Thursday, April 28, 2011

At Issue: The Globe and Mail's Election Endorsement

In today’s Globe and Mail, the Editorial Board endorses Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party as being “best positioned” to “propel Canada into a fresh period of innovation, government reform and global ambition.” The endorsement left me perplexed but not surprised.

While I agree that, in a time of great economic flux, Mr. Harper demonstrated the “leadership, the bullheadedness (let’s call it what it is) and the discipline this country needs." I would, however, expect that of anyone serving as prime minister of this country.

The editorial encourages us to consider the overall record of Mr. Harper, which is described as “good.” That being said, what stuck with me is this:

“Mr. Harper could achieve a great deal more if he would relax his grip on Parliament, its independent officers and the flow of information, and instead bring his disciplined approach to bear on the great challenges at hand. That is the great strike against the Conservatives: a disrespect for Parliament, the abuse of prorogation, the repeated attempts (including during this campaign) to stanch debate and free expression. It is a disappointing failing in a leader who previously emerged from a populist movement that fought so valiantly for democratic reforms.”

Voting under the first-past-the-post system is not easy. Sometimes I like the leader of the party but not the party. Other times I like the party but not the local candidate. And then I’m at a complete loss when I like the party but not the leader. But when I think of the position of prime minister, I want to believe that the prime minister will aptly demonstrate a respect for Parliament, not hinder debate and free expression, or use prorogation for partisan means. It is because, as the Globe and Mail editorial puts it, the “great strike against the Conservatives” that Mr. Harper and the Conservative Party are ill-positioned to lead Canada into the future.

Mr. Harper has not offered a coherent vision for the Canada of tomorrow, of the Canada that he would help to build. This campaign has been one of fear — almost of impending doom if he is not returned to power with that much coveted majority, or worse, that the Canadian economy is in grave danger should there be some kind of coalition government. (At some point Canadians do need to have an open and free debate about coalition governments in Canada given the trend for minority governments and our parliamentary democracy.)

While there is a history of newspapers endorsing political parties, the Globe and Mail's Election Edorsement reminds us why there is an NDP surge: it encourages the status quo when Canadians are looking for change. That is why Canadians are getting out to vote en masse.

We want to see Parliament work for Canadians. We want a leader who can inspire, who can lift us up when we are down, who can see our collective possibility through our differences. We want a leader who doesn’t constantly speak to our fears with warnings of “smiles and snake oil” but who asks us, demands even, to be the best that we can be.

On May 2, there is an opportunity for Canadians to in fact, “Rise up! Rise up!” because what is at stake is the very future of this great country. As we step forward into, as the Globe and Mail's Election Edorsement describes, “a fresh period of innovation, government reform and global ambition,” it is time to “rise up” and reclaim Canada’s position in the world. It is time to be the best that we can be.

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