GUESS what North American country is having an important election on Oct. 14?
No, Americans haven t rebelled at their seemingly interminable presidential election campaign and moved the date back by three weeks to get it over with. It s Canada, our favorite trading partner, onetime-long-ago foe and now longtime closest ally.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper spotted what he sees as an opportunity to strengthen his Conservative Party s political position and took advantage of Canada s parliamentary system to call what will be the country s third national election in four years.
As assets, Mr. Harper sees his current political popularity and the practice of the various opposition parties of blocking action in the parliament on legislation that he feels Canada needs.
This fast move may not work. One problem is that some Canadians may prove to be unresponsive to a new call to live politics. Apart from their possible exasperation at being asked to pay attention one more time, there is also the fact that, for better or for worse, many Canadians are currently distracted by the presidential election campaign under way in the United States. The poor devils see more of our television than they might like to, apart from the undoubtedly compelling drama of the American campaign. Does, for example, the stirring image of lipstick on a pit bull translate into Canadian?
Underlying the current issues facing Canadians in the campaign is the perennial English-French-speaking fissure. As in the United States, the state of the economy and its implications for the lives of ordinary people, will be the primary issue. Environmental questions are also considered important by Canadians. The attitude of competing leaders toward various U.S.-sponsored enterprises, such as the Canadian troops currently in Afghanistan, will be an issue. So far, nearly a hundred Canadians have died there.
Another basic Canadian-U.S. issue is Canada s claim that the Northwest Passage, now opening to more sea traffic as more of the polar ice cap melts, is Canadian water. The United States maintains that it is international.
In any case, the Canadian elections should be interesting. Developments in Canada, and U.S. relations with the big neighbor to the north are important to Americans.
It will be educational to follow their blessedly short five-week campaign and the discussion that will accompany it and see who wins.