Mr. Harper, your best chance to win Tuesday’s debate and win a majority is to break out of this strange election and connect with the outside world—that’s what’s got our attention. We a not irredeemably bored with you, or your opponents. Forcing this election was bold and real news; holding each other in contempt finally seemed to mean something. Nevertheless, there is too much drama going on in the real world right now for us to cocoon with you, Michael Ignatieff and Jack Layton’s.
We do worry about our kids--and the future--and accept that most politicians do too. Actually, it’s tiring to hear that all three of you want us to be a little happier, more affluent, safer and better able to provide for our kids, the ill and our retirement. We can’t imagine anyone of you ever, in your long fortunate lives, wished any less for us.
However, it’s hard to get worked up about which one of you would make the best care-giver. None of you has identified any new money to make a real difference in our lives. Anyway, the provinces run health, education and other vital social services and the biggest ones will be having their own elections shortly. (If your opponents truly want to be “health” or “education” prime ministers they’d be after Dalton McGuinty’s job this October.)
These are not frustrating but alarming times in the real world.
Running alongside our election, an extraordinary drama is unfolding in the United States—the destination of 75 % of our exports and source of millions of Canadian jobs. While the three of you were laying out multi-year election platforms offering better times and no sacrifice, last Friday the US government nearly shut-down. The US was about an hour away from laying off another 800,000 jobs and jamming up the operating machinery of the biggest economy in the world.
It would be tempting for the three of you to crow about the relative maturity of our Parliamentary system. However, that’s not the end of the story.
While you’re in the home stretch of another election, the US Congress will be debating (bribing and blackmailing) whether to increase the statutory ceiling on US federal government borrowing—or precipitate a global financial crisis and another US recession. Furthermore, there is no reliable way to clear the air: neither party nor the President has a mandate to act decisively to protect America’s credit rating, implement a US federal budget for next year or make the tax and spending changes necessary to restore long-term fiscal balance.
(It’s not clear whether your case for a majority government is gaining momentum. Many students of comparative government tell us that minority government and “informal or appropriate” coalitions are more sophisticated. As a suspected continentalist, Mr. Harper, you should be consoled by the idea that Americans would probably like nothing better right now than a working majority in Washington.)
Instead of just debating paper promises and how to behave in Parliament, let’s spend a little more time thinking about how one of you will be leading after May 2nd. One of you will be facing a series of problems well outside the scripts of this election.