Postscript on the Canadian Election

As you all know by know, the Tories won big. But as journalist Mark Bourrie points out in his brilliant political blog, Election Chatter, Prime Minister Harper may have a hard time holding together the coalition he’s created of ‘New Canadians’ and staunch right Conservatives. I’d add to his problems the religious right that is already calling on Harper to implement parts of their agenda, like ending legal abortions.

I think Mark is right. This kind of win can build expectations and then dash them: Brian Mulroney had a sweep like this and his replacement, Kim Campbell, saw that lead reduced to two seats. Jean Chretien had one that was similar in the early 1990s and look where the Liberals are now. 

But the one thing you can say about Canadian politics is that the death knells are often sounded long before there’s an actual corpse. I’ve heard the NDP declared dead several times over the years. If you listened to the pundits, this was supposed to be Jack Layton’s last election: they had him practically on death’s door, much less his party.

The irony of Layton’s success, however, is the NDP have more seats but less power than they had previously. Make that no power. It’s a majority government. Speak up by all means, but forget about anyone listening.

I still think that the NDP gains were based solely on Layton’s personal popularity and a perceived lack of alternatives, thanks to relentless Tory attack ads on Michael Ignatieff. As Mark  points out, even a fifteen year old girl knows how easy it is to trash someone’s reputation. 

Several NDP candidates are barely out of their teens: one didn’t bother campaigning. I can almost see the Tories salivating over the pre-writ attack ads they’ll launch against the NDP before the next election. If not before.

That next election, fixed by legislation for four years from now, will be one that only the Tories will be able to afford, since one of their first actions will be to cancel the funding subsidies that political parties currently receive.

I wonder if they’ll reintroduce corporate donations. They well might, knowing the NDP won’t accept them, and the Liberals can’t get any when they don’t have any power.  

All of this means more noise in the House, I suppose, when the NDP realize that’s the only tool they have left. Elizabeth May of the Green Party won a seat, but she has vowed not to speak if she’s being heckled. This means that no-one is likely to hear from her: that’s almost an invitation to the Poilevres and Bairds to scream every time she opens her mouth.


I had promised to return to my usual blog about getting published, so I’ll start back to that task tomorrow with thanks to Ann Mayburn for stepping in while I ruminated about these matters for a day or two (or as Mark would say, ‘wandered around in shock’).

I love that the reaction of one of my friends to the results was to go out and purchase a Liberal Party membership. Maybe that’s what we need to do — those of us who value a great old Party and want to see her get back on her feet. Make a donation, the way we would if it had been a hurricane that had almost killed her instead of an orange tidal wave centred in Quebec .

I’ll end my political analysis of the 2011 election by pointing out that Canadians gave Harper a mandate without apparently realizing what a mandate really is. According to focus groups, he can deal with the economy and maybe some alternatives to health care delivery, but he’ll bear the consequences of both if he fails to deliver what Canadians want. Canadians don’t want ideology apparently, which takes me back to what I think may be Harper’s biggest problem: those who do. I keep thinking of that old adage: ‘be careful what you wish for.’

Michael Ignatieff perhaps had the best last word: he said that the best advertisement for the need for a centrist party like the Liberals will be four years of Tory majority rule with an NDP opposition. I hope he’s right.

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