On the Hill – The More Things Change

On October 1, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff introduced a non-confidence motion in an effort to topple the Harper government. The motion was defeated, but it brings to mind that old saying about how the more things change the more they stay the same.

That’s the situation Canadians face as the prospect of another federal election continues to loom. The Tories may fall in October or six months from now, but as the political rhetoric begins to fly there’s one important thing to keep in mind: it really doesn’t matter.

That’s not something any of the parties are likely to admit, but take a look at the polls. In the most recent EKOS poll Canadians were asked if the government was moving in the right direction or the wrong one. Slightly more than 46 per cent of respondents said the right direction; 41 per cent disagreed.

And when it comes to being decided on which party to vote for, the Conservatives have 36 per cent support and the Liberals have almost 30. The NDP, Greens, and Bloc come in at 13.9, 10.5, and 9.8 per cent respectively. If an election were held tomorrow, we’d likely end up with?you guessed it?a Conservative minority.

The numbers are important because they so closely mirror the last federal election: 37 per cent voted Conservative, 26 went Liberal. The October 2008 vote cost Canadians $280 million and gave the Conservatives 143 seats. An election today would give them an ever so slightly smaller minority. Essentially, it would add up to a $300 million exercise in futility.

Which makes it all the more puzzling that any of the parties would press for an election right now (the Bloc supported Ignatieff’s non-confidence motion while the NDP abstained). Even if the tide shifted and the Liberals pulled ahead to form a minority, the government would still need the cooperation of the other parties?or at least enough of them to pass any important legislation. Which means that, red or blue, Canadians would not be seeing a significantly altered Parliament.

That’s not to say that a minority government can’t be effective. But why in the world should we spend hundreds of millions of dollars to get what we already have?

Instead, it would be refreshing to see the parties put away the election spat for now and get back to making progress on the issues?Afghanistan, employment insurance, and a hundred other things that election posturing (on all sides) is stealing valuable attention from.

It’s one thing for political parties to be vocal about their differences with each other. It’s something else to throw millions into a race that will see everybody right back where they started.

Sadly, It’s a point that seems to be lost on the politicians who are spending our money.

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