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All is not lost

It’s always hard to write a political blogpost when you’re on the losing side of an election result. You can feel disheartened, angry, discouraged, and so on. I purposely did not write anything last night while in the heat of the moment – I wanted to sleep on things and reflect this next day. So, my thoughts now as I see them.

Harper has won his coveted majority – it’s not a large one, but one nevertheless that allows him to do his agenda unblocked by a “pesky minority” Parliament holding him back. Canadians will now get to see what he does with that majority regarding policy. Some we already know about, (the weakening of gun laws, etc), but what of others? Everything he does is now on himself and his party, and he will be held to account for it four years from now. (As an aside, if you had told me before last night that he would get a majority government when the next largest party in Parliament would also grab 100+ seats, I’d have not believed it. That’s how topsy-turvy last night’s election was). His core base will be expectant – even eager – that he push forward policies that they want – policies that won’t always be looked upon kindly by the Canadian political mainstream. It will be interesting to see how he handles his “base” demands.

Congratulations to Jack Layton and the NDP for their own piece of history. They are now the Official Opposition and it is they who will take the lead role in holding Harper’s government to account in the House of Commons and to the Canadian people. Congratulations should also be going out to them from people of all political persuasions for totally decimating the Bloc Quebecois and having Quebec elect MP’s of a federalist party in large numbers. Unfortunately, from a progressive point of view, the Orange Wave of Quebec was more of a tide in Ontario – causing the anti-Harper vote to vote-split and enable Conservative candidates to win in ridings – particularly urban ones – where they would normally not have in a traditional election (that’s more the fault of the present First Past the Post electoral system really – a different topic for a different day). The Orange Wave also did not materialize in Manitoba or Saskatchewan, which it needed to do if it was to stop a Harper majority. Still, Layton and the NDP get full marks for their showing.

The Green Party and Elizabeth May should also be congratulated for getting elected and having the first elected Green MP in the House of Commons. She will face a daunting system where individual MP’s don’t always get a lot of chances to question the government, so she will need to use her time there wisely when she gets the chance. I presume she will now be allowed in the next Leaders Debate by our broadcast consortium – and she should be.

And what of the Liberal Party? It is obvious that despite the generally good campaign we ran that Ignatieff was not able to connect with voters. The two years of straight Conservative attack ads were as much to blame for that as anything, but it is also apparent that Layton’s jibe about Ignatieff’s attendance in the H of C that Ignatieff failed to properly address in the English language debate was a turning point for both leaders.

The Liberal Party now have some choices to make. On the one hand, four years in which to rebuild the party and its philosophy is probably not a bad thing. We can no longer afford to be cautious and “conservative” in our policy approach – i.e. the democratic reforms platform we put out to voters was a major disappointment, and one that should have been a lot more robust then it was. Caution and fear apparently nixed it being a more “reformist package”. On the other hand, serious questions are going to have to be answered of the new Liberal leader (and I presume Ignatieff will be resigning soon) as to whether or not we should be looking at trying to merge the centre-left parties into a “Liberal-Democratic” Party, or whether we can re-shape ourselves and go on trying to win back individual seats in a Canada that is now polarized between left and right.

All that said, one needs to be philosophical in defeat. I am encouraged that voter participation went up in this election from 58% last time to over 61% this time – not by much, mind you, but I like that trend. I do believe that higher turnout and increased voter participation will be essential in eventually defeating this Harper government – the youth vote in particular. As for anyone feeling disappointment at the results and the initial dismay you may feel at seeing Harper get an elected dictatorship for four years, the US elected George Bush twice and managed to survive, and nothing is irreversible in politics. Policies that are erased this time by Harper can always be re-implemented by a future government of a different political stripe. Those of us opposed to the Harper/Conservative polices (still a majority of the voting public by the way – more then 60%) must work hard to oppose what he does -and more importantly develop a good narrative to the voting public as to why we oppose it.

The work to defeat the Harper government next time starts right now.


19 comments to All is not lost

  • Donna

    I am not a Liberal. However, Ignatieff is a true gentleman. Even when Harper said very nasty and cruel things about Ignatieff’s family, he did not stoop to Harper’s level. And don’t forget, Harper says he’s a Christian.

