Last night, Canada sent a message. It’s quite the confusing message, but one was most definitely sent.
I’m not even sure where to start, but I guess starting at the top would make sense.
Stephen Harper and the Conservatives won a majority. What the…how the…why the…who are you people!? I wish I could get inside the head of the Canadian voter, because I honestly don’t get it. Burning through a sizable budget surplus that the Liberals created, then turning around and saying that the Cons are the best choice to manage the economy and reduce the national debt? Ok, we’ll buy that, have an X! Being the first party ever to be found in contempt of Parliament? Who cares!? A slate of candidates who don’t show up for debates, aren’t allowed or don’t want to answer questions (Harper included) and seem to have no interest in being open? No problem! Running a campaign based on fear, American style attack politics and misleading information about legal constitutional processes? Long live the Conservative Party of Canada! And on and on it goes…and on and on it will go for the next 4 years. Thanks, country. Nice work.
Going in I pretty much expected a Conservative win, but I was thinking another minority with a more interesting battle for second place. The battle for second was interesting for sure, but the majority thing caught me completely by surprise, especially the size of it. the Conservatives won 167 seats, well above the 155 they needed. Harper has always talked about what he’d do with a stable majority, and I guess we’re about to find out. If his old ideas survive, I expect a good bit of it to suck. More people being sent to prison rather than getting the help they need, money wasted on fighter planes that even some military people agree aren’t a good fit for us, gun registries being scrapped against the wishes of the police, possible funding cuts for programs that are seen as unimportant or not lining up with Conservative values, more tax cuts for the rich corporate types and lord knows what else. None of this is to say that I want Harper to fail. I’m not happy he won, but I do wish him the best. If he does well, we all do well. If he bombs, we all go down with him. Like it or not, for the next 4 years, he’s our guy. All we can do now is hope that his words last night about needing to be a respectful government that represents the wishes of all Canadians are more than just hollow tripe. His past record suggests we not hold our breath, but we have no choice but to hope.
For the first time ever, the NDP became the Official Opposition. They won 102 seats, which is just friggin insane. I don’t think even they expected that, and I imagine right now there are a lot of young candidates thinking to themselves oh shit, I won, what happens now? A number of the people they ran have little to no political experience, so it’s going to be interesting to watch how they develop as time passes. I have no idea what the NDP doing so well means, because it could be a lot of things. It could be more young people voting. It could be that people don’t like being told by the bigger parties that they only have 2 choices. It could be people sending a message to the Cons and Libs that they want something different, a party that hasn’t had the scandal trouble through the years that they both have. It could be an indication of how split down the middle Canadians have become values wize. It could be all of the above. but whatever it is, it’s probably the biggest story of the election. You’re not going to find 2 parties more opposite than the Conservatives and the New Democrats, and depending on how well each side does in its role, the next election could be even more historic.
Speaking of history, the Green Party won its first seat! Elizabeth May is now a member of Parliament! Who knows if they’ll ever form a government, but this is a giant step for a party that’s been on the fringes forever. this and the NDP are definite signs that a good bit of the voting public does want change. The Greens have been growing steadily and now that they have a seat in the house and can’t be excluded from TV debates anymore, I see no reason why that growth won’t continue.
Amazingly the Green Party’s 1 seat makes them only 3 times smaller than the Bloc Québécois, who got absolutely crushed. They’re down to 4 seats, losing official party status in the House (you need 12 to have it). Remember when they were the Opposition? Not sure if this means the separatist movement is finally dying, but it’s a big story for Quebec and for Canada. Not even Gilles Duceppe survived, and I have to think his leading days are done.
Speaking of leading days being done, poor Michael Ignatieff. I knew he wasn’t the guy to bring the Liberals back to power at least not yet, but I had no idea he’d show worse than Stéphane Dionn. Only 34 seats, and his isn’t one of them. A little sad since I think he was just starting to find himself as a leader, but for whatever reason, a lot of people seem to disagree. Where all of this leaves the Liberals is yet another interesting story. There will almost certainly be a new leader elected…again. For their sake I hope they can finally find the one, the person they can count on as a stable leader for more than a couple of years. They haven’t had that person since Jean Chrétien retired in 2003. Chrétien isn’t somebody you just go out and replace, but the next best thing had better be waiting around the corner or things could get even worse before they get better. If I had to guess right now Bob Rae will be the next in line, but that could present problems in Ontario if people don’t look back fondly on his days as Premier, and there are a lot of people who don’t. Buckle up Liberals, it could be a bumpy ride. Much of it downhill, unfortunately.
Amid all the Conservative gain insanity, one good thing did happen. They may have won a majority, but Marty Burke won’t be part of it. I don’t have exact numbers but Frank Valeriote pulled out what turned out to be a rare Liberal win here in Guelph, beating Marty Burke by about 10% of the popular vote. The NDP finished third and the Green Party fourth, reversing what happened in 2008. At least Guelph still has a representative that is willing to talk to the people as well as listen to them, somebody that’s willing to show his face in public and answer difficult questions. Marty Burke almost certainly would have been a disaster for this city if history became future. Thankfully it didn’t get the chance.
I’m uncertain how I should end this, which is kind of fitting. Being uncertain makes me a little bit like the future. Last night’s results were quite a shakeup, some good, some perhaps not so much. We’re left with a government that probably won’t be able to please most people. The Conservatives are going to try to ram through an agenda that’s going to be way too far to the right for some people, but it’s going to be opposed by a group that’s way too far left for others. Does that leave things open for the Liberals to make a comeback in a few years to balance things out? Will Jack Layton and the NDP keep up the momentum and someday run the country? Will the Greens find themselves in a position to take more seats away from the establishment? I have no clue what the answers are, but one thing I do know is that for the first time in a while, Canadian politics, for better or worse, is finally a bit unpredictable again. Let’s just hope that none of this unpredictability flushes the country down the crapper.