- Vancouver, British Columbia - I admit I was saddened by the primary result of the election last Monday, seeing the Conservatives surge up to claim a majority. But while I was watching the voting distribution on the individual ridings, I was noticing an interesting trend. Each riding had at least four parties represented (mine had six or seven), so the news only listed the top three. And across the country, I was seeing similar results: Conservative and NDP in first and second spot respectively, and Green in third. Wait…where are the Liberals??
Likewise, my attention was immediately nabbed by a pathetically small number of Bloc Québécois seats being voted in. At one point, it was down to 2, but after a couple close races with the NDP, they settled on 4 seats total – down 43 of the 308 seats available in the Canadian House of Commons (although the maximum the Bloc Québécois could ever win is 75 as they only ride in Quebec). Because they failed to get 12 seats, for the first time they lost official party status in Canada. The leader of the Bloc, Gilles Duceppe, lost his own riding to the NDP. He immediately stepped down as leader of the party.
The Liberals only wound up winning 34 seats across the nation, also down 43 in the House of Commons. Michael Ignatieff, Party leader, walked up to the microphone at party looking as if Harper had run over his cat. He solemnly thanked his supporters, of which there were few, as even Ignatieff had also lost his own riding (but to the Conservatives). He stated he had no plans to step down as Party leader, unless the party asked him to. And then on Tuesday, the Party asked him to. It was the worst loss the Liberal Party had ever suffered in Canadian history.
What was it that caused the massive shift in Quebec to vote in the NDP? It’s hard to say for sure, but only a week or two before I heard that Quebec was making noises about holding another referendum regarding separation. Back in 1995, the Parti Québécois (who have strong ties to the Bloc) launched a referendum to determine such a thing. It was very narrowly defeated with just shy of 51% of the province voting to stay in Canada. That seemed to settle it, although there were hard feelings on both sides. But now, 16 years later, it seems to be a hot topic once more. Or is it? Interestingly, it seems a strong majority of the Québécois are more interested in national politics, supplanting a party that runs only provincially with a national one. Maybe a strong Canadian identity has now taken root in Quebec. Indeed, it would seem les québécois feel the Conservatives are a threat to their interests, and that the Liberals don’t care enough. That could be why they’ve never taken an interest in the national scene before; maybe they also just really hated the Liberals as well.
And what could account for the Liberals descent in the eyes of Canadians? I think it has been an inevitable thing since Jean Chrétien’s days, especially when he was replaced by Paul Martin, a man most Canadians wouldn’t trust with a piggy bank, much less the nation. But the nail in the coffin for sure was the Conservative’s attack ads. They painted Ignatieff as very unpatriotic, and someone who was just going to hike up taxes. Even though the Conservatives barely made mention of how they were any better, it seemed to have done the trick: Canadians didn’t trust Ignatieff. One Conservative ad in particular dealt with a woman with a calculator and a notepad trying to work a budget, and telling the audience that the Liberals’ fiscal plans just didn’t balance. Undoubtedly, many Canadians remembered the sponsorship scandal, and the failure to retool the GST as promised, and there obviously is no question that Canadians feel the Liberals can’t be trusted with tax money.
However, the one thing the Conservatives didn’t anticipate is that a vote taken from the Liberals is not a vote for Conservatives, hence the sharp climb the NDP has experienced. But nevertheless, the Conservatives got what they wanted in a majority government.
But I think the real change we’re seeing here is the impending demise of both the Bloc Québécois and the Liberals. It’ll probably take the Liberals longer to die off, and they may continue to survive in some form (merging with another party perhaps?) but the face of politics in Canada has clearly changed. We even have a Green MP!
My prediction is that the Bloc will never get more than 5 seats ever again, and collapse within the decade. The Liberals will find themselves forced to merge, or disband and reform under a new name (the new Reform party?), probably within 20 years. NDP will go up and down, and probably get their own minority government with the next election. Green will pick up a couple more seats along the way.
But make no mistake me hearties, the black spot has been passed to both the Bloc and the Liberals.