Canadian federal election is down to the wire

Canadian election
Promo image Stephen Harper, Tom Mulcair, Justin Trudeau and Elizabeth May

It's election day in Canada, and nobody is quite sure what is going to happen. The polls put Justin Trudeau and the Liberal party ahead, but Canada follows the British first past the post system where people vote for their Member of Parliament, and the leader of the party with the most seats gets to form the government if they have more than half of them, or tries to put together a minority government with less than half. So a few votes either way can mean a win of a seat, and that's what counts.

Everybody is on edge and a bit confused; The so-called National Newspaper, the Globe and Mail, in its editorial advised people to vote for the Conservative Party but not it's leader Steven Harper, which is a) impossible and b) completely silly because if the party wins he isn't going anywhere, he IS the party. This led to much hilarity in Twitter:


Really, it has all come down to those who are voting ABH (anybody but Harper) and those who are voting for a small government/ low taxes/ keep us safe party that is running its campaign right out of the Republican/ British conservative playbook. This CBC headline shows the confusion:

headlineCBC headline takes a stand/Screen capture

Most people are projecting a Liberal minority government, but I suspect we are in for a Conservative surprise; the spread isn't that great, and the Conservatives skew older and have a much higher tendency to get out and vote; according to Elections Canada, "more than 70 per cent of voters over the age of 55 cast a ballot in the 2011 election, while less than half of voters under the age of 35 did so." In the last British election where the Conservatives pulled off a surprising and shocking majority, there was also what is now called the "shy Tory" phenomenon, where Conservative voters don't tell the truth to pollsters for what the CBC calls " social desirability bias (people saying what they think others want to hear)."

seat projections canadian pressCBC Poll tracker/Screen capture

It's not the votes that count, it's the seats, and the spread in the polls is not that big. A few hundred votes can really matter. That's why I am truly fearful of a repeat of the British election and another Conservative win. I so hope that I am wrong. The New Democratic Party (who I have voted for in every single election, including today's), which was leading the polls when the campaign started, appears to have pretty much collapsed. This is a huge disappointment to the progressive crowd, but the NDP ran for the middle and got outflanked on the left by Trudeau. So has the the support of the Green Party, as everyone starts thinking Anybody But Harper.

Environmental Platforms

Usually TreeHugger has tried to compare the environmental platforms of the parties, but there are a number of issues to look at in this election. Clearly the track record of the Conservatives speaks for itself, pro pipelines, pro tar sands, anti-science, it's not even a question, if you care about the environment vote for Anybody But Harper. A good analysis by Hill + Knowlton summarizes the positions and demonstrates that beyond that easy decision, it gets complicated.

The NDP opposes the Keystone Pipeline and the Northern Gateway but is quiet about the big pipes to the east coast. The Liberals support Keystone but oppose Northern Gateway, and are waffling on Energy East. The Greens are against all the pipelines.

On carbon emissions, the Conservatives just push things off into the future. the NDP would " work with provinces and territories to develop a pan-Canadian cap-and-trade system that sets concrete emissions limits for Canada’s big polluters" and eliminate subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. The Liberals will "meet with the provinces within 90 days of this year’s UN climate summit and work with them to set national targets on both carbon emissions and pricing. They will partner with the provinces and territories, to create a new Low Carbon Economy Trust, which will provide funding to projects that materially reduce carbon emissions under a new pan-Canadian framework."

On Conservation issues, the Conservatives say they will work on a wildlife conservation and enhancement program that " improves habitat for species harvested by hunters and trappers. Further, it will enact new migratory bird regulations to establish a family hunting permit." The NDP doesn't say what they would do and the Liberals would advance the parks system, reinvest in science and increase coastal protection.

green party platformGreen party platform/Screen capture

The Green Party has by far the strongest environmental platform, although they are so big on demonstrating that they are not a one-issue party that they wait until point 36 of their 40 point platform to even get to it, and appear to have not learned how to count. According to DeSmogBlog,

The Green Party plan would see Canada's greenhouse gas emissions reduced by at least 40 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025 and by 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050....The Green Party would also reintroduce tax credits for homeowners to make their homes more energy efficient, create a national plan for public transportation and provide tax incentives for renewable energy storage faculties and for the manufacturing and purchase of electric and plug-in hybrid cars.

But alas, in the Anybody But Harper world, nobody is listening to the Green Party. It's going to be an interesting evening.

Tags: Canada

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