    I was told to Google: Harper delivers his plan on, Global Governance for Canada. Everyone present, were shocked by Harper’s words. Harper even said, Global Governance has been worked on, since 1945.

    Harper had a felon working for him. He and his Conservatives, are in contempt of the House. The Conservatives, stormed Guelph University, to stop students from voting. They even tried to seize the ballot boxes. Fascism and a dictatorship, personified right there, and far too obvious.

    I agree with thousands. Over half of Canadian citizens, did not want Harper for our P.M. Yet he won??? Trust Harper? Never.

  • Stew

    Here’s a dirty trick no one is talking about; the center of the Conservative world has moved east to Ontario. Congratulations Mr. Harper, you’ve finally come home. LOL

  • Stan


    How did all those dirty liberal tricks and lies work out for ya?

  • Stew

    Apologies, should say $8-10/gallon, but even so, this number is only a tentative estimate from ’08, and being that it is a dwindling, world energy commodity, its price can only increase as time goes by. Nevertheless, the importance of this inevitable rise in gas prices and the discussions in parliament about it, will dwarf everything else, even that of pension and health care reform. Indeed, a majority of individual Canadians, in the near future, may not even be able to afford the gas, pulled right out of the ground around them. Mr. Harper, being the market purist he says he is, what do you think he will do about it?

  • Stew

    I’ve only posted very few times here, but speaking of gloating, this is actually an opportune time, supports of the progressive cause, because in four short years, the price of gasoline is going to wear around the neck of Mr. Harper and his big oil buddies, like a flaming-tire necklace. And no matter how much he trots out the conservative, “daddy knows best” attitude, the kids are going to revolt. That is were the battle for the future is heading progressives, be prepared.

    Oh yeah Alberta, how’s it going to feel, paying top dollar, oops I mean $8-10/liter, or perhaps more, for a resource you once thought was yours.

  • Roll Tide

    “The work to defeat the Harper government next time starts right now.”

    Spoken like a true political partisan…….The day after Obama got elected Sean Hannity started the “Stop Obama Express in 2012”
    Scott you are no different, thats OK, as long as you recognize it.

  • Can the Liberals of the future get back to how they were when I could & did vote for them: fiscally responsible (we don’t need new national programs), socially liberal, and generally centrist. They moved way too far to the left in trying to present an alternative to the CPC, and that was a big part of their downfall.

  • zia

    Quite a set back for the Liberals! People who support neither the Liberals nor the NDP will be giving them as much encouragement as they can to rebuild on a stronger foundation so that in the next election the result will be the same. The country can spend the next 20 years with the Liberal party competing with the NDP to see who becomes the official opposition this time around. It took decades and a lot of spent energy to get to this place. We can see why some people are talking about a renewal of the sovereignists in Quebec. What would have been interesting if any of the Lib-NDP schemes for coalition had actually happened would have been the reaction in Alberta having their accumulated power snatched away from them and left to having that charming Linda Duncan as the only cabinet representation for the province. The lack of popularity of the Liberals in Quebec, even more so in Alberta and Saskatchewan and might as well add BC and Manitoba into that – however – look at the bright side. Sometime during the early hours of watching the absurd CBC’s election results a friend of mine who is from the east wanted to know the results from Nova Scotia. I found it necessary to inform him that Newfoundland, PEI, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick no longer exist; they are something called Atlantic Canada now. And there is still strong support for the Liberals in that region or margin or whatever. Quebec has the option of going their own way and having seen many comments from some people this morning about wanting to leave the country, well, there are actually four other provinces they could consider before emigration.

  • Paul Calgary

    I agree with posters above who think that the Liberals need to do a better job of choosing a leader and unifying the party behind him. Martin, Dion and Ignatieff were good men but they were distracted by a fractured Liberal party. They didn’t stand a chance.

    Time for the Libs to set aside ridiculous delegate schemes, back room deals and internal power struggles. The next leader needs to be chosen by party members with one member/one vote. It’s simple, it’s democratic and it might bring disaffected Liberals back into the fold.

  • Giovanni

    it’s not a large majority you say? What would you call a large majority? The Conservatives have 26 more seats than all the opposition parties put together and 25 more seats if it’s a Conservative speaker of the house.

