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June 18, 2004 — 11 AM

The Scare Vote

I nearly missed it, but Paul Wells’s column in this week’s Maclean’s summarizes pretty effectively how I feel about the Liberal Party and its campaigning tactics during this election.

The strategy is clear: scare the voters. Talk a lot of voodoo about gay marriage, abortion rights, war in Iraq and myriad “hidden agendas” to spook all of those Canadians who might consider voting Conservative. The Conservatives might win! They’re just like Bush and the Republicans! Canada won’t be the same! Run for the hills, Ontarians, the evil, redneck Westerners are coming to get us!

Wells writes:

It’s a bit rich to watch [Paul Martin] go down fighting on grand principles like gay rights, choice in abortion, national unity and an independent foreign policy when for half a decade [he] cultivated as much ambiguity as possible on each of those issues.

If anyone were paying attention at the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail, they’d have noticed that Paul Martin is a hypocrite. Martin has never come out in favour of gay marriage. With the help of his campaign team and a lapdog media, he has somehow convinced people that the Conservatives have an anti-abortion agenda, even though it’s not in their platform and Leader Stephen Harper continues to deny it, while many of Martin’s own MPs are anti-abortionists themselves.

And don’t get me started on health care. It isn’t even a federal responsibility, and the provinces will never allow Ottawa to dictate health care reform. The Liberals may want to solve our health-care problems, but the only way Paul Martin could single-handedly shorten hospital waiting lists is by going to the hospitals himself and escorting each patient into the operating room by hand.

The Liberals are perpetuating a fraud. They are not the entitled caretakers of this country. Over the last ten years, they have, at one point or another, done just about everything while in power that they are now telling us would be somehow catastrophic if the Conservatives were to do it instead.

Lower taxes? Check. Martin presided over the biggest tax cut in history. Increase military spending? They’re already doing it. Muddy the waters of gay marriage? Maybe I was away the day that Paul Martin and his cabinet declared their support for gay marriage — last I checked, they were going to hide under their desks and let the Supreme Court deal with it instead.

Fellow Canadians, do not vote Liberal out of fear. The Conservatives are not bogeymen. If, like me, you don’t agree with their platform, then vote for somebody else. Vote for the NDP. Or vote for the Green Party, whose leader, Jim Harris, is a noted fiscal conservative. If you do agree with the Conservative platform, then don’t let empty election rhetoric change your mind.

Make your vote count for someone, and not just against them.


Well, what’s-his-face makes a good point in saying that Paul Martin is a hypocrite and a small-c conservative. Unfortunately, he did avoid comment on Stephen Harper’s uber-conservative desire to send troops to Iraq last year, which to me is at least one key issue. Though it sounds ridiculous to describe the Liberals as anything but conservative, Martin is still left of Harper, and this sad fact may be enough to make me vote Liberal (cringe, cringe) in an attempt to elect the lesser of two great evils.

— ERK | Jun. 19, 2004 — 4 PM

Thank you, Luke! I’ve had enough of these BS scare tactics and the gullible voters falling for them here in Ontario.

I’m voting Green, but I’m perfectly aware that Harper’s not stupid… he knows what parts of his platform are the ones which would be responsible for getting him elected. But he won’t be elected, because most voters will employ the same logic as ERK and the Liberals will win yet again…

Ian | Jun. 22, 2004 — 6 PM

Oh yes, and there’s nothing inherently “conservative” or “liberal” about sending troops to war or abstaining therefrom, and labeling it as such, to me, is merely to fall into the arbitrary classifications to which this country has fallen victim.

— Ian | Jun. 22, 2004 — 6 PM

Let’s be clear: my position on Stephen Harper and the Conservatives has little to do with the scare-tactics employed by the Liberals (and let’s not be hypocrites by suggesting that the Conservatives haven’t used a few of their own). I allowed that what’s-his-face made some valid points in saying that there’s actually not that much difference between the two parties’ politics. BUT, there are subtle differences that in the end make an electoral choice a lot easier, for me at least.

For instance, sure, some of Martin’s MPs are anti-abortion and he prefers not to say too much about it one way or the other (although he was categorically supportive of women’s right to choose in the French-language debates, at least). But I’d be willing to bet that a much larger proportion of the Conservatives are against abortion. And that’s enough of a difference for me. I’m into gays having the right to marry. I’m into the decriminalization of pot. Harper isn’t. I don’t like the Liberals, but I like them better than the Conservatives, and so a Liberal vote in a close race is pretty damn good logic in my mind.

I would vote Green too if I thought they had a chance of winning. It’s all good to make your voice heard and everything, but I think I’d be kicking myself rather than patting myself on the back if I thought that my vote had something to do with Harper being able to shit all over the Kyoto Accord and various other environmental initiatives. I think the difference between voting for what you believe in against all odds and voting against what you fear most is a matter of idealism versus practicality.

One last point: there is, of course, nothing inherently conservative about sending troops to war (and I never said anything about the “liberality” of anything) if one is speaking in a vaccuum. However, in the context of Canadian politics, and more specifically in terms of Canada-US relations, and when the specific war in question is the one in Iraq that began in 2003, using the adjective “conservative” to describe the deployment of Canadian troops to Iraq is so appropriate (read “NOT arbitrary”) that I frankly am surprised that anyone but a conservative polemicist could make any statement to the contrary.

