Over the weekend the Conservative Prime Minister of Canada called a general election for 19th October, triggering the longest election campaign in Canadian political history. The decision to dissolve Parliament so early is obviously a deliberate political move, however it also illustrates how Harper is aware of Canada’s corrupt party funding system and it endeavouring to use that corrupt system to his advantage.
The timing of this election announcement, despite having some tactical logic behind it, was politically risky. The current Canadian recession was fuelled, no pun intended, by the collapse of the oil price which has subsequently seen job creation in the oil industry plummet; in Canada’s main oil-producing region of Alberta unemployment in recent months has risen by 0.3% to 5.8%. The influence of depressed commodity prices across the world has also severely weakened the Canadian dollar.
The reason the current economic situation is hard to ignore for Harper’s party is that it has historically campaigned on the economic and its reputation of fiscal competence; although the Conservatives could argue that the fall in oil prices was global and therefore not the fault of their government policies, ordinary Canadians would be wise to ask why after nearly ten years of Tory rule the economy had not been rebalanced away from exporting a highly volatile commodity.
Harper’s dissolution of Parliament although political risky is also built upon a solid foundation of corruption and potential untruths. As with all parties that exist solely to preserve the current status quo and to represent the capitalist class, the Conservatives have a sizeable war chest that can be used to fill the airwaves across Canada with their main campaign message: we must stay the course and get the economy growing. Personally I wouldn’t have said ‘stay the course’ is a good slogan considering that the current course is one of economic contraction, but I don’t want to give Harper any ideas.
The key to winning any general election, as shown by the UK General Election last May was that the successful party has to put a narrative that is convincing enough to make independents lean towards you, and doom-spreading enough to discourage people from voting for your opponents. This is surely what Harper will use as his model for the coming campaign; he will endeavour to use his party’s significantly bigger bank balance to say to the electorate that any party other than the Tories will bring about economic ruin, with this idea repeated ad nauseam until people believe it without any basis.
Harper is clearly hoping to squeeze the Liberals’ vote and discourage people from casting their vote for the NDP, despite having more in common with them ideologically; this is going to be hard for Harper to do as opinion polling shows that all three parties are at around 30%.
All the NDP have to do is offer a credible economic alternative that would decrease Canada’s reliance on the oil industry, despite the influence of lobbyists and big corporate money, in order to broaden their voting base to include Liberal environmentalists as well as people thinking of voting Green. Harper can really only look to the Liberals for potential supporters as David Cameron did in the 2010 UK General Election.
Due to the Canadian electoral system it is hard to know what the House of Commons will look like after 19th October but it would appear to be a minority government of either of the traditional parties or a coalition of the two centre-left parties. This is the political calculation that Harper has made: if the campaign is the longest Canada has ever seen, if the Conservative war-chest is sufficiently filled and if Liberals are convinced that an NDP government would be bad for Canada, the Conservatives have a chance of being re-elected.
Naturally I would much prefer a fight between the Harper and a coalition of radical leftists collectively advocating a Canadian transition to socialism and eventual communism, however when looking at the current political situation anything that pulls Canadian government policy away from socially conservative neo-liberal capitalism. In the absence of an active left-wing party that could influence government policy a politically tepid change to a social-democratic government or a coalition of centre-left parties to block another term of Conservative rule is to be supported.