    The government will now have a majority on committees! They can vote down any motions that the gov’t doesn’t like! The opposition parties can’t use these committees to their advantage anymore to try and embarrass and or score political points!

    • Goran

      Plus they have a majority in the Senate, and eventually, on the Supreme Court.

      Things are about to change for the better in Canada, and it is about time.

  • Halden

    The Liberals haven’t offered Canadians anything for so long and it finally came around on them. We don’t want Conservative light. We would like a real option. I am not sure the NDP are it but I am sure the Libs and NDP can and should find the 60% a tent to live under and flag to wave.

  • ridenrain

    If only more people didn’t take the CBC Vote compass and learn they should vote Liberal… If only Rick Mercer could whip up that vote mob a little more..

  • roger

    Good post.

    I think the key factor was the collapse of the Liberals in Toronto/GTA. Some of those ridings had splitting, but the real story is the collapse of Liberal Fortress Toronto.

    Second, give Quebec credit for taking a big chance on the NDP with the hope of having a progressive central government. Ontario did them bad. I doubt Quebec will want to live under a Harper government. Expect a PQ or Quebec Solidaire surge in the next Quebec election, followed by a referendum. Seriously.

    Third, the opposition will have to be on the streets and in the unions. We need to build a popular rainbow coalition of left forces. The Parliamentary game will be useless, contrary to NDP dreaming. We must build a coalition of unions, women’s groups, environmentalists, progressives, etc. to save public services and pensions and collective agreements.

    Days of Action are on the horizon.

    I hope you recognize that the class war will now be on. I hope progressives like yourself see the need for extra parliamentary organizing. Today is the worst day imaginable and we need a mass response from the majority.

  • Liam Young

    I’ll make it clear that I’m a non-partisan in this (with the exception that I was hoping that Canadians would have fired Stephen Harper last night).

    However, it was sheer arrogance that tore the Liberals apart. The Liberals should have seen this coming since the early days of Reform and yet they continued on with pushing Canada in a direction that most Canadians didn’t want: siding with the Cons more consistently than any other party, ignoring national day care, postponing Kyoto, etc.

    The process of leader selection is broken for the Liberals (and other parties). Perhaps the Liberals should exhibit real innovation and modify your process so that candidates who are popular with the machinery but unpopular with the electorate will not be an option next time around.

    Reflect, regroup and retaliate, but do it with all Canadians in mind.

  • Thanks for your restrained and philosophical post, Scott. I am feeling profoundly disappointed at this point, but your words help.

    As for Goran, I might have been able to drudge up a modicum of respect for your post, if not your childish gloating tone, had you at least the courage not to hide behind a pseudonym. But then again, the extreme right wing has never been known for either its grace or courage of conviction, has it?

    • Goran

      All I have heard for the last 8 years was how Harper would never win a majority. He was laughed at and mocked when he ran against the Liberals in 2004, it was arroantly said this provincial would never win a government, even a minority one. Then when he did, all I heard was it was fluke, now the natural order of things would right itself, that Harper would never win a majority, that he could never be trusted to. Then he won a second minority, and it was again said that Harper would never be trusted with a majority. Tory supporters were ridiculed at every turn for having the terminity to have beliefs that were different than yours. So much for tolerant Liberalism.

      How do those words taste now? Am gloating? You bet I am. We’ve had to deal with Liberal and left-wing gloating for years, and now you respond with some blathering about “a modicum of respect” and whining about a pseudonym? Stuff it.

  • Goran

    You were told that a Tory majority was coming and many of your readers laughed, vowing it would NEVER happen. The Liberals have their worst showing in Canadian history, and their leader lost his own seat. You got smashed in Toronto.

    Who is laughing now, readers?

  • The work starts now, today. Can we hold off on choosing a new leader – app’t a temporary leader – so that we can get some foundational ideas ready so that we can choose the appropriate person to guide the process of fleshing out these ideas? I don’t want to rush and allow someone like Rae to grab the reins before we have time to consider all the options present or absent at this time. Who is not in the party that should be in the party? Voices heard on the sidelines perhaps? There are a great many excellent people who need to believe that the old structure will not lock them out because of dues paid by current party brass. Just thinking out loud here, Scott. We have the luxury of at least four years to get out a new vision and new leadership and stake our place back at the centre of Canada.

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