but at the end of the day, all parties realized that an election would only hurt, not help, their sagging fortunes.
And no wonder. Canadians are tired of elections.
They are tired of provincial elections, municipal elections, band elections and, most importantly, federal elections.
Given voter fatigue, there was a high likelihood of major backlash against the instigator of an election.
The poll results through the spring showed this volatility. Sometimes the Liberals were up, and other times the Conservatives led the pack.
The third parties, generally seen as a safe place to park a vote during turbulent times, didn’t fluctuate much in support either.
Because parties have changed their traditional positions on key issues of the day so much, voters didn’t even bother to really keep track, regardless of how the media pushes or third parties agitated.
Afghanistan, the environment, equalization payments, first nations treaties, and the budget were all treated to a bewildering display of partisan antics in the House.
It seemed often, particularly for opposition parties, that principles came second to political brinkmanship.
During the course of this session in Ottawa, the parties focussed on the game, rather than doing the right thing for Canada. Whether it was in environment committee meetings or debates about the role of Canadian armed forces overseas, the party leaders judged their effectiveness by poll numbers, rather than outcomes.
Perhaps given the fractured nature of Parliament, this was the best that they could hope to achieve – a bump in the overnight tracking or an interview with Kevin Newman.
So, if you run into your MP this summer, give him or her a big hug. And then let them know that you expect some results in the fall, not just more endless positioning for the six o’clock news.