The Canadian Election: The morning after the night before.
by Tom Thorne, Belleville, 3 May 2011
Conservative majority: four years to find out just how much Canada can polarize and evolve into a left-right two party system. Serious talk about a NDP-Liberal merger is now in the wind.
The big news after the election is of course that Stephen Harper got his big prize. Now he has 167 seat majority government obtained by 39.62 percent of the national popular vote. This happened mainly because of the vote splitting of Liberals and NDP candidates where Conservatives came up the middle yet again. In 2008 Harper got almost 38 percent of the popular vote. Less than two percent more this time yielded this majority because of intense vote splitting. Preston Manning, the former Reform Party leader, made all of the above points last night in Calgary at Stephen Harper’s victory celebration. He seemed pleased with this situation where the will of 60 percent of Canadian voter’s views were swept aside.
Because of this situation the issue of a NDP-Liberal merger has taken on new life and the polarization of Canadian politics is now seriously underway. As Bob Rae discussed his win with CBC last night he left this issue wide open for debate. His role in the new parliament may be interesting since as I write this story Michael Ignatieff just resigned as Liberal leader. This resignation is a sad commentary about how personal attacks has become the norm in Canadian politics and especially the crude relentless three year onslaught from the Harper Conservatives about Ignatieff’s commitment to Canada. Truly tragic.
Majorities can be intoxicating
This new majority situation will force some Liberals with more right wing sentiments to perhaps join the Harper tent. However a more likely scenario is a move by the NDP more to the centre to either sweep up more Liberals the next time around or during the four year life of this parliament. Whatever happens we are gravitating towards a two party system and as that evolution unfolds we are polarizing more distinctly into right and left camps. Both the NDP and Conservatives will be mildly more left and right so they can also attract and retain the the centres of all political persuasions. The closer a party gets to power the more centre is its policy orientation and how it presents itself to the voters.
Harper’s victory speech at almost 1:30 AM in Eastern Canada was quite moderate and reassuring. He said that he would “stand on guard for all regions of the country”. However, who was watching Harper’s victory speech in vote rich Ontario and Quebec at that time of night in Eastern Canada? He said he realizes the trust of the Canadian people have given him. Then almost in the same breath he reviewed his right wing agenda of lower taxes for business, law and order issues, gun registry elimination and management of the economy with minimum government interference and some vague comments about Senate reform.
This grand experiment will go on until 2015 when we will have the next election. It remains an open question of where it all shakes out. For the record here are the main results of yesterday’s election exercise.
Conservatives: 167 seats drawing 39.62 percent of the popular vote. NDP: 102 seats drawing 30.62 percent of the popular vote. 59 of their seats or 58 percent of their members are from Quebec. Liberals: 34 seats drawing 18.91 percent of the popular vote. More on that later. The Bloc Quebecois held onto four seats for 6.05 percent of the popular vote and lost party status in the new parliament. The other news is that Green Party leader Elizabeth May won her seat in British Columbia dumping a Conservative cabinet minister Gary Lunn in the process.
Jack Layton needs to tolerate Quebec nationalists...he doesn’t have to tolerate separatism. He will walk a fine line in a potential political minefield.
Jack Layton is the big winner at least on the surface. The downside of his win is he must now be the voice for Quebec in parliament or watch his support slip away. Since Layton was brought up in Quebec he may very well understand the needs of that province. He should realize that Quebeckers have given him a big trust since his own riding is in the core of Metro Toronto.
Also we need to see who actually makes up the 59 members of Jack Layton’s NDP Quebec caucus. There are a lot of untried people in their ranks so party discipline and steep learning curves could be a problem for the new Leader of the Opposition. It the ball is dropped by the NDP in Quebec we can all look for another rise in soft nationalist and hard core separatism in Quebec. This experiment is crucial for Canadian unity and must not fail.
Stephen Harper could if he is cavalier enough, govern as he sees fit. He will be tempted. We’ve all seen his central control PMO style and how his will must be done. Hopefully he is smart enough to know that Canadians always want to gravitate to the centre despite the party labels they support. He would be wise to govern with a fair, firm and friendly style and realize that other parties in parliament represent 60 percent of Canadians. If he runs roughshod over Canadians and parliament, his government will be held accountable at the next election in 2015. By then the merger of the NDP and Liberals may very well herald his departure.
© Copyright 2011, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved