Barnburner Up North

A Bloomberg Politics piece by Nicole Gaoette about the imterplay between Obama’s decision on the XL Keystone Pipeline and the Canadian national elections served as a reminder that something of a three-party barnburner is underway north of our border.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper officially filed for a national election on August 2, with the vote to be held on October 19. That’s this October 19, mirabile dictu. Yet this will be the longest official election campaign in Canadian history.

Harper’s Conservative Party (a.k.a. Tories) has the advantage and disadvantage of a universally known Leader. The left-labor New Democratic Party’s Tom Mulcair became Leader on the death of the very popular Jack Layton, which occurred shortly after the last elections in 2011. The centrist Liberals elected a little-known Leader with a very famous name in Justin Trudeau, son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, in 2013.

The Tories won a narrow majority in 2011, after forming minority governments in 2008 and 2006. The big development in 2011 other than Harper’s third victory was the displacement of the Liberals by the NDP as the second-largest and thus the Official Opposition Party. Early polls this year typically show the NDP with a narrow lead over the Tories, but with Liberals doing better than in the recent past. Harper is running a classic U.S.-style conservative campaign focused on avoiding tax increases, fighting terrorism, resisting social change as much as possible, and aggressively exploiting fossil fuel resources (hence a heavy emphasis on Keystone XL). Both left-of-Tory parties are, of course, demanding change after nearly a decade of Harper at the helm.

I plan to start paying attention now and then to the Canadian elections, partly because we have some readers Up North and partly because, well, it’s fun and so rational and efficient compared to U.S. elections. Might as well focus on something that will be resolved by October other than who’s buying the most ads in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.