Lefties Left Out Again

Non-conservatives are offered little hope in Edmonton this election

Whatever you think of the necessity or desirability of this, our fourth federal election in seven years, it’s certainly been one of the more exciting from a media point of view. In contrast to the drawn-out, years-long campaigning of American presidential candidates, the official Canadian elections spans an action-packed six weeks, though it’s fair to say that Mr. Harper and his honourable opponents are never off the campaign trail. The mud is flying from all quadrants as we are invited by one or another leader to doubt the essential humanity of the other leaders.

What’s more, the incumbent is asking the country to hand him a majority, even though his autocratic, bullying, rule-bending style of leadership is what resulted in the contempt of Parliament charges that helped bring this whole federal election thing to a head. The kind of two-facery it takes to assert moral authority when the best you’ve done to allay suspicions of your complicity in various dishonest dealings is completely dodge direct questions, up to and including proroguing Parliament twice. By those lights it seems quite mad that this guy even gets to be one of the choices for the next prime minister of Canada.

Anyhow, we’ve got our own kettle of fish here in Edmonton, where we’re all too often reminded that, in 2008, a mere 463 votes delivered Edmonton-Strathcona from “the laziest MP in Ottawa” and gave the province its sole orange NDP patch in a smothering blanket of Tory blue. Clearly there’s some schizophrenia at work within these electoral boundaries — the riding actually fields a Marxist-Leninist candidate and a libertarian candidate — which makes incumbent Linda Duncan’s survival far from assured, though Conservative challenger Ryan Hastman’s distraction-driven, mountains-out-of-molehills approach to campaigning might be some kind of help, as might the youth and inexperience of Liberal candidate Matthew Sinclair. I was an idiot when I was 21 and I’m not saying Matthew Sinclair isn’t infinitely smarter and more accomplished than me, but he is 21 years old.

The rest of Edmonton looks like a walk for incumbent Tories Mike Lake (Mill Woods), Laurie Hawn (Edmonton Centre) and Peter Goldring (Edmonton Centre-East). Lake polled more than triple the votes of his closest competitor, Liberal candidate Indira Saroya in 2008; he’s unlikely to be ruffled by the presence of Pirate candidate Brent Schaffrick this time around, and even if he were, the Harper government has been ploughing all kinds of dough into regional ethnic engagement strategies in ridings just like Mill Woods.

Hawn, who is also parliamentary secretary to the minister of defence, first got elected in 2006, and has been papering Inglewood-Westmount-Glenora with his image and Harper’s talking points. If they were counting lawn signs instead of ballots, Hawn could sleep in on election day. Even if they had his money, it is doubtful Hawn’s opponents could achieve his utter ubiquity.

Goldring has represented his riding since 1997, elected first under the Reform banner, then Canadian Alliance before Harper lured all the conservatives into his big spooky tent. It’s hard to imagine a man who described Louis Riel as a villain and wants Canada to add the provinces of the Turks and Caicos Islands is entirely representative of the viewpoints of all residents between 97th Street and the Manning Freeway, but he more than doubled the votes pulled by perennial NDP challenger (and former MLA) Ray Martin when they ran against each other in the 2008 federal election. Liberal candidate Shafik Ruda promises to “Educate – Engage – Empower” but otherwise has no formal political experience. I find it hard to conceive of an ideological shift in Edmonton Centre-East big enough to close those gaps.

And so the un-conservative of us shall remain, disgruntled centre-left raisins in Alberta’s homogeneous conservative porridge. In a way, I feel a little like an exile from a nascent democracy blooming out of some previously dictatorial regime. I want to be optimistic about the possibility of political rejuvenation, the rejection of ugly fundamentalisms and an affirmation of the shared values that we want to display to the world, to say “This is who we are” in no uncertain terms. Maybe the critical things that need to happen to avert a Harper majority and reinstall some accountability and fairness into the functioning of government are afoot in critical parts of Canada’s electoral map. But I feel like, from where I’m sitting, all I can do is watch.

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