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Saturday, July 20 2024 @ 06:24 MDT

Belated Election Wrap-up

Jason ramblingThis post is a little late, given that the election was done over a week ago, but as someone with training in political science - everyone's entitled to my opinion and I hate to disappoint. With the election results there are some things that are relatively clear. First, our electoral system is outdated and outmoded, as evidenced by a 1% increase in popular vote generating a 12% increase in seats. However I have written extensively about this in the past and won't write much about it here, other than to say it's unlikely that the Tories will do anything to democratize our electoral system since it would prevent them from gaining a majority. For this post I will confine my comments to my views on how things finished for the parties.

In general terms, there were no truly big winners of the election. Though gains for three of the parties in terms of seats would imply they were winners, there are mitigating factors that suggest that the victories are at best, hollow. What is fair to say is that the Liberals were the big losers of the election, though there are bright parts of that defeat for them to take solace in as well.

Starting with the Harper Tories. Though technically a win, they're still the government and they did gain more seats, it's not nearly the victory Harper and his crew are spinning it to be. First and most importantly, they did not get a majority. This is a huge blow for the Tories. The reasons are plain enough for even an Alberta Conservative to understand, though in true Tory fashion, they will ignore them. When Harper broke his own fixed election date law, he had everything going for him and his party. The Tories had just spent their entire term in office spending both party and public money like drunken sailors in advertising just how bad and evil the Liberals were. Plenty of time and money was also spent on personal attacks against Liberal leader Stephane Dion as well. Harper was also high in the polls in terms of personal leadership approval. Add to that a wave of vote buying just prior to dropping the writ, control of the issues discussed and a friendly media and you'd think that a majority would have been a cakewalk. It wasn't though and despite a seat gain, the majority didn't happen. With only a 1% increase in the popular vote, the Tories aren't really gaining the votes. Further, despite the seat increase, there were no great inroads. With seat losses in Alberta, Quebec and Newfoundland, the main gains were in Ontario (10 seats), the Maritimes (2 seats) and the west (5 seats). A closer look at the gains shows that 6 of the Ontario seats and both Maritime seats were due to vote splitting on the left (more on this in a future post). So 8 seats of the 17 seat gain are by vote splitting, leaving a true gain of 9 seats, mostly in the Tory stronghold of the West. Again not an overwhelming endorsement from the voter, especially during a campaign when everything was going Harper's way. So a non-victory victory for Harper.

The Layton NDP did reasonably well, gaining 8 seats overall and a meager three quarter point increase in the popular vote. Like the Tories, the seat gain was more than the vote increase would have allowed in a non-first past the post system. Unlike the Tories, vote splitting was not a factor in any of the NDP victories, so solid gains. Though not the largest number of seats ever held a good showing for the party. Not a huge victory by any stretch, but a small victory. What remains to be seen is can Layton hang onto the gains in the next election.

The Bloc under Duceppe also gained a couple of seats, but for the most part stayed the same. Though this can be seen as a victory since the Tories threw a tonne of money at unseating Bloc candidates to no avail, another failure for Harper. The Bloc also benefited from vote splitting, though at the expense of the Liberals and NDP.

The Greens did the best they have ever done, though again failed to elect an MP. Just having Elizabeth May in the leader's debate was a huge victory for the party. If the Greens can consolidate their gains in one or two ridings, there's a good chance of a seat in the next election or two.

This brings us to the losers of the election. That being the Liberal party. Now to be fair, the Grits had everything against them. Constant negative ads by the Tories since the 2006 election, a leader that was perceived as weak. Major internal divisions that worked against the party during the election. Add to this vote splitting that cost the party 13 possible seats, which could have slowed the hemorrhaging of a 20 seat loss. Again, this is more seats than a 4% loss of popular vote would suggest. What the Liberals need to do over the next few months is get their house in order. They need to mend the internal divisions so that their own "supporters" aren't sabotaging the party's efforts at election time. There will be a new leader, and it is likely that unlike Dion, the new leader will likely be much stronger and less soft spoken. Someone who can bully Harper back. Once the new leader is in place, things in the Commons should get very interesting.

Now a little bit on the biggest losers of the elections, the Canadian people. Harper, in all his ego, forced an election because he thought he could pull of a majority. In the end all he really ended up doing is costing the taxpayer $300 million on a needless election. All this because, like a three year old, he can't stand to not get his way. So he's back where he started, only now with a weakened economy that may not pick up before the opposition pulls the plug on his government. If the downturn hits Ontario hard, those gains Harper made will evaporate, as the split vote will return to a likely re-invigorated Liberal party. This means it's unlikely that Harper's fourth attempt at a majority would be any more successful than his first three and it will only be by the iron fist that he currently controls his party by that will keep him in 24 Sussex.
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