For months, Canadians have been told in no uncertain terms by the federal government and by countless media reports that no one wants another election.
Given what transpired on Parliament Hill last week, it appears Canada is having one, anyway.
The release of the 2011 federal budget provoked an immediate, negative reaction from opposition leaders, with all three vowing their parties would not support it. However, it soon became clear that such criticisms — and indeed, the budget document itself — were all but moot.
In response to a recently released parliamentary committee report that found the Conservative government in contempt of Parliament for failing to disclose the estimated costs of proposed tax cuts, crime legislation and the upcoming purchase of new fighter jets, the Liberals tabled a non-confidence motion, the NDP and Bloc Québécois supported it, Prime Minister Stephen Harper paid a visit to the Governor General the following morning — and Canadians of all political stripes learned they would be heading to the polls on May 2 for the nation’s fifth vote in just over 10 years.
To many citizens, the thought of another election is unpleasant. Certainly, the Conservatives seem invested in framing it that way and blaming the other political parties for causing it, no doubt hoping to encourage voters to punish those seen as responsible for wasting everyone’s time and money.
Still, it can hardly be considered unexpected.
Perhaps it’s true that no one wants an election, but it’s also true that at least some people do want a government that functions — and, as has become increasingly obvious in recent months, Canada’s government, as it currently exists, no longer does.
The Conservatives have no allies in the House of Commons to depend on for support, nor have they made an effort to build any bridges with their opponents as is necessary in minority government situations. If anything, they have done the opposite, which is why it’s more than a little disingenuous for them to suggest they had nothing to do with the now-imminent vote. Their antagonistic behaviour and unwillingness to compromise has directly contributed to the dysfunction now seen in Ottawa.
There is another reason why this election should come as no surprise. Whether federal politicians are prepared to admit it or not, Canada has been in a de facto election campaign for some time now, as evidenced by the slew of TV attack ads that have been running for months. Last week’s events just made the campaign official.
And maybe that’s a good thing. An election offers the chance for a fresh start — something Canada’s Parliament needs if it is to get anything done.
An election also offers citizens a chance to have their voices heard on issues that matter to them. For some time, politicians have been publicly musing about what Canadian voters want (or don’t want). It’s now time for them to listen to what Canadian voters have to say.