Mitch's Blog 7.0

Mitch's Blog


Sunday, January 22, 2006

Like Another Country

Update: As expected, Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party won Canada's election. However, like the Liberals before him, Harper will have a minority government. Though the Conservative Party won the most seats in parliament, it only won a total of 40% of them.

Appropriately enough in regards to my last post, the front page article of Sunday’s Grand Forks Herald commented on Monday’s election in Canada. I’m going to post it here for everyone to read.

A couple of notes are in order first, however. Emerson, Manitoba (the city featured in this article) is the first Manitoba city a traveler will see if arriving in Canada either via I-29 in North Dakota or U.S. Highway 75 in Minnesota. The entire city is literally within walking distance of the United States-Canada border.

Also, one thing that sort of goes with this article is something played on the CBC news a few nights ago. There was a report discussing how in Canada, like other countries around the world, the participation rate of young people – those just old enough to vote – continues to decline. To help combat this, one school district in one province (I think it was Ontario, but don’t quote me on that) set up a mock election for grade four students to take part in. The teacher who created the program was interviewed, and she said that firstly she wanted to turn voting into a “fun” activity that children will be encouraged to partake in when they receive the right to vote in a real election. Secondly, she designed the program because when she asked her class if they could name the current prime minister of Canada, the majority answered...George W. Bush.

CANADA NATIONAL ELECTION: Like another country
Canadians know their politics and elections are foreign to American neighbors
By Ryan Bakken
Herald Staff Writer

"U.S. citizens can converse well about their own issues, but they don't show much interest in Canada, Europe or just about any other place in the world."
Thomas Demydowich

"The United States is Big Brother to most of the world. The reason we know so much about the United States is that whatever happens there directly affects us. What happens in Canada is mostly insignificant to what goes on in the rest of the world."
Bruce Rae

EMERSON, Man. Thomas Demydowich and Bruce Rae are long-haul truck drivers who travel across the United States.

Two of the 650 residents of this Manitoba town that is just across the border, they are partly amused and partly miffed about Americans' ignorance of Canada.
"Some don't even know we're neighbors with the United States, and some think Canada is the 51st state," Demydowich says with a chuckle over morning coffee in Tara's Place restaurant.

"U.S. citizens can converse well about their own issues, but they don't show much interest in Canada, Europe or just about any other place in the world."
They suspect that most Americans even their neighbors a few miles away in North Dakota and Minnesota are unaware of the national election Monday. Canada will elect all 308 members of its House of Commons, allowing the party that earns the most seats to name the country's prime minister.

But they understand if Americans aren't as interested in their politics as they are in U.S. politics.
"The United States is Big Brother to most of the world," Rae said. "The reason we know so much about the United States is that whatever happens there directly affects us.

"What happens in Canada is mostly insignificant to what goes on in the rest of the world."

Improved relations?
So, Rae, Demydowich and others at morning coffee in Tara's Place don't believe their election will have much of an impact south of the border. The only change, they say, may be improved diplomatic relations with the United States if the Conservatives take power from the Liberals. The Conservatives have favored closer ties to U.S. administrations.

But closer diplomatic relations with the United States are either good or bad, depending upon who's talking.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper's politics are aligned more closely with President Bush's. Prime Minister Paul Martin, the Liberal leader who trails in the polls by about 10 percent, is trying to make political hay out of that connection because Bush is not popular in Canada for multiple reasons, the biggest being the war in Iraq.

One Martin television commercial asks Canadians if they "would like to see George Bush's room valet as their Prime Minister."

That pitch is more effective in eastern Canada than in western prairie provinces such as Manitoba. Southern Manitoba is especially known as a Conservative stronghold, at least when it comes to national elections.

They're not fans of the gun registration laws and especially not Martin's campaign proposal to ban all handguns. Their biggest national issue and contention with America may be free trade. Whoever can better open the border to trade will win favor here.

"The big hang-up with America around here is free trade," Vince Lane said. "They don't want our hogs or cattle, and they're putting tariffs on our corn and our softwood lumber.

"Canada lives up to the free trade agreements, but America puts up roadblocks. Until that is settled, it makes it hard to get along with your neighbor."
Rae said he usually votes Liberal, but still was undecided on his vote a few days before the election. The Liberals have been in power for 12 years.

"Like everyone else who gets in power for a long time, they've gotten too big for their britches," Rae said.

Corruption is the underlying reason for the election. The Liberals, before Martin was prime minister, were diverting government money to supporters.
A national election is called when the ruling party fails to pass a significant piece of legislation. When that happens, it's called a no-confidence vote and an election is called.

The Liberals are in power despite not having a majority of members in the House of Commons. Because Canada has five parties with seats in Parliament, alliances are formed to pass legislation. The Liberals were bolstered by help from the socialist New Democratic Party.

Although polls indicate the Conservatives may earn the most seats, it's unlikely that they will gain a majority.

"If we have another minority government, the election will be just a waste of a pile of money," retiree Gordon Breckon said. "All those politicians put a little money in their pockets, but these guys got caught. I don't know if the election will change things at all."

Breckon takes the Conservative position on many issues, but also fears that the party might privatize health care.

"Our health system has its faults, but at least you don't leave someone out on the streets," he said. "It doesn't turn anyone away."

There's also some sentiment that the local Conservative representative Vic Toews would earn a powerful minister position if his party came to power.
The election campaign has lasted less than two months. But that's too long for

"I'm sick of it," he said. "They all promise that they're going to cut our taxes and also give us more money and services. I didn't go to high school, but I can figure that out."

Winning votes
Campaign developments, polls and political advertising have been the buzz of coffee hour for weeks, but absent are arguments over who should win.
"We don't wear our politics on our sleeves like in the United States," Rae said.
There's one sure way to win votes in Emerson and many other border cities. Any candidate who could guarantee easier border crossing would be popular. The difficulty of crossing into the United States is a major irritation to residents here. So is the closing of the Noyes, Minn., border to southern traffic, an act that has damaged the local economy.

"With the traditional open border, our economics and culture intermingled so much, it was like an imaginary line," Rae said. "Since 9-11, there's a gate to go through to visit our brothers and sisters in the United States.
"Freedom has been taken away. It's hard to live with, on both sides of the border."

Copyright 2006 Knight Ridder
All Rights Reserved


Anonymous Colorado Health Insurance said...

Great blog I hope we can work to build a better health care system as we are in a major crisis and health insurance is a major aspect to many.

Thu Jan 26, 02:01:00 AM CST  

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