Harper and Ignatieff, two sides of the same coin?


It wouldn’t be too far off the mark to refer to federal Conservative leader Stephen Harper and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff as each other’s nemesis. Yet, because providence has a way of befuddling us, these two politicians are like two sides of the same coin.

In their electioneering both sides have thrown policies and promises at voters – the Liberals’ ‘family pack’ and the Conservatives’ gun registry cancellation, for example, and they both promise to put six per cent more into healthcare spending. (See http://www.google.com/hostednews/canadianpress/article/ALeqM5hqPjjMyhVR1nlcryrTY9t2Okqzdw?docId=6654517 for promises from all parties.) But for many people, the vote will be about whom they choose to be this country’s next prime minister. This matters, as governing power is increasingly concentrated in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Since neither Ignatieff nor Harper is generating much warmth along the leadership lines, it is going to be a close call once the votes are counted. Charisma is in short supply.

Suffice to say whichever party collects the most votes, there will be little difference in the temperament of parliamentary transactions as long as those two men remain at the head of their respective parties.

Let’s call it a circumstance of two bulls in one pen which, as any farmer knows, is a no-no. As it turns out, the two leaders are both Taureans (the astrological sign Taurus has the bull as its symbol) and they are just rounding the corner on their birthdays, just days apart. Harper’s will be on April 30 and Ignatieff’s on May 12. So which one will get a birthday present from the nation?

Heading toward May 2, the question of which of these two will take up the office of prime minister has been a top question from the opinion pollsters. Many of us have received those phone calls from pollsters wanting to know for whom we would vote. Identifying the next party to govern by taking surveys is a contentious practice since it has the effect of influencing undecided voters to some extent. Politicians claim not to pay any attention to such survey results, though they rely heavily on them in testing the direction of Canadians’ concerns.

Far more fun in the prognostication business are the astrologers and psychics. For the most part, they are not as exact as the pollsters. Most of them are notoriously inaccurate, yet peculiarly more fun. In the blogosphere, seers and astrologers are predicting both Harper and Ignatieff will lead the next government. Some of us will find that kind of nebulousness more appealing because, in contrast to opinion polls, at least it feels as if the election result has not already been precisely decided. Paying attention to the polls leaves some voters feeling that casting their vote is just a matter of going through the motions, of participating in a technicality of democracy, rather than an action that truly matters.

But if Canadians do not want to have the decision about who governs to be left to a minority of voters, since most of the people who actually go to the polls are over age 55, then the usual non-voters must get out and exercise their franchise.

It is clear that while the front-runners have their supporters, there is a vast body of people who still need convincing that casting their vote matters. We all know that our system of democracy is not perfect and at each election – and especially after each election – the talk of proportional representation comes up. Until there is real appetite to take such a step for which there is growing support, people, especially young people, must make the time to choose by voting. And here’s a little known secret: regardless of the results, it feels good to vote.

A note on politics being personal…

A west end coffee shop owner has banned any talk of politics and any politicking in his establishment after a regular customer stopped coming in during this campaign season. It seems the customer, who has a strong attachment to one particular political leader, was highly offended to find flyers from another political party sitting on the counter at the coffee shop. Although the offended party lives just across the street, he hasn’t set foot in the coffee shop since. The owner, not wanting to lose any more customers, cautions everyone to find another topic to go with their double-double.

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