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The Liberal 'Red Tide' promises politics as usual

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Have you ever seen, in some wood, on a sunny quiet day, a cloud of flying midges -- thousands of them -- hovering, apparently motionless, in a sunbeam? Yes? Well, did you ever see the whole flight -- each mite apparently preserving its distance from all others -- suddenly move, say three feet, to one side or the other? Well, what made them do that? A breeze? I said a quiet day. But try to recall -- did you ever see them move directly back again in the same unison? Well, what made them do that?

-- Bernard Baruch

A friend of mine, with whom I shall not be speaking for a while, is a card-carrying New Democrat, but this time, here in Ottawa-Centre, she went out canvassing for the Liberal candidate. This was the safest of NDP seats, with a popular incumbent, Paul Dewar, but she told me she was voting strategically. "I don't want to wake up to a Blue Tuesday," she wailed. In vain I asked her how turfing an NDPer and replacing him with a Liberal would arrest the Conservative cause. She repeated that phrase like a mantra.

In fairness, with a little probing, it turned out that she had some misgivings about the NDP, but they sounded a little like rationalizations. There was the "50 per cent-plus-one" threshold in the Sherbrooke Declaration, which too many have read as a straight secession vote rather than a mere mandate to negotiate the sovereignty of Quebec. Negotiations, unless you're the former Conservative government (man, in spite of my arguments here, it makes my heart sing to type that last phrase), do not have pre-ordained outcomes. Besides, the separation dog is dead, and everybody knows it, or should now that all the votes are in.

We talked about that for a while, but to very little effect. Then there was Paul, whom she liked. But an organization she was involved in had contacted his office on some matter, and had not had a response. "That was rude," she said.

Well, OK. Maybe it was. But she kept returning to the spectre of a Conservative win. What happens, she asked hypothetically, if the NDP and the Liberals won the same number of seats, leaving the Conservatives with a plurality in the House of Commons? What, I said (taking the polls seriously as I usually do), with 120 seats or less out of 348? Untenable. There would be an NDP-Liberal accord if not a coalition, and one way or another it would prevail. A Harper attempt to cling to power wouldn't survive the first Throne Speech.

She was unmoved. Something told her to shift in a certain direction, something that had no roots in rational argument. And, like Baruch's midges, she was far from alone.

So now we are facing four years of Liberal majority government under the beardless man-child Justin Trudeau. Think pipelines. Think secret trade treaties. Maybe he'll appoint star candidate Bill Blair, the architect of the Toronto G20 horror, as Minister of Public Safety.

Don't think "real change." The red wing of the Librocon Party has merely triumphed over the blue wing.

Meanwhile, the NDP under Mulcair has been devastated. Many of us predicted precisely that outcome: it had become a party that fully embraced austerity and balanced budgets, that celebrated the "middle class" while erasing the working class and the poor, that promised more police and that sine qua non of Canadian politics, unquestioning support of Israel, backed up by a host of candidate purges. Mulcair's strategy was to appear non-threatening, to lull the voters by positioning the NDP as close to the other parties as possible. As in the recent Ontario election, the NDP found itself running to the right of the Liberals. As in the recent Ontario election...well, I repeat myself.

Canadians did want change, but no major party offered it, so they voted instead for style. The banality of the niqab debate overwhelmed even the emotive Syrian refugee issue. Under that discursive veil, there was fundamental agreement on the basics. Austerity remains firmly in place. There will be some deft swabbing of some of our deeper wounds, with enough anaesthetic to make them bearable. There will be business as usual. Politics as usual. Corruption as usual, already neighing at the starting-gate.

"Real change?" Canada has moved, in Baruch's words, "say three feet, to one side or the other."

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