Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Five Parties, One Economic Agenda: 2008 Federal Elections in Canada

by Corrie Sakaluk (Basics #11 - November 2008)

The voter turnout for the recent federal election reached an all-time historic low. While there was some confusion with new voting cards and voters being turned away due to not having proper ID, there is also a sense that election results matter little for the day-to-day lives of many.

With the current crisis of capitalism coming to a head during the last two weeks of the election, it was in no way made clear to Canadians how the parties would respond differently to the crisis.

It was widely acknowledged by mainstream media that while Liberal leader Stéphane Dion pointed the finger at Conservative leader Stephen Harper for not taking active steps to respond to the financial crisis, Harper pointed his finger back at Dion’s Liberal party for having no solutions either - and with good reason to do so. Conservative economic policy today is identical to that under Liberal federal governments of the preceding decade and a half. Economic ideology in the two parties is indistinguishable.

Since Harper has been in power approximately 176,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector alone have been lost. But under Paul Martin’s previous Liberal federal government job loss in the manufacturing sector was still a huge problem. Even before that under Jean Chretien, in nearby areas such as Oshawa, job losses have been happening and destabilizing people’s lives since 1999. Plus, Paul Martin cut transfer payments to the provinces that resulted in less money for employment insurance, health care and education.

During this federal election there was no talk by any party about repudiating the free trade agreements which have led to the impoverishment of working people in this country. In the French-language all-leaders debate during the election, the five leaders were posed a question about what their stand was on the oil industry and if it should be nationalized the benefit all Canadians. It is interesting to note how quickly all of the leaders distanced themselves from the proposal, with Layton, Duceppe, and May, all of whom have criticized the Harper government for being in the pocket of Alberta’s oil industry, flatly rejecting the idea.

So with all of the major political parties remaining completely silent on economic issues that affect all Canadians, it should be no wonder that Canadians are turning out to the polls less and less in each federal election. What’s clear is that more and more Canadians are losing faith in Canada’s political system