Progressive politics, ideas & culture


Who is an election for?

This Magazine Staff

Canadian journalism is beset by a pack mentality. It is, increasingly, hard to find an original and independent voice in the mainstream newspapers, which is why blogging has so quickly become such a vital part of my media grazing. Even the columnists I like are, frequently, better bloggers than they are columnists; I remain convinced that Paul Wells’ editors at Maclean’s don’t read his blog, otherwise they would realise that he puts his best stuff online for free, while the punters get toss-offs about his vacations and inability to finish books.
Nothing demonstrates this pack mentality more than the notion that there won’t be an election any time soon, because the parties can’t afford it, and besides, the electorate is in no mood for an election.
I counted six versions of this claim in my morning papers, either quoted without comment or explicitly endorsed by the writer.
A few points:
First of all, elections aren’t supposed to be held at the convenience of the political parties — that should be obvious. But nor are they supposed to be held when it is convenient for voters. The point of an election is to settle the composition of the House of Commons, so that it might make a government. If the government can’t govern, or if it loses the confidence of the House, then it is time for an election, regardless of how much money the parties have or what sort of mood the electorate is in.
Canada had elections in 1957, 58, 62, 63, 65, 68, 72, 74, 79, and 80.
Ten elections in 23 years; four elections in the six years bracketing the Diefenbaker regime, and twice in back-to-back years. The people voted because they needed to, not because they wanted to.
There are lots of reasons why this Spring might not be a good time for an election. Because it is inconvenient for all concerned is not one of them.

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