What It All Means

From out of a nothing election a major realignment. If this site had actually made a call it would have been for a retread of the last Parliament – although it was clear by the last weeks that bigger changes were coming. But the true pundit never allows a wrong forecast to overshadow an authoritative post-game analysis, and in that spirit we offer the following summing-up of who stands where:

The voter. Actually, the centrist Anglophone voter, re-confirmed as the unquestioned boss of Canadian politics. The majority in Parliament is just the visible reward for Stephen Harper having humbled himself for years before a sceptical the middle-of-the-road electorate. There has probably never been an aspiring leader who has had to undergo such an lengthy and stringent probationary period. Rolling back government, cutting spending, permitting private health care and all the other planks of the hidden agenda are totally off the table. Banning abortion or gay marriage are at the bottom of the ocean (where they ought to be, btw). And the PM knows it. He governs at the voters’ pleasure.

Stephen Harper. Chastened by the realities of what is possible the new PM has promised to behave. As a reward he is no longer chained up in the kennel but free to run around the yard. Having internalised the discipline of centrism, however, the PM can expect a nice life. He is free to work away on his long-term plan to tilt the political balance permanently to the right as long as its done quietly and there are no surprises. Within the Party he is in great shape as a successful commander. There won’t be a peep out of the troops. Looking outwards, the Liberals have been crushed, the NDP aren’t serious and there is no Quebec to deal with – they’re now the NDP’s problem. The PM can play the long game, or he can retire with honour at the end of four years. Things could be worse.

Tory MPs. Step and fetch it. Bow and scrape. Lick and spittle. Kiss the ring and polish those apples. Junior ministries for those who keep their noses clean and their shirts brown (or the other way round). Great prospects of re-election in four years for those that need the pension qualifying period.

The NDP. The entertainment value of Jack Layton bouncing into Stornaway is going to be hard to top. Life is certainly going to be interesting for the new kids from the Bloc, er, . . . on the block. The Parliamentary cohort now looks like something created by Dr Francophone, sorry . . Frankenstein, with 60 per cent of MPs from Quebec, and many of them clueless newbies. Jack is going to have his hands full. Unlike the disciplined ranks of Tory Storm Troopers, this crew is going to be all over the place, and they won’t be shy about bawling out Quebec’s latest demands – in fact, their constituents expect nothing less. One wonders how long it will be before some of the old-school anglo socialists start looking back at the good old days of just 35 seats and a manageable party instead of the Siamese twin that the gods of politics have fused into being. Worth noting is that they only have 43 seats in the ROC, where the Tories outnumber them by more than 3 to 1.

The Liberals. A great example of success breeding failure. Years of winning resulted in the leaching away of any actual convictions. The party became all operators and strategists but stood for nothing. A rotten tree waiting to be blown over. Continuing complaints about unfair Tory attack ads show that a lot of people still don’t get it. The Libs now have to completely rebuild. They are not dead forever as there is certainly a space for a centre-left party. But they won’t be able to do this for the next election, which means it will be a decade before they have a hope of getting back to power.

The Greens. Seats up, vote down. More evidence, as if any was needed, that ecological concerns are blown about like a leaf by the gusts of the economy. Elizabeth May’s reserves of kooky good cheer are going to be tested over the next four years.

Fiscal conservatives. Absolutely nowhere. Just like before the election.