The Way I See It!
An October Federal Election?
The Challenge to Peace, Labour and the Left
Don Currie – Chair, Canadians for Peace and Socialism
August 27, 2008

Prime Minister Harper is reportedly set to break his own fixed election date requiring the 40th Canadian federal election to take place on October 19th 2009, to cancel the re-convening of the 39th Parliament scheduled to open on September 15th and to call a snap election on or around the third week in October.
Feverish election talk reflects the panic gripping the byzantine world of the Conservative brain trust unable to find a formula to halt stubborn public disapproval of the US-NATO war in Afghanistan, corporate energy profiteering and the loss of hundreds of thousands of manufacturing sector jobs in Ontario and Quebec. Also at play is the anxiety of Harper’s extreme right wing fearful that the US November 4th Presidential election may defeat the Republican amalgam of extremists, religious right and pro-war patriotic zealots that provide such comfort and support to their Canadian counterparts most of whom are Conservatives.
The Conservatives are also uncertain about the outcome of three federal by-elections on September 8th in West Mount Ville Marie and Saint-Lambert, Quebec and Guelph, Ontario. Another by election has been called for September 22nd in Don Valley West, Ontario. The by-elections in Quebec are five-way races between the Conservatives, Liberals, the BLOC, the NDP and Greens. Conservative chances are poor.
Party strategists from all parties are using the Quebec by-elections to test drive their federal election campaign slogans, all as appealing as yesterday’s porridge. The NDP, with distinct positions against the war in Afghanistan and a record of support for the manufacturing sector workers of Quebec and Ontario is muting those positions in favour of its environmental program believing that to be a formula to win seats in Quebec and Guelph.
A visit to the NDP, Green, and Bloc websites show that they are all in agreement to elevate threats to the environment as the main federal election issue and to vigorously mud-wrestle the Conservatives and the Liberals as to which party has the least offensive proposal to make the people pay for programs to combat global warming.
Prime Minister Harper also confronts the down side of the consensus reached between the Liberal and Conservative brain trusts, that the Manley Report provided a safe framework for a sham federal election Lib-Con debate on the war in Afghanistan. The Manley Report removed one of the main obstacles to big business returning its support to the Liberals. The statement of Bob Rae, Liberal foreign affairs critic, that Canada should immediately open an embassy in Georgia and fully support the US-NATO policy of militarily encircling Russia assures the military industrial complex in Canada that the Liberal Party has purged its left-liberal peace wing and now poses no threat to continuing the war as long as its US-NATO strategists deem it to be expedient.
On the eve of his trip to the Arctic, Prime Minister Harper, attempting to deflect criticism that he spends on the military but not the needs of the people of the Arctic abruptly cancelled a $ 2.9-billion plan to purchase three war ships for the Canadian navy and the purchase of 12 mid-shore patrol vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard. The NDP rebuked the PM for reneging on plans for badly needed government maritime safety and rescue and supply ships for the Arctic. Harper didn’t touch arms spending plans for heavy lift aircraft part of the rapid deployment interoperability of the US and Canadian armed forces.
What the NDP could also have pointed out was that under the most recent NORAD agreement the Canadian Government ceded aspects of its sovereignty permitting US armed forces to patrol in waters traditionally the domain of the Canadian coast guard. Further, under NORTHCOM the USA arbitrarily extends its defense zone to the whole of North America including Canada. The US brazenly has sent its vessels through the Northwest Passage without seeking Canadian approval. The five nations with claims to the Arctic, Russia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and the USA have met and the stage is set for a struggle over claims. All five nations have said they will abide by the 1982 UN convention on the law of the sea, which determines territorial claims according to coastlines and undersea continental shelves. A UN panel is due to decide on control of the Arctic by 2020. Prime Minister Harper’s talk of sovereignty in the Arctic is suspect in light of deciding not purchase coast guard vessels. Canada may have been assigned a different role, to build permanent military bases on its territory with the backing of US energy interests and their Canadian partners to strengthen US Canadian claims to arctic oil and gas.
The Government’s Canada First Defense Strategy (CFDS) meekly accepts the role assigned to the Canadian military of adjusting all of its strategic planning including the purchases of Canadian military hardware to be interoperable with the US armed forces. An expanded Canadian navy does not fit that plan. Permanent military bases in the Arctic do.
Harper’s talk of Canadian sovereignty is a hoax. The Prime Minister went to the Arctic to assess problems that might confront joint Canadian-US energy giants and their plans to seize the lion’s share of oil resources of the Arctic for themselves.
All of these complicated and intersecting issues are not propitious for a 2009 federal election. The next year will be a year of economic and political volatility and instability with sharpened peace and labour struggles. Harper and the Manley/Rae/Ignatieff tag team have reached consensus that it is better to stage a federal election now while there is still time to exclude the people from the discussion of the real issues.
What is unacceptable is that the top leadership of organized labour is letting them get away with it. The Harper Conservatives’ response to the peace movement and organized labour is contempt. The opportunity to have challenged the big business agenda with a labour and peace agenda was at the Canadian Congress of Labour Convention. It didn’t happen. The election may be upon us and labour and the peace movement is not prepared.
There is no option for labour and peace activists confronting a snap election other than to mobilize forces and get into the fight. That struggle starts with calling for the defeat of the Harper Conservatives, a repudiation of the Manley/Rae/Ignatief sell-out and a call to the NDP to stiffen its positions on the war on Afghanistan and the economy.
The opportunity to defeat Harper was 2006. It didn’t happen because there was a widespread mistaken belief on the “left” that he couldn’t be elected. That was a mistake. The same mistake must not be repeated.
Only the election of a majority of anti-Conservatives forces to Parliament can prevent a return to power of the reactionary neo-con right. The defeat of Harper comes first. After that other more progressive outcomes are possible. In each constituency there is the possibility to unite the anti-Harper vote. That possibility must be explored and discussed. The response of each and every left activist, peace activist, and consistent democrat, to the call for electoral unity to defeat the right will be the real measure of the relative strength of labour and the right wing. Regardless of the outcome of the election, taking that measure is critical to our understanding of the struggles ahead.