I intentionally avoided opening my Facebook profile this morning, because I knew what it would contain. When finally gave up and logged in, I was not disappointed.
Several friends were talking about leaving Canada (reminiscent of 2004, when Bush defeated Kerry in the US), others spoke of vote-splitting and proportional representation. Among my predominately left-of-centre group of friends, only one was cheering.
While I’m personally not happy with last night’s results, I don’t think they necessarily spell doom for left-leaning Canadians; furthermore I think we’re in for an interesting five years.
In a way, these next five years will probably be most difficult for Stephen Harper and his conservatives. Yes a Conservative majority means that we’re going to have to swallow fighter jets, mega prisons, a nutered census and unregulated development of the Oilsands, but Stephen Harper won’t let his party be anything but moderate when it comes to social issues, and that is going to make a lot of people expecting a Republican-style Conservative party very angry.
For five years Harper has been able to dismiss those calling for things like anti-abortion legislation and a return to “traditional” marriage, saying that his party’s minority status meant that they had to play nice with the other parties. Now that he has a majority in the House of Commons, the “minority” excuse will no longer fly, and the extremists are going to want to see the legislation they have been waiting for.
But Harper knows that his party’s success — in the east at least — is based on their moderate stance, and any moves to satisfy the right-wing elements of his party would alienate Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada.
In short, Harper now finds himself between a rock and a hard place.
The NDP, in my estimation, were the real winners of this election.
In seven years they have evolved from a quirky fringe party to the official opposition, with a not-insignificant 102 seats in the House of Commons — or 65 more than they won in the 2008 Federal Election.
The rub however — as pointed out in an editorial on CBC.ca — is that the NDP were more powerful with 37 seats in a Conservative minority government than they could ever be as the official opposition in a Harper Majority. Still, this is a chance for the NDP to prove that they have the maturity and infrastructure to be a ruling party some day.
The Liberals may seem like the biggest losers in this election, but I would argue that they have been losing since 2004 when Paul Martin failed to secure a Liberal majority, and this is just the final insult.
For the Grit to survive (and not be absorbed by the NDP) their 34 MPs need to sit down and figure out what made them the “natural ruling party of Canada,” and try to get back to that place. My recommendation would be to try something different.
With the Conservatives occupying the centre-right, and the NDP evolving into the centre-left the Liberals have been left without a home. They need some young and vibrant leadership to reinvigorate their party, and hopefully a historic defeat will be the drive they need to succeed.
Unfortunately past actions are the best indicator of future performance, which means that Michael Ignatieff’s replacement will probably be another person who does not seem to be able to identify with average Canadians. In other words, Justin Trudeau shouldn’t get his hopes up.
By my estimation, the big losers in this election are the Bloc and the Greens.
The Bloc is obvious, losing their official party status and their leader all in one night at the hands of the NDP. The Greens’ loss is less obvious, but no-less important.
While the Greens can celebrate winning their first seat in the history of their party, Elizabeth May, the party’s leader, decided to focus her efforts on winning her seat — some say at the expense of votes in other ridings. As evidence of this, national support for the Greens fell from 6.8 per cent in the 2008 election to less than four. This means less federal funding for the Greens in the coming years, despite May’s personal success.
It should be pointed out however that the Green’s relative poor performance could also be pegged on May’s exclusion from the televised debates.
What about the young people? Did we turn up to vote? At this moment it’s hard to tell, but with a voter-turnout hovering around 61 per cent — the second worst turnout in Canadian history after 2008 — I’m going to go out on a limb and say that either the Liberal’s core voters stayed home or we did. We will have to wait for Elections Canada to analyze the voter rolls before we can say for sure.
If youth did stay home (as I’m inclined to believe in Western Canada at least) this could represent a massive failure on the part of Elections Canada, considering how much emphasis they put on getting the “Facebook Generation” out to the polls. Assuming I’m right, the next question is: “If vote mobs and social media don’t work, what will?”
So to all you Canadians packing your bags for homes south of the 49th parallel, I would encourage you to stick around. While many of you didn’t get what you wanted — 61 per cent of you in fact — Canadian politics for the next five years is sure to be anything but dull.