06 April 2011


Neutrality can be a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it allows you to avoid making choices and to stay on good, or at least neutral, terms with everyone. A curse because it prevents you from taking a firm stand, speaking your mind and picking favorites. The Swiss have long been masters in neutrality.

The upcoming election in the Great White North makes neutrality easy. Canadian citizens will have the unenviable choice of four national parties, with a good number of Québecois ritually plumping for their additional option of the Bloc Québecois. As a newcomer to the country, I was of course curious to see what the parties stand for, and which one would be most worthy were I to wield a vote. The proper, scientific way to assess this would be via the CBC's excellent Vote Compass. Much more fun, however, is to simply listen to the candiates' stump speeches: Although they all agree on Canada's need to get rid of its $40.5bn deficit, none of them feels much inhibition to pander to their special interests. Do you care for fighter jets? Home renovation credits? Unemployment insurance? Organic farming? Or simply more cash and less strings for la belle province? No problemo, there's a party for you!

Ascertaining that plausibility is optional, the alternative would be to simply opt for the hottest candidate. Unfortunately, I neither fancy graying men nor women in cowboy hats, and thus am grateful that I am not forced to pick.

Canadians, if nothing else, have plenty of practice in the voting game. With this being the fourth federal poll the country endures in seven years, Canucks make even the Swiss look lazy. Yet such are the perils of a British-inspired system of variable parliamentary terms. Whenever the government looses the confidence of parliament, a fresh election is called. And with the Bloc patently depriving any of the larger parties of a solid majority, confidence remains fickle. Stephen Harper's Conservatives have even managed to be found in comtempt of parliament, a rare achievement that set the stage for the latest election. As a neutral observer, one can only hope that amidst this brouhaha, the classe politique does not eventually find itself in contempt of its people!

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