The by-election that never was

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Federal byelections are a time of great mystery for the unwashed masses. Concepts like democracy and fairness become hazy and confusing, concubines and hustlers emerge from the menacing darkness and elect Stephen Harper in the Bermuda Triangle of Calgary Southwest.

It's a strange and trying time for those with intellect because the undeniable truths of the election sting regardless of political affiliation. Sometimes, it's hard to do anything but wince and smile.

The aftermath has the Liberals losing sleep over their shameful performance in the East. They were beaten like dogs and predictably retreated to "poli-speak" immediately after the carnage. Big bad Jean may have downplayed the flogging, but it was a flogging nevertheless.

However, the follies of the federal Liberals aren't that important. All the by-election did was reinforce that democracy is a strange bedfellow and that sometimes, the end result is not what's expected at all. The problem is that amidst all the hooting and hollering, the big story of the election is ignored. Once again, a hand grenade was thrown square at the crotch of democracy and this time, it was right here in our very own tobacco-stained backyard.

Harper was elected in Calgary Southwest.

So? What's wrong with Harper's election as Member of Parliament? Nothing on the surface. There's no doubt the fiscally conservative neighbourhoods of suburban Calgary want Harper as their representative. Calgary has long been a Reform/Alliance stronghold and for good reason. The rich elect those who will keep them rich, and Harper and the Alliance certainly fit the bill.

No one should complain about the end result. The good people of Calgary Southwest got what they wanted and will benefit accordingly.

The process, however, was a sham. Not only did Harper piss on the electorate by skipping candidate debates, the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives added their urine to the pot by allowing him to run uncontested. Neither of the other major parties in the federal arena ran candidates against Harper-a common practice in Canadian politics. The NDP ran a candidate, but an NDP candidate has about the same chance of winning Calgary Southwest as a tattooed chimp. The NDP offered voters a chance to protest and over 20 per cent of the 35 per cent of eligible voters did. Whoopee.

This entire picture is very skewed. The end result of the by-election was what democracy is all about, but the process clearly was not. Democracy is not a concept where the ends should justify the means and in this case, it is being treated as such.

Harper missed debates. He did not show any respect for his fellow candidates and he did not show respect for the electorate. The worst that could have happened is ridicule from an NDP-friendly crowd and Harper would still have won convincingly at the ballot box. He didn't even do that. So much for the grassroots image.

The Tories and the Liberals are just as bad. They didn't even give him a race. If they didn't run out of respect for a party leader, they are forgetting about the constituents. If they didn't run because they saw it as a fruitless endeavor, they might as well give up on democracy all together. With that logic, we could declare Jean Chr├ętien King. Why not? We just declared Stephen Harper an MP.