In the midst of the world economic crisis, Canadians are going to the polls, for the third federal election, in four years.
The election, due to take place on 14 October, was called by the Conservative minority government, who were hoping - in vain - of getting re-elected before the reality of the economic crisis was to hit.
The federal government was forced to carry out a C$25 billion takeover of bank-held mortgages due to the growing credit crunch faced by the country’s financial institutions. Given tomorrow’s election, and the growing anger of mood of many Canadians, Stephen Harper, Conservative leader, claimed “This is not a bailout…the issue here is not protecting the banks”.
The economic crisis has left many Canadians looking for a concrete answer and alternative to the disaster of capitalism. Yet there is no real alternative being offered - as all of the main parties are trying to offer a solution within the limits of capitalism, and, therefore, cannot provide an answer to the problem which is inherent to the profit-system.
During the election campaign, Conservative Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, further alienated himself among many working class people. Near the beginning of the campaign, Harper announced proposals which would see young people, from 14 years old, who are convicted of serious crimes, receive longer prison sentences and for those to be served in adult prisons. Many have come out in anger at this as it does not address or solving the causes of youth crime.
Continued policies of privatisation, cut-backs, and tax subsidies to big business have angered many people who are losing jobs and struggling with the rising costs of living. The effects of the economic crisis are felt daily. In the month of July, 55,000 jobs were lost in Canada - the largest monthly loss in 17 years. In particular, manufacturing and forestry industries have taken heavy blows and the communities reliant on these jobs are facing rising unemployment and poverty.
Despite this, according to polls, the conservative government is still in the lead, ahead of the Liberals. This does not, however, translate as huge support for the Conservatives Canada-wide - it is more a sign of the weaknesses and lack of big policy differences between the main parties of big business.
The majority of the rest of the vote will go to the Liberals, the social democratic, NDP (New Democratic Party), the Bloc Québécois (Quebec separatist party), and the Green Party. The Liberal leader, Stephan Dion, has tried to come across as more representative of ‘ordinary’ people and taking into consideration the environment, with talk of implementing a carbon tax, Yet, Liberal policies are doing very little to convince working class and young people that they would make that much of a difference from the ruling Conservatives.
The NDP and its’ leader, Jack Layton, uses fighting talk against privatisation, job losses and environment destruction and calls for the immediate withdrawal of Canadian troops out of Afghanistan. Taking a stand on these issues and others, that are aired on mainstream media, are a change to what the other main parties put forward; but the NDP does not go anywhere near far enough on most issues. It falls well short of building a viable national alternative to the main parties. The NDP, founded in 1961, historically helped win some important reforms, and still support among working class people in many areas, but the NDP does not offer an alternative to capitalism.
Other important issues play a prominent part in elections in Canada, including the national question in Quebec and also the question of land rights and the discrimination of the First Nation peoples. These issues play an important role in many constituencies. Within the confinement of capitalism - where profit before people, always holds true - trying to find any lasting solution to these questions is impossible.
Working class people in Canada, together with working class people worldwide, are worried and are facing a very uncertain future under capitalism. Losing jobs, homes and not being able to meet the basic costs of living, due to the financial instability of the capitalist system, is causing many more people to question the system we live under.
Whatever the outcome of this election, it is clear that a huge vacuum exists in Canada for a new mass workers’ party, which is built by and for working class people throughout Canada and Quebec. There is an urgent need for a socialist society, where people are put before profit, to replace the boom-and-bust economic cycle that leaves billions living in poverty and war world-wide.