Republished from the ECOreport
The race is on. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has asked the Governor General to dissolve Parliament early, to launch what is expected to be the most expensive election in Canadian history. “Upwards of $700 million” could be spent on this campaign and a large chunk of the contributions to all parties will be claimed as tax deductions. According to Dr. Maxwell Cameron, from UBC’s Department of Political Science, BC may determine the outcome.
“There are many battleground ridings in British Columbia. We have 42 seats, due to the redistricting, and many of those seats are in play. I don’t think the NDP or the Conservatives can hope to put together any sort of majority without substantial support in BC,” said Cameron.
Polls can be deceptive, “as they do not reflect how support is distributed across ridings,” but Cameron believes both the NDP and Liberals are picking up support. The NDP could win between 22 and 25 seats. The Liberals will probably do better than in 2011 (when they won 2 seats). The Greens “might pick up one (additional) seat, but I will be a bit surprised if they get more than that.”
Pipelines could swing votes
“The pipeline issue is potentially a significant one, as there is a lot of opposition along the Coast and the Lower Mainland as well. Fears of tankers and spills have been very much at the front of voters minds,” said Cameron.
There are “flash points of opposition” in the Lower Mainland, where communities like Vancouver and Burnaby are resisting the imposition of Kinder Morgan’s pipeline.
“It can be very disempowering (for communities) to be told this is what is going to happen and you don’t really have any say in the matter. I think the procedures we have in place, for doing the consultation, the stakeholder negotiations, environmental assessments etc are flawed. ”
[quote]The recent bunker fuel spill in Vancouver drew attention to the weakness of our response. Frankly when you close the Coast Guard station off Kitsilano (as the Conservative government did) and then you can’t respond to a spill, it looks like there is a responsibility for that.
On the other hand, this is a resource-dependent province, big parts of the province depend on timber, mining, oil and gas. There are going to be people who argue we need growth through exploitation of natural resources and those voters are more likely to go to the Conservatives.[/quote]
Slow economy hurts Harper
Canada appears to be heading into a recession, and the Conservatives are expected to campaign on their “record of sound fiscal management.” Expect Harper to say, “now is not the time to change.”
In reality, under the Conservatives economic “growth has been slow, slower than under any PM of recent memory. This is not all Harper’s fault, but he hasn’t made (the necessary) improvements to foster productivity and innovation.”
Even during times of prosperity, the benefits have primarily gone to the wealthy. Wages “have flatlined” for most Canadians, and unemployment has increased.
This is a trend that goes back to the 1980’s, with the adoption of international agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement and cutbacks to public spending. It has continued under Harper.
Minority government a real possibility
Cameron added it is possible that neither the NDP or Conservatives will get a majority. “All of the current projections have us going into a minority government.” In that case, we could be going back to the polls again in 18 months.