No. 29September 22, 2021
The arrogance of Justin Trudeau in calling a pandemic election was felt to the very end. He called it despite the legislation which provides fixed election dates, the motion in the House against holding a pandemic election, which even his party supported, and despite severe weather conditions and COVID-19 emergencies across the country.
The difficulties his election call imposed on those entrusted with delivering the election were felt right through to voting day and no doubt even now as the vote continues to be tallied.
Elections Canada reported on the eve of election day that it was about 40,000 people short of its goal for hiring election workers. It had to cut down on the number of voting locations to meet physical-distancing requirements and because some businesses, school boards and other organizations didn’t want to host voters during the COVID-19 crisis.
Elections Canada also had to reorganize the way polling stations were laid out, because of health restrictions, including placing only one deputy returning officer per table instead of two, which slowed down the processing of voters walking in the door.
Elections Canada reported that a record number of people — nearly 5.8 million, an increase of 18.5 per cent from the 2019 federal election — voted in advance polls. More than one million, said to be a greater number than ever before, also requested special mail-in ballots. Reports now indicate that not all of them were returned.
In this election, as of figures from Elections Canada updated at 2:25 pm September 22, between 59.52 and 62 per cent of registered voters cast ballots (taking into account the estimates of mail-in ballots). Of the 27,366,297 registered electors, about 38 to 40.5 per cent — between 10.4 and 11.1 million — did not vote.
After the 2019 election, Elections Canada reported that 90 per cent of absentee voters gave “reasons related to everyday life” and “reasons of a political nature” as answers to why they did not vote.
André Blais, who holds the Research Chair in Electoral Studies at the University of Montreal, says voter turnout has declined by around 10 per cent “in most democracies” since the 1980s. “Fifty years ago there were more people thinking in terms of voting as a duty. Now people are thinking more in terms of rights,” he said.
He added that a few countries have imposed compulsory voting to reverse the trend, notably Australia. “It’s obvious that it works, but like any remedy, it has its drawbacks,” he notes. “Those who are compelled to vote can vote quite randomly. And it hasn’t increased interest in politics,” he said. As an example, one non-voter said of the party leaders, “They all look alike. They all do their best with small differences. That makes me lose interest.”
Francis Dupuis-Déri, professor of political science at the Université du Québec à Montréal and author of Nous n’irons plus aux urnes — plaidoyer pour l’abstention (Vote No More — A Plea for Abstention) believes that the refusal to vote can hide a more pronounced politicization. “The community that holds the world record for abstention, according to my research, is the Mohawk of the Montreal region. They have abstention rates of up to 98 per cent.
“It is the same with the Maori in [New Zealand] or with Indigenous communities in the United States. We do not vote because we are in a colonial system, and we do not want to vote for the colonial power. It doesn’t represent us.”
We must not confuse abstention and indifference, he says. “People who do not vote are criticized a lot by saying that they are apolitical or that they do not think, but on the side of the people who vote, there are also some who do not think so much. They can vote for the same party, from family to family.”
Many thus fulfill their political duties “within social movements,” without exercising their right to vote, argues Dupuis-Déri, himself an abstentionist. He notes that at the end of the day, the lack of legitimacy caused by the abstention rate does not change much in the way the country is run.
“I have never managed to see any concrete impact on the government’s ability to govern, to impose its laws, to wage wars, to appoint ministers, to accept bribes. They have exactly the same power whether they have five per cent, 20 per cent or 40 per cent abstention.”
André Blais believes for his part that “if we fell below 50 per cent [electoral participation], we would ask enormous questions” about the legitimacy of the party in power.
In fact, this is already the case.
(Facts and quotations from Le Devoir, September 20 and translated from original French by Renewal Update.)
– Pauline Easton –
The prediction of Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party strategists that he could win a majority government by holding the election in September, and his own opportunism and arrogance in agreeing to call the pandemic election, causes many to question the Liberals’ narcissism and lack of good judgement.
