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Canadian Elections

Canada's national elections are today. The Economist has this to say:

Six months ago... Paul Martin seemed to be stepping into an enviable inheritance. Under the Liberals' stewardship since 1993, Canada's economy was transformed from a debt- and deficit-ridden disaster to one of the best performers in the rich world. [Former Prime Minister Jean] Chrétien had seemingly buried, if not quite killed, the threat of secession by French-speaking Quebec. The Liberal embrace of immigration, cultural diversity and bold reforms such as gay marriage seemed to speak of a tolerant and self-confident country. This newspaper was much impressed by Canada's mix of tough-minded economic management and social liberalism. Last year we ventured to suggest that Canada might be "rather cool". So thought many Canadians: in December, polls gave the Liberals almost 50% against a fragmented opposition...

[T]he voters now look unlikely to give [Martin] a mandate worth having. The probable outcome of the general election due on June 28th seems to be a weak and maybe short-lived minority government...

So why are the voters so unimpressed with Mr Martin and the Liberals? Mainly because of a widespread sense that after 11 years they have been in power too long. That was crystallised by a corruption scandal in Quebec, which will cost many votes there. But the Liberals are also wounded by the power struggle between Mr Chrétien and Mr Martin. Instead of running on his record as finance minister, Mr Martin chose to pretend that he was heading a wholly new government.

The trouble is, his brief tenure as prime minister has been singularly ineffective. His advisers have been good at only one thing: knifing their fellow-Liberal rivals in the back -- and even then Mr Chrétien did it better... Otherwise, Mr Martin has been a bumbling and hesitant chief executive, trying to placate all voters. During the campaign, he has often seemed tired...

Though Canada will not fall apart under a minority government, it might not progress much either, and the public finances could be weakened. If the Liberals do squeak back it will be by default, as Canada's only national party. That should be a warning. If he does win, Mr Martin needs to forget about his differences with Mr Chrétien, and focus on the needs of Canadians: more efficient Medicare, a serious defence policy and fixing provincial finance. Otherwise, a Liberal defeat may only have been postponed.

Let's see here:

  • A left-of-center government in power for many years
  • A long period of sustained economic growth
  • Consistent federal budget surpluses
  • No engagement in serious international conflicts
  • A generally content populace
  • A former second-in-command trying to distance himself from the former leader
Now what does this remind me of?

To my Canadian friends, for what it's worth, we in the US have gone down this path. We threw the Democrats out of the White House after a spectacular eight-year run. The results have not exactly been what we were promised -- "compassionate conservatism" and a "humble" foreign policy. And we've had four years of poor economic performance and budget deficits going into the stratosphere. I hope you think carefully about what you're doing. I rather like Canada the way it is.

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