Canadian Election 2015

Anyone who knows me knows that I always make a list of observations prior to the Canadian election. Since I no longer live in Canada (but can still vote, because I had to maintain residency during my PHD so the new 5 year rule does not apply), I have been a bit disconnected to the happenings in the run-up to the election. Much of this has been deliberate – the actions of the federal government during the past five years has not been exactly friendly to science (especially climate scientists). I need to mail in the ballot soon, so time to start thinking.

Perhaps I will tell the tale of how I decided to leave Canada. It was in 2009. I was living in Sudbury working for a mining company. Due to the 2008 financial crisis, the company was shutting everything down, which included the sudden axing of the budget for the R&D division that I was part of. The government had made it a condition of the purchase of the company that there would be no layoffs for a few years, but as a contractor, that didn’t apply to me. At that time, I was a member of the Green Party, and was having a great chat with other members at the pub during a visit by deputy leader Adriane Carr. With my employment at an end, they encouraged me to do a PHD, and I decided it should be Australia. Why Australia? I really felt that there was going to be limited opportunities in the geosciences as long as the Conservatives were in power, and I also desired to see the world from a new perspective.

Since that time, my prediction has pretty much come true. The mining and oil industries in Canada have diminished by low prices, so staying out of the private sector has proven to be a good decision. Research geoscience has been hit by a very deliberate attack by the federal government. They tried very hard to shut down Experimental Lakes. They muzzled scientists who reported on the ozone hole in the Arctic. They shut down high Arctic climate monitoring stations, which measure data that is used by scientists all around the world. They have shut down many libraries with little to no warning, scrapping information that is likely not archived in a digital format. The Canadian ice core archive was threatened with “changing priorities”. More importantly for a research scientist such as myself, base funding has been slashed, and re-prioritized to focus on commercial application. I probably don’t need to tell anyone that climate science doesn’t really have commercial application, and if the government doesn’t fund it, how does it get done?

Needless to say, in this election, I will not be supporting the Conservatives. however, neither the NDP nor the Liberal Party has really captured the imagination of the public, and things are currently in a three way tie. The “anything but Conservative” vote is equally split between them. In previous elections I would say “well if you vote for a party that doesn’t win, they still get a subsidy based on your vote”, but the Conservatives got rid of that. This, along with the longest campaign in history, is designed to benefit the Conservatives by draining smaller parties’ coffers.

My problem with the NDP is that under the leadership of Thomas Mulcair, they have shifted to a populist, almost autocratic style that is pretty similar to the Conservatives. Although I will fully admit that they are unlikely to run things as badly as the current government, I think that they will continue the erosion of democratic accountability. He is basically the Tony Blair of the NDP, and I bet if he wins he will run things in a way that will eventually alienate their core support.

The Liberal Party, run by Justin Trudeau seems to be running a campaign that incorporates their high profile candidates. But let’s face it, the focus of the media and other parties is solely on Trudeau. After being depleted to less than 40 MPs after the last election, there isn’t a lot of old blood left in this party. After they supported bill C-51 earlier this year, I kind of soured to the Liberals. It was cowardly how they decided to vote on that, based on the view that the Conservatives would attack them on being weak on national defense. As an observer, this is ridiculous, because there is no party that is more cowardly when challenged than the Conservatives. A good publicity campaign, like what the NDP did, and opposition could turn to a positive. All this said, after nearly a month and a half of campaigning, they may be the most palatable option of the three main parties.

I vote in the rural Manitoba riding of Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa. Although I have voted for the Green Party in the past, they have no profile in this riding, and without the per-vote subsidy there is no incentive to make this vote. Not to mention that leader Elizabeth May has made some big blunders, for instance giving a drunken shout out to Omar Khadr at the press gallery dinner that make me wonder about the seriousness of their organization. One wild card is former Reform/Canadian Alliance/PC/Conservative MP, Inky Mark (he got around) is running as an Independent. Judging by his Twitter feed, he is running purely out of spite. It is pretty notable that his profile picture shows him with Joe Clark. Right now, the polls in Manitoba seem to indicate that the NDP are way behind the Liberals and Conservatives, so I think that rules them out as a factor. I still am going to mull over this for a few days, but I think I am leaning towards the Liberals, or making a vote to Inky Mark.