The fact is that the ruling class’s powers of prediction are zero and have been zero for some time. Polls are more often than not wrong and many people wonder why. They have been wrong so often that in this election pollsters often included the caveat that “if the poll results are accurate,” then this or that can be expected.
A caveat is a proviso, as in “there are a number of caveats which concern the validity of the assessment results.” In other words, don’t hold us to anything we say.
The reason predictions escape the ruling class, including its intelligence agencies, is because the rules and standards which determined how a two-party system of government would function no longer exist. Since 1993, the equilibrium in the Parliament is a thing of the past. No longer can it be claimed that Canadians are represented by either the party in power or the party in opposition and that by electing one or removing another they can hold these parties to account.
When the Liberals and Conservatives, supported by other parties, embroiled Canada in “free trade” on the basis of making Canadian monopolies number one on the world market, nation-wrecking and the anti-social agenda became the order of the day. Canada’s neo-liberal economy is such that workers no longer even know who owns the companies they work for, where decisions are made or who is paying the piper and calling the tune.
The parliamentary equilibrium was lost following the 1993 federal election when the Conservative Party, despite receiving many votes, won only two seats and the Bloc Québécois became the Official Opposition. After that, the Reform Party staged a coup and took over the Conservative Party setting it on a new virulently anti-national, anti-social path integrated into the U.S. war machine and rivalries south of the border. At the same time, the factional fighting within the Liberal Party increased along with its desperation to cling to power. Since the sponsorship scandal where the Liberals were caught handing over brown bags of money to cheat election spending rules, scandal follows scandal involving money, corruption and schemes to pay the rich. The politicization of private interests took over —- this refers to handing over basic functions of the state and decision-making to narrow private interests such as Deloitte and Touche, KPMG, UBS (which the Stelco steelworkers referred to as You’ll be Sorry when they had the misfortune to cross paths), SNC-Lavalin and many others.
When the Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan started handing over their prisoners of war directly to the United States to be sent to black sites and tortured without even the Prime Minister of Canada being informed, it became clear that the Canadian Department of National Defence was now under the command of U.S. Special Forces. When Jean Chrétien was Prime Minister he famously gave a definition of sovereignty according to which a sellout is an expression of sovereignty if it is we who have decided to sell out. Even that claim is no longer made. Selling out is just par for the course.
All of this meant that the predictability based on the rules which governed how the democratic institutions functioned became a thing of the past. No longer could one count on ministers to take responsibility for misdeeds in their departments or which took place on their watch by resigning. No longer could one count on a Prime Minister to abide by the recommendations of a parliamentary committee such as on electoral reform. No longer would conflict of interest rules mean that those in government and the civil service would not be corrupt.
Once private interests take over decision-making and government, then their striving for control means anything goes so long as they have the power to get away with it. Everyone and everything become disposable.
Trudeau’s “gamble” in calling the election was all about putting the narrow private greenwashing interests in command of the public purse. These are the interests which seek financing for the infrastructure projects which serve them and their need to modernize strategic industries involved in production, communications, transportation and resource extraction linked in one way or the other with U.S. imperialist war.
These narrow private interests are organized as oligopolies —- behemoth companies that form cartels and coalitions to influence the decisions taken at every level and which strike while the iron is hot to make a killing. They do not give a damn about people or nations, or nation-building or the social and natural environment. It is all about controlling the new technologies and space.
There can be no predictability when this is the case because everything is carried out by narrow private interests and their handmaidens in government. The rules are declared by them and broken by them as they see fit.
Only the people’s forces have an interest in bringing new forms into being which empower them. Only then can predictability once again become a feature of life which people require to as to have stability and security for themselves and their families. To participate in arriving at the decisions which affect our lives is a human right because only then can one control a situation by monitoring the results of decisions, taking corrective measures when problems arise in their implementation or if wrong decisions are taken and so on.
According to the pundits, Trudeau’s “gamble” in calling this pandemic election did not pan out but he retained power so it is not all bad. It is far more than that. The failure to predict outcomes is one feature of the crisis of what are called the democratic institutions which reveals the need for democratic renewal which empowers the people.
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