What Are You Going To Do?

By John Swartz

This is not so much an endorsement of a Simcoe North candidate in Monday’s election, but an analysis of what might happen, with a smidge of what should happen.

Our system of government on the whole has worked very well, much better than the best in the world our southern neighbours seem to think they have. A party with a majority gets to have its agenda go operative, usually as promised, and sees fit. A majority guarantees nay votes will not defeat any legislation it wants. If citizens in enough numbers believe in the direction Canada should take, then go for it. This scenario relies on faith and respect for all citizens a majority government won’t go rogue and start doing things no one elected them to do.

Yes, governments have to do things all the time they weren’t elected to do. No one knows what will happen tomorrow with any certainty. I do not mean for example, making decisions about how to handle a pandemic, no one planned it, we didn’t vote on the direction, but we do expect action. I’m referring to, say, deciding to re-institute the death penalty, when it was not an election issue or platform of a party.

The real beauty of our system is having a minority government, and we have had many. To our Conservative leaning friends, just because Stephen Harper said minority governments are bad does not make it so. I think they are our best bet. A party with a minority position must partner with one of the other parties to form a government. That means they must also take into account what the partnering party wanted to do in all legislation presented, or they will get voted down and an election is usually forced. That isn’t necessarily the outcome of all lost votes in parliament and not an automatic one either, but if your partner walks, you lost your combined majority and therefore cannot govern.

It seems to me the best outcome of this election, based on platforms, is an NDP minority. It doesn’t matter what the number one issue guiding your decision is, if it isn’t climate change policy, you are doing it wrong. Every single other issue depends on what we do about climate change and the NDP has the most coherent policy reflective of the enormity of the challenge.

An NDP minority is unlikely to happen. An NDP minority means Jagmeet Singh becomes prime minister, but he might have to choose some cabinet ministers from a partner party, which obviously would be the Liberal Party. He will also likely have to have some Liberal influence on any legislation he decides to initiate. That depends, some fights are not worth forcing an election, some are; for the most part the big dog of a minority gets its way, but cautiously.

A minority government is not the same as a coalition government. In the latter, some cabinet posts usually go to the partner party and there usually is a formal agreement between the two or more parties about how to govern. Here’s a bold prediction, if Singh does become prime minister, I think Chrystia Freeland will stay in cabinet with a top post. This may not be the result of a formal coalition, but would serve as insurance the Liberals don’t bolt their support for a minority NDP government.

Won’t that be the same if the Liberals have the larger share of seats in a minority? If it’s only a few seat’s difference, the rule of stranger than fiction, might actually give Singh more bargaining power and it could be he becomes prime minister. It would depend on how many Liberal MPs have it in for Trudeau because ultimately individual MPs have to vote to support whatever government scenario is worked out in the backrooms and if Singh can swing it, and some good Liberals go down because of a bad election call, Trudeau might have to acquiesce. Wouldn’t that be something to write home to mother about?

If the Liberals end up with even one more seat than each of the other parties, then Trudeau stays as prime minister with NDP partnership and support, because who else could it be? Otherwise the Conservatives, with Bloc support become the government. This doesn’t mean the Bloc are aligned on the right, it just means they really don’t like the Liberals; the Bloc would have a taming effect on the Conservatives.

We don’t get to vote for Trudeau, or O’Toole, or Singh here in Simcoe North. We have to choose from the local candidates. We have chosen the conservative candidate, with one exception, all of the time, so Adam Chambers has the edge.

He’s got good credentials, having worked on the administrative support side of Jim Flaherty’s pack of advisors. He’s been inside government and we want people who have experience and know the ropes. He’s got a powerful day job in a large corporation – which may be a plus, or a minus depending on what you think of large corporations.

However, Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux also knows the ropes too, having been in positions with federal commissions whose work resulted in landmark decisions, like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s work. And while Chambers serves on the board of a large hospital, Wesley-Esquimaux actually held a top administrative post, vice-provost at Lakehead University. Yeah that’s academia, but have you tried running a university lately? It’s like any other business, but with more crazy employees than usual – kind of like government. University jobs come with more politics to get, and keep, than you think they do. On background alone, Wesley-Esquimaux should certainly be on any short list for a cabinet post in a Liberal government.

