24 January 2006

The Canadian elections

Canada had its parliamentary election yesterday. This was the first time I took a look at Canadian politics with any significant amount of interest, as I feel that (1) they may offer some lessons for Americans and (2) Canada may indeed be my future home.

The Conservatives won a minority government last night. Some were quick to describe Canadian voters' rightward shift, especially in the face of gay marriage legalization. But as far as I can see, the Liberals' recent scandals, as well as a strong challenge from the National Democratic Party (NDP), seem to be more likely culprits.

The electoral map showed concentrated Conservative strength in the Alberta prairies - a mirror of Republican strength in the US prairie states. All MPs from Alberta will be Conservatives. Liberals held on to major cities elsewhere. The huge difference seems to be in the sparsely populated rural areas, where left-leaning parties (Liberal and NDP) show strength - a huge difference from the US, where Republicans have taken over the rural areas. Only British Columbia, with Liberal strength in Vancouver and Conservative strength in the mountains, shows US-like patterns.

My conjecture is that Canadian rural folks seem to be more concerned about the economic policies of their government, favoring a more populist tone of the leftist parties; this would be a big difference from the US, where the Republicans have successfully convinced the rural community that cultural issues like abortion, gay marriage, and school prayer are more important, never mind the Big Business Republican economics that hurt the rural communities.

In any case, I want to see how the new Conservative government will lead Canada. I know for sure that even the Conservatives cannot turn Canada into a carbon copy of the US overnight, but they may try to overturn gay marriages, cozy up to W, or do something else that may not necessarily be in Canada's best interest. But at least I have more faith in Canada's election system than I do in the US's, and I expect the voters to speak up again if and when things do not go well for them.