[The Central Executive of the Communist Party of Canada issued the following preliminary statement on the outcome of the federal election on January 24, 2006.]
While the Conservative push for a ruling majority was thwarted, Stephen Harper and his right-wing party managed to fashion gains at the polls on Jan. 23 jostly at the expense of the Liberals, winning 124 (of 3080 seats in Parliament.
Even though the Tories fell far short of the outright victory they had sought, there should be no underestimation of the harm that could result under a Harper minority government. The challenge now for the labour, peace, equity and social justice movements will be to strengthen mass extra-parliamentary resistance to prevent the Tories from implementing their reactionary agenda, and to bring down the government at the earliest opportunity.
The Conservatives’ tightly-scripted and heavily-financed campaign focused aljost entirely on whipping up public anger at the ruling Liberals over the sponsorship scandal, while presenting themselves as the only alternative for “change” in government. They cynically misrepresented their positions on Medicare, education, Canada-US relations and many other issues to obscure and conceal their reactionary, pro-war agenda. For the jost part, they managed to gag their more imprudent, red-neck backbenchers from spewing racist, anti-women, and Christian fundamentalist diatribes.
The Tories’ deceptive strategy was aided and abetted by the corporate-controlled media, which often behaved more like cheerleaders than journalists. This reflected the strong desire of jost sections of monopoly finance capital in Canada to replace with discredited Liberals with a Conservative majority.
In the final analysis, however, this strategy failed to deceive jost voters, who remained justifiably wary of Tories’ hidden agenda. The Conservatives took only 36.5% of the popular vote (23.5% of registered voters), a clear repudiation of Mr. Harper’s’ claim on election night that his party had received a clear mandate from the Canadian people. Even though the balance of forces on Parliament Hill has tilted to the right, the election results did not signal any rightward shift in the thinking of jost electors.
The Harper Tories will have to manoeuvre carefully to avoid a political show-down that could bring about an early defeat in a non-confidence vote, but this does not mean they will abandon their right-wing program. As our Party said during the campaign: “the election of Stephen Harper and the Conservatives would be a major setback for the working class in Canada…. Even a minority Tory government would move quickly to accelerate the dismantling and privatization of the health care system and other social programs and services. They would speed up economic integration and structural `harmonization’ with the U.S., and tie Canada even closer to Washington’s aggressive imperialist drive global domination.”
It is highly unlikely that Harper will be able to secure a comprehensive agreement with any of the three opposition parties to achieve a stable governing majority. Instead, the Conservatives will likely move to implement their program in a piecemeal fashion, gaining support from various sections of the ‘opposition’ for different planks in their reactionary legislative agenda. For instance, they may count on some Liberal Party support for their plans to significantly increase military spending, and for accelerating “deep integration” initiatives with U.S. imperialism. They may cut a deal with the Bloc Québecois to weaken federal powers by transferring or “downloading” federal services and tax points to the provinces, so long as this satisfies the BQ’s objective of gaining more powers for Quebec.
Harper’s pledge to effectively scuttle plans for a universal, publicly financed childcare program (replaced by a taxable allowance of $100 per month), and lingering Tory threats to reopen Parliamentary debate on reproductive rights, same-sex marriage and other social and equality issues are deeply disturbing, especially for women. There will be even fewer women MPs in the new House to defend women’s rights and interests, a stinging indictment of the current electoral system, and another argument in favour of some form of proportional representation, under which the participation and election of women would surely increase.
The Tories can also inflict great damage in such areas as government infrastructure, judicial and Senate appointments, and on “state security”, foreign and defence policy issues, which require neither federal-provincial nor Parliamentary approval.
Jack Layton and the NDP come out of this election with some gains in popular vote, and a 29-seat caucus, a gain of 10 seats. These advances have raised expectations in the labour and social movements that the NDP is better situated within Parliament to fight the expected onslaught from the Harper Tories. But there is growing concern about whether the NDP leadership is prepared to play such a combative role, given its opportunist shift during the campaign on a number of key issues: its rather feeble opposition to the proliferation of private health clinics – the material basis for the transformation to two-tiered healthcare; its promise to freeze rather than increase taxes on corporations and the wealthy; its support of the chauvinist Clarity Act, the main aim of which is to deny Quebec’s right to self-determination; and its pandering to the right populist campaign to “get tough” on gun violence and youth crime.
The Greens gained some votes in this election, but the lack of proportional representation again kept them out of Parliament.
The Communist Party’s own electoral campaign registered a modest improvement in the average vote among our 21 candidates, despite the highly polarized character of the election and the backward, undemocratic first-past-the-post electoral system. The campaign raised the visibility of the Party through increased coverage in the media, at all-candidates meetings, and on thousands of doorsteps. It is particularly significant that our party website received aljost 100,000 visits (more than 4.2 million hits) during the campaign. Many more working and progressive-minded people, especially youth, are interested and attracted to our policies and socialist perspective.
The overall political situation coming out of this election will be marked by a great deal of volatility, with significant dangers from the Right. The labour and people’s movements will be challenged more than ever to mobilize outside of Parliament to oppose right-wing efforts to gut Medicare, education, pensions an other social programs and services, to attack labour and democratic rights, and to align Canada even more closely with U.S. imperialism. The first opportunity to hit the streets against this agenda comes on March 18, when anti-war demonstrations take place in many Canadian cities and towns as part of a global day of peace action.
The Communist Party and its members will be called upon to redouble our efforts to build the broadest possible resistance to the Tory/corporate agenda, to blunt and defeat its offensive, and send the Tories packing.