Well, we had us an election up here in Canada this week, and the Conservatives won. I cannot say that surprises me in the least. The general clamor of people was that if the Liberals won, the entire country would be forced to pay every cent of their money in taxes, and we would be forced to eat babies and drink our own pee. Of course, that’s ludicrous, but what does a Conservative victory really mean?
The Conservatives, unlike the previous electoral term, have a majority government. Majority governments are not really a good thing. They hold 167 seats, and the other parties put together hold 141. That means that, assuming party whip and loyal voting amongst the parliamentarians, any decisions that the Conservatives want to put through have to go through. Well, not really. They still have to get their laws approved by the Senate and not vetoed by the Governor General, so it isn’t like they have a death grip on all decisions put forward. However, it’s safe to say that they do have the ability to railroad Parliament.
What’s more, for the first time in Canadian history, we have the NDP (New Democratic Party — read: lefties) as the official opposition. The people on my bus felt that this was a huge step for the country, because the NDP are known for standing up to the Conservatives. Realistically, that doesn’t mean a thing. I believe that the NDP are an integral part of the Canadian government, reflecting the social conscience of the country, but it doesn’t matter if they are facing off against a majority government made up largely of very right wing thinkers.
Most people think the Conservatives are a very reasonable lot, but I fully disagree. It’s true that many of their actions of the past few years have been fairly non-threatening, but that was because they held a minority government and had to keep their bullying in check. They may have held the largest share of the seats, but their opponents, all strongly left-leaning, could band together for the purposes of overruling anything they attempted, so they could not go balls-out to push the world view they desire on the people. Those checks and balances are now gone.
The Conservative Party has a long (and recent, too) history of undervaluing and disrespecting the scientific community in Canada. That is a big concern to me. I am not a scientist in the classic sense, I am a computer scientist, and I do not have to worry about funding cuts in my job, but the approach that Harper’s government has taken does not instill confidence in this area. And make no mistake, science spending and research are extremely important to the future success of this country. We have a very real need to address scientific issues like climate change, and Harper’s response has not been inspirational.
It would be remiss to not mention that both Harper and the Conservatives are not all bad. They often get demonized by their opponents, and that is foolish. Not every decision made by the Conservatives has been negative by any stretch of the imagination.
The Conservatives are also the one party most likely (at least in my opinion) to blur the line between church and state. And that is a dangerous line to blur. Many of the Conservative Party members are devoted right wing Christians. It is highly likely that the next few years will see changes in policy towards such right wing Christian tender spots as abortion and homosexual marriage. That does not mean that I am saying they will ban the two topics by any stretch, but I would be surprised if we didn’t see changes on both.
Really, there are a large number of reasons to be concerned in our current situation. I believe that a majority government is almost never a good thing and a Conservative government (even a minority one) is in many ways a threat to social spending, the poor, the non-Christian, and science. As well, an official opposition that cannot actually oppose the other party is a dire situation. And these are just the issues I most immediately see as being on the table; there are scores of others.
I am not saying that a Harper-led Conservative government is going to ruin everything, but I will say that there is the potential for a whole lot of bad to come of this. Fingers crossed.
I have no faith in an official opposition that cannot actually oppose.