We’ve been played – We didn’t know our future was a game!

By JAMILÉ GHADDAR* and LISA NUSSEY**, MLPC Youth for Renewal

(MAY 3, 2011) THE CLOSE of the 41st General Elections on May 2, as a Harper majority government was declared, was certainly a bleak moment for the Canadian polity which in its majority strove to defeat the Harper Conservatives. What is the significance of these elections? As MLPC National Leader Anna Di Carlo pointed out on May 2 in her article, “Electoral Coup in the Making,” this is not an occasion for either euphoria (due to a so-called Orange Surge) or pessimism (due to the Conservative majority government). We must calmly assess the situation and establish what these results mean, what they portend for the Canadian working class and people.

The Numbers Game

Can it be said, as some are declaring, that the election results constitute a mandate for the Harperite agenda? Can it be said that the make-up of the government reflects the will of the people as expressed by the votes cast. Most certainly not. Even a cursory assessment reveals the fraud of a system where 60.4 per cent of the votes were against the Conservatives, yet they obtained 54.2 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons. With only 5,832,401 votes (out of almost 24 million registered electors and a total population of over 34.4 million) the Conservatives are declared the choice of the majority. Even a child can do this basic math: 5.8 million people do not constitute the majority of Canadians and are far from a majority of the people who voted.

Let us look at the numbers a little closer. 61.4 per cent of registered electors, or 14.7 million out of 24 million people voted. The Conservatives will now form a majority government with a little more than 5.83 million votes. This means that the fate of 34.4 million is to be decided by 5.83 million, many of whom are simply manipulated by the monopoly media and the system as a whole. This is democracy, they tell us, but we are not so gullible as to believe it. We do not accept that democracy means that 5.83 million people can defeat the will of 8.89 million people, those who voted for a party or candidate other than the Conservatives, let along all those who refused to vote. Given that the Harper Conservative election machine left no stone unturned to get out its supporters, it can be concluded that those who did not vote did not want a Harper government. Hence, between those who voted against the Conservatives and those who did not cast a ballot for them because they abstained from voting altogether, we have out of the registered vote about 18.14 million people who most certainly did not want the Conservatives to win.

If we examine the results a little further, the way the numbers add up becomes even more surreal. The Bloc Québécois lost 45 seats in these elections. From 49 seats in 2008, they now have only 4. This is a 91.83 per cent decrease in the number of seats. Does this reflect a 91.83 per cent decrease in their popularity ? Not at all; they only lost 4 per cent of the vote. In 2008, they received 10 per cent of the vote in Canada and obtained 49 seats. In 2011, they obtained 6 per cent of the votes cast yet absurdly lose an astounding 45 seats. Whichever way you look at it, the situation is absurd. Alice in Wonderland is looking pretty straightforward compared to these shenanigans.

Even further, the Conservatives now have gained 23 more seats (143 seats in 2008 versus 167 in 2011) which is an increase of 14.37 per cent. Yet they only received 2 per cent more of the votes compared to the last election. Whereas with 37.6 per cent of the vote in 2008 they received 143 seats, in this election 39.6 per cent of the votes delivers 167 seats. A four per cent decrease for the Bloc equals a loss of 45 seats, yet a two percent increase for the Conservatives translates into 23 more seats and a majority government. Similarly, with only a 12.4 per cent increase in votes since 2008, the NDP has almost tripled its number of seats. From 2008, with 18.2 per cent of the votes, the NDP obtained 37 seats. In these elections, with 30.6 per cent of the vote, the NDP has 102 seats.

A few more examples. Quebec voters contributed 36 per cent of the total votes cast for the NDP across Canada, but Quebec MPs will comprise 57 per cent of the NDP’s national caucus.

The Bloc Québécois suffered a battering akin to the Progressive Conservatives in 1993. The BQ’s seats were reduced by almost 92 per cent. While almost 1 in 4 Québécois voted BQ, only 1 in 20 of Quebec’s MPs are BQ.

The Conservatives increased their share of the Ontario vote by 5 percentage points but saw their share of the seats grow by 20 percentage points.

The NDP increased their share of the vote in Manitoba, but their number of seats was cut in half.

The NDP set a record of sorts for 21st century elections, in winning almost a third of the votes in Saskatchewan without winning a single seat.

The further one examines this, the more crazy-making it all is. Of course, what all these formulations do not even address is whether the Canadian people wanted to vote for any of these people to begin with. Presented with no alternative, Canadians voted simply to defeat the Harper Conservatives. The fact that despite this, we ended up with a majority Harper government reveals the extent of the democratic crisis.

The Popular Will Usurped

Hence, the popular will has again been violated by an electoral system designed to bring, time and time again, the will of the minority in Canada into power. Far from legitimizing a Harper majority government, these election results in fact further reveal the all-sided crisis of the system, a crisis whose cost is paid by the people of Canada who regardless of their efforts are incapable of realizing their aspirations on the basis of participating in elections designed to keep them out of power.

This is yet another brutal lesson for the polity. Whenever Canadians have participated in elections to achieve a definite aim, such as the 1988 election where Canadians voted for candidates who opposed the Free Trade Agreement, they have been defeated by the electoral and political process. Not only does the system itself present no real alternative for the polity which is striving for changes which favour them, but in fact it is designed to ensure that even the votes cast are made irrelevant. The will of the rich trumps that of the people. As celebrations were held at NDP headquarters last night, the people of Canada sat in their living rooms sick to their stomachs. While the global monopolies behind the Conservatives celebrated in their luxury lounges, Canadians did not see what to celebrate.