In a perfect world where the local candidate’s effectiveness to bring prestige and represent the riding is important, Wesley-Esquimaux is a good choice. I think she would be very good as our MP.

But this isn’t a perfect world. Adam Chambers would be a reasonably good MP as well. The trouble is the people he hangs out with. A Conservative government would not look like or act like a Liberal government as their leader has lately been trying to position the Conservative Party. What he has been saying on the campaign trail is so much opposite of what conservatives actually want, it’s hard to imagine any of his promises becoming operative. Save for the last month, if there is anyone who believes all the past history of Conservative Party actions and statements on issues mean nothing, then they really do live in an alternative world.

I feel sorry for the Green Party candidate, Krystal Brooks. She’s young. inexperienced, but not ignorant of the issues. She has guts to enter the public arena, but doesn’t stand a chance. The national organization is in such shambles and the leader doing such a poor job I’ll be surprised if any Green candidate gets elected.

This leaves The NDP candidate, Janet-Lynne Durnford. She’s less politically experienced. She demonstrated in the interview for SUNonline/Orillia’s candidate profile she can absorb political information and form a coherent opinion; she also knows how to say, I don’t know, but I’ll find out, which is rare for a politically inclined person. She is the kind of person this riding could be proud of sending to Ottawa.

However, she and the party have an uphill battle convincing voters they are the party the Conservatives have portrayed them to be since the day I started having a memory. The NDP are not the tax and spend party and data proves it. The NDP is the only party to have formed governments in Canada over the last 50 years – and there have been many NDP provincial governments – that consistently met, or exceeded in surplus their budgets. None of the other parties can make such a claim. But in this world facts don’t matter, perception does, and in Simcoe North the NDP is as likely to get elected as any of the other parties that don’t have blue or red as their colours – unless there is an Orange wave, and I don’t see that happening.

If the objective is to change governments, but not elect the Conservatives, you, or anyone else should feel no hesitancy to vote NDP, the fears you have been fed are baseless.

The system we have means the party which gets the most local candidates elected gets to form the government. So, many people look past who the local candidates are because they want a specific party or leader. If there is a flaw in our system, this is it. Right or wrong, enough voters in this riding want a conservative government rather than a good MP. Too many worthy candidates from other parties have not been elected from Simcoe North to say otherwise. This is not to say Bruce Stanton hasn’t been a good MP for us, but there have been others who would have been as good, or maybe better – they just happened to not be Conservative candidates.

I think giving the NDP the ability to form a government and having Janet-Lynne Durnford as our MP would be a good thing for Canada and this riding.

Having Wesley-Esquimaux as our MP may be a step up because of her experience, but risks returning the Liberals who have shown of late they don’t deserve another hand on the reins.

If you are thinking of voting strategically to prevent a Conservative victory, take this into account. Many of you will vote Liberal because you think they have the best chance of stopping a Conservative government, while as many of you will vote NDP because you think they have the best chance. In the end, things will stay the same, so vote with your head and heart – but mostly you head – and forget about being a master strategist because it won’t work. Go ahead, give us an election result no one can predict.

The wild card in all this is Stephen Makk and the People’s Party. He’s a long shot for sure. The question is how many votes will he take from the Conservative count? Will it be enough to make Conservatives vulnerable? Don’t go by last election results. The PPC is polling high enough across the country and I think there is a sizable contingent of PPC voters in Simcoe North; we may all be surprised the day after how well he does this time around. If he does well enough we will get a Liberal or NDP MP.

Smart money though, is being placed on Adam Chambers and I will not be surprised the day after he has won the riding. Let’s just hope this riding is one of only a few sending a Conservative to Ottawa.

Here are links to profiles of all the candidates in the order SUNonline/Orillia published.

Adam Chambers

Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux

Janet-Lynne Durnford

Krystal Brooks

Stephen Makk

Russ Emo

(Image Supplied) Main: Photo by – Elections Canada


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