Here's my assessment of the Canadian political scene, now that the Government has lost the confidence of Parliament.
Before stating my opinion of each party I will first state that am an environmental conservative, meaning that I want to conserve the planet for my descendents. I am also a social liberal, meaning that I believe in progressive public policy that is evidence-based rather than based on dogma or faith. I am also a fiscal conservative, meaning I believe in keeping a balanced budget and letting free trade and free enterprise work where these do not conflict with my environmental or social values (which is in the majority of cases).
The Conservatives: I once was a member of the Progressive Conservative party, when they were developing the Free Trade agreement and the GST, both sensible public policy measures. However they long ago lost my support.
The Conservatives have done a few reasonable things in their years of running a minority government. They have, for example, worked with the provinces to bring in the HST, a sensible tax regime that will boost competitiveness and save small business money. Their recent budget had some sensible measures and the economic stimulus plan was quite well run.
However their social-conservative side tends to trump their fiscal-conservative side. Their 'tough on crime' agenda is just atrocious; spending more money on keeping prisoners in jail longer will not make us any safer. The money would be better saved, or else spent on social measures that would lead to less criminality to start with.
Even worse is their environmentally-profligate side: I am simply ashamed when I see how Canada is now looked down on internationally for its behaviour in such forums as the Copenhagen negotiations.
Thirdly, the Conservatives lack intellectual depth (which is reflected in the last two points). They pander to populism, reinforcing intellectually unsupportable ideas in the minds of Canadians. This is one reason why Stephen Harper has to retain such strong control -- he dare not let his caucus members speak for themselves.
Fourthly, the Conservatives have not had respect for parliamentary democracy. They have not respected the fact that most Canadians voted against them. Their populist-pandering putdown of the idea of a coalition is just nonsense. They should have tried to strike an agreement with some other party or parties to try to negotiate policies acceptable to all.
Finally, the Conservatives, just like any party that has been in power for a while, has lost its moral compass. They came in on a platform of accountability, but lack of accountability and scandal are now as bad as in any recent government. It is time for a change.
The Liberals: I think the Chretien Government and Paul Martin did a good job cutting the deficit and bringing in many other progressive policies. Michael Ignatieff has inherited a party with a lot of good thinkers. The single thing that brought the former Liberal government down, the 'Sponsorship Scandal' is actually a really 'small deal' when compared with the bigger issues that confront us.
Unfortunately, while in opposition the Liberals have fallen down on both leadership and the environment. They have supported the Conservatives over and over simply to avoid an election. They needed to be tougher and place a line in the sand. It is the Conservatives who have said "Canadians don't want an election". The Liberals have fallen for this hook, line and sinker, making it a self-fulfilling prophecy. Regarding the environment, the fact that the Liberals backed off on the carbon tax is unfortunate. Stéphane Dion had a lot of policies that were evidence-based and sensible.
The NDP: This is the only party that I have never supported, primarily because they naively and excessively play down free enterprise and free trade. Jack Layton is, however, the most charismatic leader.
The Greens: I joined the Green Party several years ago since their mix of environmental conservatism, fiscal conservatism and social progressivism matches my own values. I support most of what they stand for, with the exception of their resolute opposition to nuclear power. Regardless of the unfortunate situation in Japan, it is clear that without nuclear energy over the last 50 years, our environmental predicament would be far worse.
The Greens have no hope of gaining power any time soon, so given my opposition to the Conservatives, some would suggest I am wasting my vote. However I think everybody should vote according to the conscience, rather than simply and strategically 'against' the party they most oppose. Historically it is the rise of smaller parties that has galvanized change, such as the introduction of Medicare. Parliamentary democracy has mechanisms, such as votes of non-confidence, coalitions, etc. to deal with the inevitable fact that hardly any party ever gets more than 50% support at the polls.
My prediction for the election is that the Conservatives will get the most votes as in recent elections, but not enough for a majority. I hope that following the election, the Liberals, NDP and Greens will have the courage to defeat the Conservatives and form a coalition, simply so that the policies of a different subset of Canadians can perhaps be implemented.