I admit to getting off to a slow start here but I simply could not make sense of anything said by Conservative leader Stephen Harper in the first moments after he announced the election. I'm still in a quandary because I take language too seriously and therefore I sometimes don't understand the systems of meanings used by politicians -- I won't call this language because as I said I take language too seriously. What politicians do is ventriloquise a set of sounds meant to gesture to some issue or event but if we really listen these words are completely incomprehensible and have no relation to their meaning. These people depend on us not hearing, or caring about what they say; they depend on us not asking, "What was that you said?" They use ominous tones, warning that if we don't elect them the sky will fall, when the sky has already fallen -- at least a hundred times.
Anyway this time I really tried to listen to Mr. Harper when he said that the recovery of the global economy was still so fragile that we ought to vote him a majority. Since the global economy has very little to do with anything Mr. Harper or potentially Mr. Ignatieff or Mr. Layton do, I cannot figure this out. And since the Conservatives would have me exposed even more to the vagaries of the global economy, this is disingenuous. I'm not sure anyway that the global economy depends on majority governments -- various majority governments around the world were powerless to prevent or anticipate the last crash. They were variously seduced and cajoled into making the conditions possible for the very crash. I have a sneaking suspicion that what Harper really means is, he wants total executive power over the affairs of the country. The members of his caucus seem to cede absolute power to him so what's the sense here? We won't be getting a robust caucus of people who battle ideas out; we'll be getting one guy. So we're getting a minority if we give him a majority anyway, ergo, no.
Next let me try to decipher the following Harper quote from the Globe and Mail, and I know I'm late on this too because it's already been pointed out by commentators how many times Harper has mentioned the new nasty word "Coalition." Harper is quoted as saying, "Let me be perfectly clear: unless Canadians elect a stable national majority government, Michael Ignatieff will form a coalition with the NDP and Bloc Québécois. Imagine a coalition of arch-centralists and Quebec sovereigntists trying to work together." I for one actually would like to imagine these people working together. I don't think that this is a bad thing to imagine. But look at the demonizing going on in the pejorative "arch-centralists." That's code for "Look out western Canada there is an Ontario conspiracy even as I am trying to woo "the ethnics" in the centre of the centralists." What precisely is an "arch-centralist"? Someone who hates the west and the east? Then he enjoins them with the scary "Quebec sovereigntists." Now first, there really isn't the bite in that phrase that there used to be, and second Quebec sovereignists exist, that is just a fact of history and a persistent fact of the contemporary. They will not disappear simply by giving them pariah status. Now logic would say that if despite all that you are still afraid of them, then, were they in a coalition and not isolated, you would definitely have less cause for concern.
Mr. Ignatieff rose to the bait repudiating the idea of a coalition and "categorically" ruling out a coalition with the Bloc Québécois. Oh dear. It is my fatal error to have expected more from this front.
Repeated minority governments have told us something about ourselves that politicians can't seem to get behind or ahead off. We're centralists, sovereignists, maritimers, northerners, westerners and yes, far more ethnics than we admit to or record -- we're a lumpy mass of changing matter and if this country is not a "reckless coalition" I don't know what it is.
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