The Specter of an Extreme Right Government in Canada

On March 22, 2011, a House of Commons vote of non-confidence on the Harper Conservative government passed and Canadian will go to the polls on Monday, May 2, 2011 to determine who will govern Canada. For the first time in Canadian history, a government and a cabinet minister have been found guilty of contempt of Parliament. The opposition parties also rejected the Conservative government’s budget.

The Conservatives also faced several other scandals. Elections Canada has alleged that the scheme allowed the Conservative Party to exceed its 2006 campaign spending limit by $1.3-million was illegal. This scheme allowed 67 candidates to claim about $800,000 in public rebates to which they were not entitled. The money went toward radio and TV ads that had little regional or local component to them.

The commissioner of elections laid charges against four Conservative party officials after consulting the federal director of public prosecutions. The Federal Court of Appeal backed Elections Canada in a civil suit brought against the agency by two former candidates. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, “Our position has been that there are laws there — where those interpretations are clear we follow the interpretations.” The Conservative Party has said it will appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

According to Nanos Research, as of April 20, 2011, the Tories continue to lead in regions west of the Ottawa River but NDP support has moved up in the wake of Jack Layton’s positive leadership scores. Nanos indicates that support for the Conservatives remains at 39.0%, the Liberals have trended down for the second night in succession and their support now stands at 26.7% nationally followed by the New Democrats at 22.1%, the BQ at 7.5% and the Green Party at 3.4%.1

An Ipos Reid Poll, however, reports different results. They report that, as of April 20, 2011, the Conservatives lead with 43% of decided voters and the NDP have gone ahead of the Liberals with 24% of decided voters and the Liberals under Leader Michael Ignatieff with 21% of decided voters. The poll report did not indicate how many undecided voters there were. However, the key factor in determining who gets elected is the strength in the different regions of Canada.

A close look at the regions, as of April 20, 2011, according to Ipos Reid:

  • In Quebec, a four-way race is developing. The NDP (28%) leads narrowly over the Bloc (27%), with the Conservatives (24%) and Liberals (20%) close behind;
  • In Ontario, the Conservatives (41%) maintain a strong lead over the Liberals (27%), with the NDP (22%) not far behind. The Green party stands at 6%;
  • In British Columbia, the Conservatives (46%) still have a strong lead over the surging NDP (32%) and the Liberals (12%) are struggling to keep their support levels higher than that of the Green party (9%).
  • In Alberta, the Tories hold 72%, while the Liberals have 13%, the NDP have 11% and the Green party has 2%;
  • In Saskatchewan/Manitoba, the Tories are ahead at 62%, while the NDP has 20%, the Liberals have 16%, and the Green party has 2%;
  • In the Atlantic region, the Tories have 44%, followed by the NDP at 30%, the Liberals at 24%, and the Green party at 2%.

For its survey, Ipsos Reid conduced a telephone poll April 18-20 of a randomly selected sample of 1,000 adult Canadians. With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, plus or minus, 19 times out of 20.

The margin of error for the regional results are: B.C. (8.9%); Alberta (9.8%); Manitoba/Saskatchewan (12.2%); Ontario (4.9%); Quebec (6.2%); Atlantic Canada (12.2%). This margin of error is significant and could affect the election results dramatically.2

Voters trying to make sense of the contradictory daily public opinion polls during this federal election campaign are likely to wind up with a big headache.

So who among the pollsters should they believe? “Nobody,” says veteran pollster Allan Gregg, an outspoken critic of his own industry and chairman of Harris-Decima, which conducts polls for The Canadian Press.

In many respects the Conservative lead is surprising given their claim that they are good financial managers. They inherited a $13-billion surplus from the Liberals and now have a $47-billion deficit. Many issues like the under funding of health care are a direct result of Conservative tax cuts and sending priorities. Canadians saw very little benefit from the 2 percent reduction in the GST as virtually no savings were passed on but instead absorbed by business. Spending $30 billion dollars for 65 Stealth fighters without engines (the final cost may be double) and expenditure of more than $20 billion on the war in Afghanistan are not priorities for most Canadians.

Immigration Issues

In a press release released on April 20, 2011 a large group of prominent immigration lawyers, practitioners and academics, including lawyers Lorne Waldman, Barbara Jackman, and Peter Showler, a former head of the Immigration and Refugee Board, attacked the arguments of the Conservative Government have been making that their policies have been “favourable” to New Canadians. According to the Press Release a review of the Conservative Party record shows the contrary. The academics and lawyers claim the following problems exist with the Conservative Government’s record on Immigration:

– Since the Conservative Party took power, the total time for processing sponsorship applications and visa applications for parents and grandparents has increased dramatically. Meanwhile the number granted visas annually has dropped by 44% since 2006. This year only 11, 500 visas will be issued in this category. This reduction will greatly lengthen the time to process parents and grandparent sponsorship applications.

– The backlog of skilled worker applicants waiting for a decision has gone up from 487,000 in 2005 to 508,000.

– The Conservative Party has cut settlement funding for immigrants and refused to fund many well-established groups, often because of political considerations.

– The Conservatives claim they will get tough on human smugglers, but the law they intend to pass mainly punishes refugees. Even women and children will be imprisoned for a minimum of one year under this law.

– The Conservative Party claims to be sympathetic to refugees who do not flee their countries illegally, but just announced plans to cancel the only program allowing Canada to protect refugees applying from within their country.

– The Conservative Party plans to make marriage sponsorships conditional on a two-year waiting period. Canadians and their spouses will be subjected to more uncertainty and delay. Spouses in abusive relationships will be trapped in them.

– The Conservative Party has continually stirred up anti-immigrant sentiment to justify its policies, even without a majority.

Choosing in Canada

This may be one of these most important elections in Canadian history. While approximately 60% of Canadians are opposed to the policies of the Harper Conservative’s it appears the Conservatives may win a majority. Voters have to choose whether they will cast their ballot for a party and policies they support or vote strategically to elect an A.B.C, (Anybody But Conservative) candidate.

One organization Swing 33 has created an interactive map of 33 swing ridings in which a Bloc, Lib, NDP or Green is likely to be in a tight race against the Conservative Candidate. The site provides direct donor links to those 33 ridings so that you can adopt a swing riding. You can check out their site but ultimately how you vote is your decision.

In an election as close as this one, there are enough newcomer voters in many ridings to swing the election to one particular candidate. To be politically effective the various Immigrant communities must vote and demonstrate their political power. If the various Immigrant communities directly participate in the election process by volunteering their time and by donating to candidates who support their concerns the political benefits would be enormous.

  1. To get updates on Nanos polling. []
  2. The full polling results are available at www.Ipsos.ca. []

Edward C. Corrigan is a lawyer certified as a Specialist in Citizenship and Immigration Law and Immigration and Refugee Protection by the Law Society of Upper Canada in London, Ontario, Canada. He can be reached at: corriganlaw@edcorrigan.ca. Read other articles by Edward, or visit Edward's website.