— ERK | Jun. 23, 2004 — 6 PM

I almost forgot: in response to the claim “I’m perfectly aware that Harper’s not stupid,” I simply but effectively rebut with this quote: “Paul Martin supports child pornography.”

— ERK | Jun. 23, 2004 — 6 PM

Now now, let’s play nice! There’s no need to start using ugly words like “polemicist.”

In all seriousness though, I think that the Liberals are influencing the media and indirectly voters to examine the wrong issues.

You might say, “There are no wrong issues!” What I mean, though, is that while abortion and gay marriage are controversial enough, I think they are among the least important issues facing our nation. First off, there is no way that a Harper government would table legislation about abortion, and even if it did, it would be defeated, either in the House, or in the Senate, which after all, will not be controlled by the Conservatives no matter what happens this election.

I feel much more strongly about the environment, though, and I would be upset if a Harper government were to follow Mike Harris’s lead. But that’s a good reason to vote NDP or Green, not a good reason to vote Liberal. David Anderson aside, the Liberals have a pretty poor record on environmental concerns. They’ve created some parks, but aside from making empty noise about Kyoto, have done approximately nothing to actually clean up our country.

The Conservatives, for all their anti-Kyoto posturing, have announced that they would implement mandatory fuel-efficiency standards for cars, something that California has done but Canada hasn’t even discussed. That would have a direct impact on the environment, and although Kyoto is noble in principal, in effect I think it is actually a fairly insignificant piece of the puzzle as far as local, Canadian pollution is concerned.

So, I say again, even if these “scary” issues are troubling you, a vote for the Liberals makes no sense. The Liberals have not proven that they are any different from the Conservatives — the status quo is not a solution. A Conservative government might talk about drafting unpopular legislation, but if enough people make their voice heard, there’s no way they’d go through with it, especially in a minority government situation when their power is so limited to begin with.

— Luke | Jun. 23, 2004 — 9 PM

Well, what can I say; ugly times call for ugly measures.

But seriously, I do understand and respect the belief that one should vote for the person who most closely represents their interests. My stance is actually the other side of the same coin, as I’ve said: voting against the person who least represents your interests if that has a chance of preventing him/her from becoming the head of government. I don’t believe that it can be said that one strategy is wrong and the other right. Having said that, I will now dispute some of Luke’s arguments!

First, while I agree that the Liberals are influencing the media with scare tactics, I must ask: what the hell are we supposed to think the other parties been doing? What about scaring people into voting Conservative out of fear that Paul Martin supports kiddie porn? You may laugh, but I’m certain that there are people out there who have taken this claim to heart.

Second, I couldn’t disagree with you more on the issues of abortion and gay marriage; these are human rights issues. What is more important than human rights?

I agree that it is very unlikely that Harper would introduce anti-abortion legislation, but you exaggerate in saying that there would be “no way.” Mulroney’s PCs introduced anti-abortion legislation as recently as 1989, which was passed in the house, and which was narrowly defeated in a tie vote in the senate. Granted, his was a majority government. But the issue is still controversial enough, in my opinion, to warrant more careful consideration in any argument.

Also, regarding the argument that the senate would not be controlled by a possible Harper government, I point once again to Mulroney. He did not control the senate when he wanted to enact the GST bill; it was Liberal. So he immediately filled all vacant seats with PCs (many of whom had “dubious political backgrounds,” I’ve read). Not only did he do this, but he also invoked an emergency clause allowing him to increase the size of the senate, thereby allowing him to appoint more senators. In a few weeks, the senate went from Liberal to PC, the bill was passed, and now we pay an extra 7% on everything. So much for the efficiency of the senate.

Concerning the gay marriage issue, Harper has not ruled out the use of the notwithstanding clause should the Supreme Court (whose justices he would be able to appoint, as prime minister) uphold homosexual unions - essentially giving parliament the right to veto.

These are very important issues, and I don’t want to see a Canadian government holding an archaic stance on them, powerless or not. Nuff said about that.

Kyoto: I agree that the Liberals have done shamefully little about environmental issues. But ratifying Kyoto was pretty huge, in my mind. Again, I have to disagree with you on the significance of Kyoto - it’s huge! Succeeding in bringing down greenhouse emission levels to 5% less than 1990 levels (26% less than projected levels in 2012) would be at least as significant a step as introducing fuel-efficiency standards in cars. The consequences of the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are a global concern; therefore, the issue also becomes a local one anywhere you go on the planet. Forsaking the Kyoto accord is unacceptable to me.

In conclusion, I must disagree with your conclusion: the Liberals are different from the Conservatives. The differences may not seem enormous to everyone, and yet they may to others. A minority government wouldn’t have much power, it’s true, but it should not be forgotten that our PMs have many individual powers (way more than the rest of the world’s democratic leaders).

I’m sure that the Liberals would use scare tactics against the NDP if it were the closer rival - every party uses scare tactics. The difference in that scenario, for me, would be that I wouldn’t believe them.

— ERK | Jun. 24, 2004 — 4 PM

Previously: So, There’s An Election, Eh?

Subsequently: No, Really, Your Vote Counts This Time

June 2004
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