O Canada

May 3, 2011

Yesterday, America’s most important ally and trading partner had an historic election which rocked the foundations of that nation’s politics and has huge implications for the western hemisphere, the United States in general and Michigan in particular.

You would not, however, know anything about that from most of the mainstream media. National Public Radio has covered the Canadian National Election, far better than most, but I don’t even think they have paid enough attention to the story.

Most of the rest of the media, especially in Michigan, largely continues to be consumed with the aftermath of our government’s assassination yesterday of the supreme Al-Qaeda leader.

Yes, Osama bin Laden is still dead, and I don’t mean to minimize the implications of that story, or its continuing repercussions. But we knew about that yesterday.

What’s new is what happened in Canada. The most immediate implication for Michigan is this. For months, the Ambassador Bridge Company, owned by one Matty Moroun, has been waging an intense and largely false and misleading propaganda campaign trying to stop a needed new international Detroit River bridge from being built.

Canada wants this bridge so much they have been willing to defray Michigan’s share of the costs, up to $550 million dollars.

But Mickey Blashfield, a lobbyist for Matty Moroun, has been telling Michigan legislators not to support the bridge because that money was in jeopardy. He claimed the deal would likely be off, and Michigan would be left holding the bag, if yesterday’s election produced a new Canadian government.

Well, they’ll have to abandon that line. Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, the architects of the bridge deal, now have a solid majority in Ottawa, which means there won‘t be another election for at least four years. Incidentally, all indications are that the other major parties would have kept the bridge deal in place too.

But why let a few facts get in the way of a good propaganda campaign.

Yesterday’s election produced two other surprising results that have implications for all of us. For years, Washington has been concerned about the possibility of Quebec seceding from the rest of Canada. For years, the French-speaking province has flirted with secession, which would have had dramatic, if not cataclysmic, social and economic consequences for the entire hemisphere. Throughout this time, most of Quebec has been represented in Parliament by the separatist Parti Quebecois. Yesterday, the PQ was annihilated, falling from 49 seats to four.

And in perhaps the most shocking development, the Liberals, the party that has governed Canada for most of its history, were also virtually destroyed last night, coming in a very bad third.

Finishing a strong second was the socialist, labor-oriented New Democratic Party, now the official opposition. This would seem to indicate that sharp ideological polarization seems to be replacing Canada’s traditionally somewhat sedate, consensus-seeking politics.

This could have enormous implications for trade and other border issues. But you’d never guess that from today’s Detroit papers, one of which has a front-page story by one of their sportswriters telling us what he thinks of Osama being dead.

Newspapers today are trying to figure out why they are doing so badly. Noticing that they have often ceased to be meaningful useful or relevant might be a good place to start.