Thomas Walkom in an exploratory walk with Mark Holland around the riding of Ajax-Pickering east of Toronto found "an electorate that remains suspicious of Ignatieff, unenthusiastic about the May 2 federal election, yet wary of Harper." Rick Alexander, the Harperite candidate, had invited him to travel around the riding, but --wait for it, surprise surprise -- the Harper regime vetoed that idea. Ajax-Pickering, a suburban riding of Tronna, is quite different from my own rural riding outside Ottawa, but the flavour of the responses are not radically different from what's I've encountered.
Here, over the last few days, as I mentioned yesterday, I've seen a slight rise in support for opposition parties reflecting somewhat a wariness about Harper and the behaviour of the regime in general. But I've also seen widespread suspicions about Ignatieff despite a quality local Liberal candidate, an intelligent women with a marvelous political background. And although I'm for anyone but Harper in essence, I actually share those suspicions to some extent, principally because he was anointed the leader of the LPC undemocratically by a Liberal cabal -- a sort of laying on of hands --who placed politics before principle with its own members by not allowing them to vote. What's that old cliché? Oh yeah, one should practice what one preaches or one's credibility is undermined. This is also a party hard to support, in my mind, for its swift co-operative support for both the Lybian UN initiative without extensive discussion in Parliament and, of course for the Afghan war, which has led to so many deaths. Their tempered support for the Tar Sands is equally disturbing, and the absence of a strong privileging position on the environment and, in particular, on their failure to recognize the urgency for CO2 reductions take them off the table as an option for me.
I've also seen the lack of enthusiasm for another federal election from many of my neighbours,too, one or two of whom are angry at Jack Layton for not compromising with Harper on the budget. Yeah, right: let's chastise the opposition for placing principle before political expediency, though one could argue that there is a political subtext for all three opposition parties in their defeat of the Harper government on a nonconfidence vote of contempt of parliament, a historical decision no one seems to be discussing at all in the campaign. Go figure: the very reason for having an election is merely an excuse, an occasion, an alibi to get out there and campaign on other issues that might win the electorate over. Even so, my answer: we may not have wanted an election, but we sure as hell need one.
What I haven't seen is an ounce of movement away from Harper's base. Any gains for the opposition have come from the undecided. Although that opposition is active here, it is small compared to the Harperite base. The riding remains hopelessly a small and big C riding, characteristic of so many rural ridings in Eastern Ontario, filled with apathetic, indifferent potential voters who have, through that political failing, in effect allowed the active base of the Harperites to succeed. The challenge here is not unlike the challenge across Canada: How do we get people, young and old, energized and politically active? As Elizabeth May has said, "The problem in Canada is not vote splitting, it is vote abandoning."