# 1 Canada Joins the Fray

During September 2008, American politicians will enjoy little respite as they spar for positioning coming into October’s free-for-all run for November’s gold medal.  This is good news for American voters as they can see an end to the excesses of the seemingly never-ending campaigns for the presidency.  Late Night’s David Letterman quipped back in the thick of the interminable state primaries and caucus events that after the states had their say, Canada would be allowed to vote.  He was right.  Canada is having its own federal election on October 14.

This is at a time when the economies of both countries are heading for the dumpster.  American and Canadian soldiers keep coming back from war fronts in caskets instead of triumphant.  The irresponsible oil companies are happily driving up inflation through exorbitant profits at the gas pumps.  Neither country can afford the demands of their environmentalists.  And neither country can afford to ignore the environmental concerns.  So it all comes down to leadership and there is none.

North or south, no country has a leader among the possible candidates.  Barack Obama comes across as a social worker and John McCain is 72-years old.  In Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a blurred copy of George W. Bush.  Harper’s main opponent, Liberal Party leader Stéphane Dion, is an academic and the rest of the parties in the running can only boast regional strengths.  Television ads for all Canadian parties will thunder their leadership but leave you wondering just where these people are leading.

Maybe the more telling ads of the campaign will be the attack ads.  Posing Obama as some sort of dilettante will likely be the main attack strategy of the Republicans.  The Democrats might realize the foolishness of attacking McCain but they might have some fun ridiculing McCain’s running mate.  If they are smart, they will leave Mrs. Palin to America’s pit bull media.  They will feast on her.  The Conservatives in Canada have already shown how they are going to attack their Liberal opponent on his ‘Green Shift’ environmental plan.  If Dion’s advisors fail to convince him the election is really about the economy, the Conservatives will savage him and his party.

A novelty in this election in Canada is the ability of the New Democratic Party to pay to match the Conservatives on television, ad for ad.  Since, at the moment, the NDP intend to ignore the Liberals and concentrate on dissing Conservative leader Harper, they will be doing the Liberals a favour.

At this stage, it is hard to envisage anything but an Obama win in the United States.  A heavy black voter turn-out for the Democrats and McCain’s weakness with the extreme right wing of his own party makes the American election predictable if not a sure thing.

The unknown in Canada is the situation in Quebec.  The voters in that province are volatile.  Harper’s handlers have obviously studied how Conservative Brian Mulroney won a majority based on the support from that province back in the 1980s by pulling the separatists on side.  Few think the Bloc Quebecois is that weak but there is no question that Quebec voters love to be bought with taxpayers’ money—especially if the taxpayers are from Ontario.

At best, Harper can hold the status quo in Ontario.  Lose a seat here; win one there.  His problem in Canada’s most populous province, and the province feeling the brunt of the economic downturn, is that his track record with the economy does nothing to help him.  The only other province offering any opportunity to see an increase in Conservative members is British Columbia but it can hardly produce the numbers he needs for a majority government.

Stéphane Dion and Stephen Harper are the only Canadian leaders who will have to fight a truly national campaign.  Dion started well, speaking at a measured and reassuring pace in his presentation to the media that made his English easier to understand.  It was a mildly self-deprecating ‘what you see is what you get’ talk but he showed promise of a tougher stance through the campaign.

If Dion and his brain trust were really smart, they would withdraw Liberal support from keeping Canadian troops in Afghanistan.  If Harper can so casually forget his own law for a fixed election date, surely the Liberals can change their minds about getting Canadian soldiers killed by getting them involved in the fight over the opium poppy market.  Canadians are justifiably proud of their soldiers’ reputation as world peacekeepers and someone needs to step up to the bar and say ‘no’ to a war that Canada is so ill-equipped to fight.  Both Obama and McCain are going to be talking about how they are going to bring the troops home from the middle east and so should Canada’s politicians.

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