Election reaction 2019: Boring as hell
The 2019 federal election campaign was boring as hell. Candidates fell back on identity politics, attacking others and talking little about policy. Turnout was 66 per cent, down a couple of per cent from 2015.
When we look back to 2015, the Liberal party was in third place in pre-election polls. They took chances, making innovative promises and focusing on real change. They had the guts to promise electoral reform, Senate reform, ‘real’ Indigenous reconciliation and nation-to-nation interactions, hard action on climate change, a fix for veteran’s affairs, and the legalization of cannabis. They openly said they would run budgetary deficits, which turned into a big issue. They spun a cloak of positive politics. It was sunny ways.
In the proud tradition of ‘run left, govern right’, most of these progressive ideas were flushed down the shitter after winning a majority. Electoral reform is only pertinent when the people don’t like the current government, apparently, and it is hard to do. The Senate reform was half-assed; appointing supposed non-partisan senators looked like a superficial attempt to get some credit. I am far from an expert, but what I see and hear from veterans and Indigenous people indicates that those promises haven’t exactly worked out.
They also bought a pipeline for way too much money, pushed on the Attorney General to get a big corporate friend some leniency, and kept lawsuits in place against Indigenous children and veteran groups that dated back to the Harper-era conservatives.
Canada is currently rated as having the worst climate plan in the G7, so there is that too, right?
It was all bullshit, except for the weed!
In all, the biggest thing the Liberals actually accomplished seemed to be reducing poverty and helping the economy. Oh, the irony.
I will come back to the cannabis thing in a moment, but first I want to touch on a 2019 campaign that saw the reemergence of the Bloc Québécois, the rejection of social conservatism, some weird racist undertones, and a lack of improvement for both the Greens and NDP.
For me, the biggest shock is that the Liberals coasted through the election to a pretty solid minority government despite the Prime Minister being on camera in blackface and brownface. Holy shit!
I seriously doubt that other western politicians would just casually skate away from that, even Trump. How in the fuck did it cost him almost nothing? We are an odd nation.
In this case, I think the competition was just too weak. Scheer came across like Thomas Mulcair did in 2015. He was stiff, impersonal, and evasive. He talked all about Trudeau, but not much else. The Conservatives didn’t release policy until late in the campaign, so they became perceived as the Scheer party, and he couldn’t give a straight answer about policy or his personal beliefs.
A large part of why the libs coasted is that Scheer is a social conservative and that voting base is not big enough on its own. The vast majority of Canadians believe in a woman’s right to choose, gay rights, climate change, and keeping relgious beliefs out of politics. Scheer begrudgingly acknowledges that the public feels this way but doesn’t feel that way himself.
They did win the popular vote, though, buoyed by insane support in Alberta (69.2 percent of the vote) and Saskatchewan (64.3 percent of the vote). While party liners will tout these popular vote numbers as a win, it seems to me they are slowly going back to being a Reform-like regional party.
The NDP’s Jagmeet Singh ran the best campaign. He was personable and came across as genuine. I applaud the NDP’s policies on pharmacare, drug policy, progressive taxation, and free post-secondary education, but this was always going to be an uphill battle. To make real inroads, they needed a big showing in Quebec, and that did not materialize.
Part of the reason that didn’t happen is that the Bloc (BQ) dominated that province. Yeah, the BQ did a good job, but there has been some real protectionist populism there, with the oxymoronic ‘secular’ legislation and the ‘look like us’ rhetoric. I think it presents difficulties for dark-skinned, turban-wearing candidates and leaders doing well there, as sad as that is.
On that note, watching the People’s Party lose every race, including Bernier’s home riding, made me smile. Fuck that shit.
It was mildly surprising to see the Greens make almost no progress seat-wise, despite an increase in overall popularity. It looked like they would gain a few more seats at one point, but many of those B.C. ridings went to the NDP, which is now essentially a west-coast-of-B.C. regional party.
When it comes to cannabis policy, the campaign was a big letdown. I didn’t see it come up once in public. Despite it being the Liberals’ biggest fulfilled policy promise from the last election, cannabis legalization went completely unaddressed. Depressingly, the overdose epidemic didn’t get much more attention.
I still think this result is the best we could have hoped for in the cannabis sector. The Liberals have a strong enough minority that the NDP, Bloc Québécois, and Conservatives can all act as the balance on any one initiative. The NDP will push for more drug policy reform, and the Conservatives will push for more free market concepts, if they can avoid prohibitionist bullshit. Honestly, I have no idea where the Bloc stands.
This means, in my mind, that things will continue to evolve. With a Conservative government, I would have expected progress to slow and maybe halt, and that was the only realistic alternative. Yes, this means a continuation of all the government messaging around inflating risks, and the corresponding overregulation of the industry, but at least this government wants cannabis to be legal.