Crawl Across the Ocean

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Federal Election 2008 - A Few Quick Thoughts

"Is it just me, or are we about 60% of the way through the slowest, most cautious change of government in the history of the first-past-the-post electoral system?"

That's what I wrote after the last election two years ago. I guess we're about 85% of the way through the change now as the Conservatives have advanced their siege of the country's cities by a few ridings here and there.

Two possible wildcards over the next couple of years that could reverse the glacial trend currently underway: 1) The economy. It doesn't look good for the next couple of years and that could well rebound on the governing party. 2) The environment. Not as likely to have an impact in the next couple of years but still, next time we have a strong El Nino it could blow far past the previous one in 1998 and cause some truly hot/strange weather which won't help a party (the Conservatives) that acts as if it thinks climate change is a myth.

I thought Harper might echo Parizaeu during his speech and complain that they could have won their majority if it hadn't been for the immigrants and the francophone vote. I guess it wasn't really all that likely - maybe when he retires.

Where to from here?

The Conservatives didn't really have a platform, aside from a few stupid ideas such as lowering taxes on fossil fuel use. One hazard of this election result is that the truly horrible copyright legislation the Conservatives proposed last session of parliament in order to please the American lobbyists is now likely to pass and unnecessarily drag down our economy and complicate our lives. I do hope that they keep their promise on having Canadians out of Afghanistan by 2011.

Can the Conservatives keep chasing the Quebec nationalists without alienating their rural anglophone supporters in the rest of the country? Or will they refocus on the 905 region which could also provide them enough extra seats to form a majority? Can they survive the coming choice between raising taxes, running deficits or cutting spending?

I hope the animosity between the Conservatives and Newfoundland doesn't derail the Lower Churchill Hydro Project, arguably the most important initiative currently underway in Canada aside from the doomed mission in Afghanistan.

The Liberals seem likely to elect Ignatieff as their new leader and swing to the right in an attempt to regain the ground they have lost to the Conservatives over the last two elections. Bob Rae would be a big mistake for them politically in my opinion - it is not the Urban Centre voters they need to regain, those folks are almost all they have left!

The NDP continue to somehow maintain strength in both progressive urban ridings and blue collar rural ridings while gradually increasing their overall strength. I don't really see much changing from them over the next couple of years. The likely rightward shift of the Liberals will open up more room for them.

Although the NDP did not win as many seats as Ed Broadbent did in 1988, it's worth noting that the 1998 election was fought on the issue of free trade which likely worked to the benefit of the NDP as that is is an issue where they have a clear position on one side, a side which has strong local constituencies.

More importantly, in 1998, the NDP had no seats east of Ontario. As of now, they still have a base in B.C., in Ontario and in Saskatchewan (where they remain a political force despite not winning many seats in the last few federal elections) but they also have a historic first seat in Quebec, as well as seats in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland - seats which, while not numerous, were won by large majorities, which bodes well for their future.

The Green party, which had levelled off at about 4.5% in 2006, the same as their 2004 showing, pushed further upward to over 6%, almost 7% this time. I haven't seen a tally but they can't be too far off having a million entirely unrepresented Canadians supporting them across the country this time. Meanwhile, 15,000 voters send Andre Arthur back to parliament.

With a less honourable leader likely running the Liberal party next time the Greens may be hard pressed to hold their level of support, although a more right wing, less environmentally friendly Liberal party (a near certainty for next time around) may well push voters like myself back to the Greens.

Speaking of a million unrepresented Green Party voters, I see that in my own riding (Vancouver Centre), it looks like Hedy Fry will win with roughly 1/3 of the votes, meaning that 2/3 of the people here voted for someone else, but their votes count for nothing - a result I find ridiculous, regardless of the fact that I voted for Fry myself. I also see that Adrienne Carr won almost 20% of the vote for the Green Party in my riding which is a pretty good showing for her, probably the best Green support outside of Elizabeth May, and maybe Mike Nagy in Guelph as well.

On the CBC, Peter Mansbridge talked about how great it was to hear from the online community while ignoring the one point consistently raised by the online community and never addressed head on by the CBC panelists, which was the desire for reform of the electoral system - although I did pick up a few offhand comments about the 'outdated' and 'archaic' system from some of their more 'technical' analysts.

Still on the topic of the CBC coverage, my penultimate comment is that David Herle is pretty sharp, as is Ujjal Dosanjh.

On a final note, I've never liked Rex Murphy more than when he ably defended his use of the word elegiac in front of the sophomoric Peter Mansbridge who should be ashamed rather than proud of his ignorance. Rex also made an obvious, but nonetheless worthwhile point that despite not having a formal majority of the seats, Harper has a de facto majority for at least the next two years since nobody will want to trigger another election. He might even deserve it, given what may be coming.

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  • I had to do a Google search for "Peter Mansbridge" and elegiac just to see who shared my incredulity about the former airport announcer's stunning display of ignorance.
    (Peter, if you happen to read this, ask Rex what incredulity means.)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:06 AM  

  • Perhaps due to not having been given the context, I admit I had to look up 'elegiac'. I am proud to admit that I am ashamed of my ignorance.

    By Blogger Simon, at 9:24 PM  

  • P.S. I meant the sentence context for the word itself, not the story-telling context.

    By Blogger Simon, at 9:25 PM  

  • "Harper has a de facto majority for at least the next two years since nobody will want to trigger another election"

    Might be true, but is that a good thing for Harper? He will have to do things in response to the economic slowdown. That could mean spending cuts that will bring complaint from those groups affected and/or deficit spending that will also generate complaint. On top of that, Harper will try to advance some of his pet legislative goals. All these might spell fewer votes for Harper in the next election. As he has a minority, he has, given these issues, only a short window of 'de fact' majority; I'd say a year, no more.

    Iggy might want to move to the right, but the Libs don't have to. After a year, I suspect they will be in a position to trigger an election. They should work hard to build up campaign funds in the meantime. Harper is unpopular now; if the economy continues to go south, he will be out of office sooner than one might think.

    By Anonymous richard, at 8:17 AM  

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