About Monday Night

I’m going to keep this short because a) the Canadian landscape is flooded with election analysis at the moment and b) I’m not good at it. But I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t want to say something about the election results so here are my thoughts:


Voter Turnout

The Globe & Mail is putting it at about 66%, which means more Canadians (44%) didn’t vote than voted for any one party. I have never understood people who don’t vote and I’m not going to attempt to psychoanalyze them (because I’m even worse at analyzing motive than analyzing election results) but I wish more people would vote.

Photo: Coastal Elite, Halifax. CC SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons


PC vs Conservative

Tom Urbaniak, discussing the election on CBC Information Morning Cape Breton on Tuesday morning, beat me to this next point but I’m going to make it anyway: there’s a difference between Nova Scotia’s Progressive Conservatives and the Conservative Party of Canada. (I can actually hear your loud, collective, “Ya think?”)

The CPC was the result of a merger between Stephen Harper’s Canadian Alliance (itself born out of the ashes of Preston Manning’s Reform Party) and what was left of the federal Progressive Conservative Party, but it has always been dominated by its Western wing, even as it made inroads into the Greater Toronto Area.

The differences between the Nova Scotia Tories and the federal Tories were brought into sharp focus during this election as two former Nova Scotia PC MLAs — Eddie Orrell  and Alfie MacLeod — tried running for the CPC (Orrell in Sydney-Victoria and MacLeod in Cape Breton-Canso).

Orrell blamed his loss on the CPC leader before that loss had even become a done deal Monday night, telling the CBC reporter at his election night HQ that he’d heard on a lot of doorsteps that people just couldn’t warm to Andrew Scheer.

And according to Urbaniak, MacLeod, when asked what he thought about a national pharmacare program (an NDP and Liberal promise) said he thought it was a great idea — which it is, it’s just not a CPC idea.


How will the West be won?

Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are really, really mad at us right now, with some even proposing the West should “exit” confederation (WEXIT). The focus of the anger seems to be the lack of pipeline construction, which they say is crippling their economies. (How declaring themselves an independent, landlocked country will help get Alberta bitumen to “tidewater” is beyond me, but let it go.)

The anger is misdirected, I think.

The lack of pipelines may be the problem in the short term. (Although I’m not even sure it is: I spent an entire afternoon trying to figure out whether there is or is not an Asian market for Alberta crude — a key factor in the case for the Trans-Mountain pipeline — and whether an Energy East pipeline makes any economic sense and I still have no idea). But the real problem is that the world is moving away from fossil fuels. Because of climate change. And even if you are convinced that there is no connection between fossil fuels and climate change, it doesn’t matter if your customers have decided there is.

Oil Pipeline Pumping Station, TransCanada Keystone Pipeline system, in rural Nebraska. Photo by shannonpatrick17, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

In the United States — a key market for Alberta crude — the possibility of a “Green New Deal” is a subject of actual debate right now in the Democratic presidential primaries.

China (a potential Asian market for Alberta crude) has surpassed the United States in investments in renewables and India could be set to follow. If those huge markets become serious about renewables, prices for technologies like solar — which have already fallen significantly — will fall further.

What if we invest billions in pipelines and refineries capable of converting Alberta crude to gasoline (currently, there are only a handful of these in the world, most of them in the United States) only to find these assets stranded? I’m not the first person to raise this alarm — Andrew Leach, an energy and environmental economist at the University of Alberta told the Globe & Mail back in 2016 that:

…an overbuilt pipeline network could be just as bad as an underbuilt one, and that he would like to see more analysis done by the oil and gas industry to show that more pipelines would result in significantly higher prices for Canadian products.

Diversification away from oil — a boom and bust industry at the best of times — has always made sense economically and environmentally, the arguments on both sides have simply become more pressing. I’ve always assumed Albertans were not so much attached to oil and gas jobs as they were to well-paid jobs (I made the same assumption about Cape Breton coal miners — “It’s dark as a dungeon way down in the mine” never sounded like a glowing workplace review). We’re all trapped in a fossil fuel economy (I heat with oil, for goodness sake!) so finding a way out of it is a job for all of us.