Our sincere sympathies go out to all those who joined the Orange Surge, especially some the youth, in order to defeat Harper only to find themselves stuck with the nightmare of a Conservative majority. People are quickly realizing the hollow victory of the Orange Surge, which was engineered by the Harper Conservative election machine and monopoly media as a ploy to split the vote between the NDP and Liberals in such a manner as to realize Conservative victories in ridings where candidates win on a slim margin, especially in the GTA and across Ontario. The MLPC had pointed out that an NDP surge in the context of a minority Conservative government would be a positive development for the polity. However, an impotent Orange opposition in the context of a Conservative majority will be used to further disempower those who had hoped for the former scenario.

What Does Splitting the Vote Mean ?

The Conservatives clearly knew that the best way for them to get a majority was through a split in the NDP-Liberal votes. Therefore the strategy needed to ensure a Conservative majority was to convince enough people to vote for the NDP so as to ensure that the Liberals will lose too many votes to win many seats, while the NDP would not gain enough votes to win enough seats to stop them from getting a majority. Once this tactic is examined on a riding-per-riding basis, the picture can become more clear. In ridings that were traditionally Liberal, the NDP took many of the Liberal votes but not enough for them to beat the Conservative candidate. Hence, by splitting the vote, the Conservatives win. Hence, by convincing some people to switch their vote from Liberal to NDP as the lesser-of-evils and the viable way to defeat the Conservatives, they won. It was engineered and it was successful.

Beyond the Numbers: We Are the Opposition !

We need neither pessimism nor euphoria, but the calm voice of reason in order to establish how to make headway in this situation.

Reason shows that the majority of the Canadian people do not support a majority Harper government. This belies any attempt to impugn the polity in the rise of this much-hated government. Reason also shows that one conclusion we can draw from these elections is that the Canadian polity can influence events when it is mobilized behind a common goal. In this election, it seemed as though Stop Harper sentiment of the people was going to made headway through a seemingly impossible NDP surge. In fact, Labour did not succeed in increasing the vote of the NDP in Ontario and instead played into a trap set by the Harperite election machine. The trap, as the MLPC predicted and cautioned against, meant that they fully split the anti-Harper Conservative vote so to realize a majority government.

Imagine if Canadians do indeed set their own aim and mobilize as one to achieve this aim. By setting their own aim to bring about results that will favour the working people not the rich, Canadians can achieve this aim. What is needed to mobilize independently of the plots, influence and manipulation of the establishment parties and the monopolies they represent. By uniting behind a program set by the people themselves, by uniting on the basis of the independent politics of the working class, Canadians can ensure their efforts serve them.

Lastly, reason also tells us that no matter what, the fight continues. As the historic May Day rally on Parliament Hill established on the eve of the election, no matter what government is formed the working class and people have no choice but to continue the work to hold governments to account and build the alternative to the parties of the rich who dominate the electoral process and the democratic institutions. The working class and people are the only legitimate and genuine opposition. While the NDP can bask in its self-serving glory of being Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, we know that this will not stop the attacks against the workers, women, youth and seniors of Canada. It will not stop a single criminal bomb from falling on the people of Libya or Afghanistan. It will not return one penny of the people’s stolen wealth, diverted into the coffers of the rich in the form of government subsidies and tax cuts. We, the people of Canada are the only opposition against the parties of the establishment, united in their agenda for a Canada in the service of the global monopolies. Let us continue to build this opposition until it is formidable enough to establish itself as the official opposition in the House of Commons, loyal to no monarch or Royal Prerogative but only to the interests of the workers and the future of Canada which is at stake. From official opposition, the Canadian people can then go further and constitute the government itself, as a stepping stone to realizing the renewal of the country so that it is on a par with the requirements of our times.

* Jamilé Ghaddar is the Secretary of the MLPC Youth for Democratic Renewal and was the MLPC candidate for Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale in the 2011 elections. Jamilé is a Canadian of Lebanese descent. She received her degree in Anthropology and Linguistics from McMaster University and is a part-time graduate student at the Faculty of Information Studies, University of Toronto. She has worked within the immigration settlement sector as a youth coordinator and settlement worker. She has also worked in the women’s sector as a crisis-intervention and case worker within shelters. Jamilé continues working in the social work sector while also being a full-time politician. In her work for democratic renewal Jamilé pays specific attention to defending minority rights and the rights of all peoples to self-determination. She is also well-known for opposing the criminalization of conscience. She champions Palestinian rights and opposes attempts to criminalize political dissent by turning political opinion on Israel and ideological opposition to Zionism into hate crimes. She is also well-known for her opposition to the state violence unleashed against the people at the G20 protests and the anti-human consequences of the Harper government agenda in practice.

**Lisa Nussey represented the MLPC in Hamilton Centre in the 2011 elections. She has worked as a midwife in Hamilton for the past five years, having graduated from the Midwifery Education Program at McMaster University in 2006. She has also studied in the Native Studies Program at St. Thomas University, New Brunswick. Lisa is active in community support for USW 1005 and works in the anti-war movement to defend the rights of all nations to decide their own affairs. Lisa has been at the forefront of opposing the criminalization of dissent and in defence of the right of conscience. She has been involved locally in leading the work to oppose the criminalization of the G20 protestors stemming from the mass actions against the G20 Summit last June.

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