A historic unnecessary election .. probably .. and now there’s only one party responsible for the next four years

May 3rd, 2011 | By Counterweights Editors | Category: In Brief

Liberal supporters watch May 2 election results at Liberal headquarters. Canada. AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn.

Anyone who has been paying even a little attention to this site over the past five weeks will know that we are disappointed by the final results of the Canadian federal election of 2011. Our opinion of Mr. Harper and his abilities and liabilities remains the same. And we think it is still worth noting that some 60% of the Canadian people have not voted for his Conservative party.

Yet the results are now clear enough. The TV as we write is reporting 166 Conservative seats with somewhat less than 40% of the cross-Canada popular vote. Jack Layton’s New Democrats have an astounding 102 seats, with not quite 31% of the vote. The Ignatieff Liberals have an equally astounding 35 seats with less than 19% of the vote. The Bloc Quebecois has an even more equally astounding 4 seats, with about 6% of the cross-Canada vote, and the Green Party finally has one seat in the Canadian House of Commons, with about 4.5% of the vote. Both Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and BQ leader Gilles Duceppe have lost their own seats. [As of 11 AM  ET on May 3, the more exact results are Conservatives 167 seats with 39.6% of the cross-Canada vote, NDP 102 seats with 30.6%, Liberals 34 seats with 18.9%, BQ 4 seats with 6.1%, and Green Party 1 seat with 3.9%.]

By all the rules of the Canadian parliamentary democratic game, as it is now and has long been played, the Harper Conservatives have won a comfortable and impressive enough majority government at last. They will quite legitimately be able to do pretty much as they please for the next four years. There is no point aimlessly complaining about this. And even those who feel as we do here must confess to at least the kind of admiration for Mr. Harper’s raw political skill that Machiavelli felt for Cesare Borgia in early 16th century Italy.

What lies ahead certainly strikes us as a new kind of universe in Canadian federal politics. One piece of Mr. Harper’s practical policy armoury we’ve recurrently confessed some support for is his step-by-step Senate reform program. Presumably, he now has no excuse not to put both his bill for Senate term limits and his bill for Senate elections through the new 41st Parliament. (And in our view that will do the country some good, regardless of which provinces may or may not take the legislation to the Supreme Court.)

On the other opposition minority side of the 41st Parliament there will be an already astonishingly half-realigned cluster of forces whose growth and development will carry the future hopes of the 60% of the Canadian people who did not vote for Mr. Harper’s party on May 2, 2011. Like others, no doubt, we will have things to think and say about all this down the road. For the time being our feeling is that nobody should be jumping to any hasty conclusions about anything on this front.

Bloc Quebecois supporters watch elections results at party headquarters.

We have just one final thought on the astounding performance of the NDP (the second most interesting phenomenon of the night). The most striking thing about Mr. Layton’s new NDP caucus is that, as matters stand, 58 of its 102 seats are in Quebec. Only 44 of the 2011 NDP seats are outside Quebec — which is only eight more seats than the party won outside Quebec in 2008. So in the end the “Orange Crush” in the rest of Canada has proved rather modest. And the new federal NDP caucus has a French Canadian majority. In our view that could finally be a very good thing. But it also makes for a much different New Democratic Party than anyone has known before. That is just one of a number of changes this historic election has set in motion. And, not all that much further down the road, these changes could start adding up to something quite a bit different than the feature-attraction winners of the 2011-2015 majority government may think.

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  1. A sad day for Canada.

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