On the bright side, I heard a Calgarian tell a CBC reporter pretty much exactly the same thing the other day — that we have to come together as a country to find solutions. This is no time for tantrums.


Maxime Bernier

I think there’s a moral to the story of People’s Party of Canada (PPC) founder Maxime Bernier but I’m not sure what it is.

I can’t decide which fact should be given more weight: that in 2019, Canadians wanted no part of his libertarian platform (he got 1.6% of the popular vote and lost his own seat) or that in 2017 he came within a hair’s breadth of the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC).

Maxime Bernier and Andrew Scheer, 2017. Photo: Andrew Scheer – CC-0 via Wikimedia Commons

I think there’s some sort of warning to be found in the fact that both those statements are true.

Some pundits say you have to give Bernier props for building a party so quickly, but I feel that building a party is not so difficult when you don’t care who runs for you. It’s like saying, “Man, he built that house in two days. It’s made out of old beer boxes and has no door but TWO DAYS.”

As an example of Bernier’s sub-par building materials, consider the PPC candidate in Cape Breton-Canso, Billy Joyce. I watched some of his stream-of-consciousness YouTube videos then tried to picture what it would be like to have him on my doorstep during an election campaign. Would he hold forth for an hour on his reasons for wanting to ban abortion (he has “eight adopted cousins”) or how the symbol for the Trudeau Foundation is similar to a symbol the FBI has associated with pedophiles? Would he tell me why he dislikes multiculturalism while waving an Acadian flag? It’s almost enough to make me wish he’d run in my riding (almost).

People like the media critic Jesse Brown at Canadaland have been sounding a warning about the kind of alt-right forces that came out of the woodwork for Bernier  — and for the National Citizens Association, which also performed poorly Monday night, its leader Stephen Garvey receiving 109 votes in Cumberland-Colchester and Darlene LeBlanc, the NCA candidate in Cape Breton-Canso, receiving 139.

Scheer was criticized repeatedly for flirting with the alt-right — flirting heavily in the case of Rebel Media, Ezra Levant’s “news” outlet. For example, Scheer hired his old friend Hamish Marshall (a self-described “strategist, pollster and demographic expert”) to manage his leadership run. But Marshall, it soon emerged, was also a “board member and provider of online services” to Rebel Media, a relationship he ended after a Rebel correspondent called the white, racist protesters in Charlottesville, VA “patriots” (although Marshall claimed he’d made the decision before the incident).

Levant has stated that Breitbart, the website once run by Steve Bannon, was a major inspiration for The Rebel. If you want a taste of Levant’s milieu (but don’t particularly want to read The Rebel) see this 2017 Walrus article by writer Peter Norman, who spent a week at sea on a Levant-sponsored cruise so you didn’t have to. (His fellow passengers, mostly from Ontario and Alberta, included a “middle-aged Torontonian” whose causes included fighting Muslim incursion and challenging the idea of climate change.)

Scheer also took heat for addressing the same Ottawa rally — the United We Roll convoy — as former Rebel Media correspondent and prominent white supremacist Faith Goldy.

Flirting with extremists in the hope that you can get their votes without emboldening them is insane and, if the election results are any indication, unproductive. It wasn’t just Cape Bretoners in Sydney-Victoria who didn’t warm to Scheer.


Minority government

Here’s what I have to say about minority governments: they happen. And not infrequently in the Canadian political system.

I don’t understand why the tone of a lot of post-election coverage sounds like the trailer for a horror movie called Minority Government (“In a world, where no one party wins a majority of seats in parliament, WHO WILL RULE?”)

We might get pharmacare out of it. What’s scary about that?

(If you say, “the price tag” I say: add up the cost to the healthcare system — and society — of people being unable to afford their meds and then come talk to me.)


Featured image: Canadian House of Commons by Sam CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.