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Choosing Sides in Canadian Politics

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Last year I conducted a little experiment: first born out of anger and frustration over the current government at the time, I decided to “join” their side and blog accordingly. But I also sought out various political parties, federal and provincial, to get a better feel for what was going on in our political system.

As one of my former political science professors would tell us: you always have to “compare and contrast” based on sound data and/or experience in order to arrive at a reasonable conclusion. Too many people always look at one side of the proverbial coin, without ever bothering to examine the other side as well, which makes for uneducated and often outright silly choices and decisions.

Having the advantage of having blogged on both sides of the “aisle” and, in real life, having experienced the party-political situation across the board first-hand, I think I know more than most voters. Still, for the last few months I have been struggling with myself. I have been torn between different ideologies, because while one party tells me that policy xyz is the best there is, common sense may suggest that this is not quite true.

I voted Conservative in the last federal election, because I was convinced that we needed a change and that the Liberal Party needed some well-deserved time-out. I know that the Tories are in a minority position right now, which does not allow them to act in a way they might want to, but I think that it still gives us a good picture of what the Tories can and want to do in power.

While I do have some misgivings about some of their policies (not to mention some of their actions), my problem is mostly one of “personality”. I look at the various current leaders, and none of them strike me as overly competent. Prime Minister Stephen Harper may be a sharp thinker, but as a person he’s become way too arrogant for my taste. In other words, he’s not the “Opposition Harper” anymore. I also know that more and more Conservatives on his own turf, in Alberta, are increasingly becoming disenchanted with him.

The Liberal Party is currently undergoing a period of change and reform. Yes, I know, they’re not quite there yet, but the will and effort is there. Depending on the leader they choose for themselves, they could become a truly innovative and modern party. One can say about the Liberals a lot of things, but they are willing to change and adapt to a “new world order” – something that is not quite true of the Conservatives, who define their general goals and then stick to them, come hell or high water – whether they are in the interest of Canadians or not.

The last federal budget was a joke, something even a (Tory) cabinet member in Alberta has admitted to me. The promised tax cuts are of a cosmetic nature, with most Canadians not really benefiting from any real tax cut. In addition, the Tories decided to scrap previous (Liberal) tax reductions, which simply added insult to injury. A good politician would have recognized the benefits even if they were set in motion by his “mortal enemy”. A good politician is above pure partisanship – a test that Harper and the Conservatives have failed miserably.

There are good policies and ideas coming from all parties, without exception. Some conservative ideas are excellent, to the point where even the left-wing New Democrats can agree to them, just as there are great ideas coming from liberals, social-democrats, greens, etc.

Somebody asked me recently whether I knew myself exactly where I stood, and at that time, my answer was no. But I have concluded that I feel more comfortable on the “progressive” side of the political spectrum, which to me is not about left vs. right, but about finding solutions that move Canada forward.

As for Alberta, I still support the provincial Tories, because after having “sampled” the other choices out there, I can attest (more than anyone else) to the fact that they are still the “best game” in town, or the province, for that matter. And unless a viable alternative comes along, they will continue to have my support. Federally, though, I don’t see myself supporting the Conservatives anymore. Perhaps stung by the current mood of new beginnings, new opportunities and, hopefully, a new way of engaging in politics in Canada, I took out a membership with the Liberal Party in support of Gerard Kennedy, who, in my view, could be the poster child for a new generation of politicians in Canada. That doesn’t mean that Liberals will get a free ride in my analyses. If they do something wrong, they’ll get to hear from me.

I know I will be maligned and hated by many regular readers, but I am my own boss, and what I say goes.

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About Werner Patels