by Scott Piatkowski
Since Tuesday, catching up on sleep has taken precedence over catching up on blogging. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a lot to say about the outcome of the vote. So, somewhat belatedly, here is my take on the highlights and lowlights of the 2008 Federal Election results.
Jack Harris winning three-quarters of the vote in St. John’s East (the highest percentage of the vote gained by any candidate in any riding) and Thomas Mulcair holding on to Outremont. This election marked the first general election that the NDP has ever won a seat in either province (they had won two previous by-elections in Newfoundland and one in Quebec, but did not hold the seats in subsequent elections).
The NDP winning all but two seats in Northern Ontario.
Niki Ashton reclaiming Churchill for the NDP (she had lost in 2006 when the previous incumbent decided that hating gay people was more important than respecting the outcome of a democratic nomination process and ran as an Independent).
Linda Duncan cracking fortress-Alberta and sending Rahim Jaffer to an overdue retirement.
Don Davies winning in Vancouver-Kingsway. I guess that appeals to vote Liberal to stop the Conservatives don’t work that well in a riding where the Liberal MP became a Conservative cabinet minister.
Jack Layton consistently scoring second in “best Prime Minister” polls (and first in Quebec) throughout the campaign.
Stephen Harper falling short of a majority (although we can probably count on the Liberals to let him govern as if he had one).
37 seats for the NDP. Not as many as I’d hoped for, but the third consecutive increase in the party’s numbers.
Francoise Boivin losing in Gatineau. Thomas King losing in Guelph (a riding in which I spent some quality time over the summer). Marilyn Churley losing in Beaches-East York. Paul Irngaut losing in Nunuvut. Michael Byers losing in Vancouver Centre. They, and many other New Democrats who lost, would have added a lot to the NDP caucus and to Parliament.
Peggy Nash and Catherine Bell — two outstanding Members of Parliament — losing their seats.
Nettie Wiebe losing Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar by less than 300 votes. I guess that Bob Rae must be pretty pleased with the outcome of his visit to the riding (during which he called on New Democrats to switch their votes to the Liberals to stop the Conservatives).
Louise Lorefice, who has dedicated a lifetime to serving the citizens of her community, being swept aside by a coalition of the Greens, Liberals and the national media. And, Peter MacKay still won his seat by a wide margin.
Media coverage throughout the campaign, but especially on election night.
The number of female MPs creeping up only marginally (although the NDP still has the highest percentage of women in its caucus, at 38%).
The advocates of strategic voting getting it wrong, wrong, wrong in many ridings. South Shore-St. Margarets is still Conservative because of their recommendation to vote for the Liberal (who ended up a distant third). Oshawa is still Conservative because they were unable to figure out that New Democrat Mike Shields was in second place.
Ujjal Dosanjh’s graceless election night speech. First of all, if Tommy Douglas is rolling over in his grave, it’s not because Jack Layton dared to run for Prime Minister, but because his party once allowed people like Dossanjh to hold a membership card. Secondly, the Liberals might want to think about how their own actions (and inaction) contributed to their worst showing ever before looking to other parties to find a scapegoat.
by Matthew Good
The federal election produced two results – a practically unchanged government and the lowest voter turnout in Canadian history.
While there are those that will shake their heads at that fact and claim it despicable, the stark reality is that a great many Canadians have simply become fed up with federal politics. This was, after all, the third federal election in four years, one that saw the Prime Minister break his own election law in an attempt to gain a majority, and one in which no party leader really stood out as quality leadership material.
After spending $300 million dollars of taxpayers money, this morning Canadians awoke to fact that another Conservative minority government is in power. True, the argument can be made that if more people voted the results might have been different – but then again, it can also be viewed as a lack of confidence and interest in this nation’s leaders.
We live in a democratic country – on paper anyway as perceived by millions of Canadians - and therefore should cherish the power that we have to elect our representatives, there’s no questioning that. But at the same time, there is the very real possibility that many Canadians saw this election for what it was – a political maneuver on the part of the Conservatives to gain a majority. Like it or not, that does not represent the people’s democratic interests, only the vanity of Mr. Harper who took a gamble yesterday and lost. That gamble could very well see Canadians return to the polls in another year, making it four federal elections in five years.
Lastly, there is the fact that this election cost Canadians $300 million dollars in a time global economic crisis. This morning Mr. Harper unveiled a new six-point economic plan to deal with the financial ramifications of the current crisis. Unfortunately for Canadians, $300 million dollars that could have been used to bolster social programs has evaporated for the sake of an additional sixteen Conservative seats in the House. Ironically, the addition of those sixteen seats will no doubt empower Mr. Harper to claim that the Canadian public has given his party a clear mandate to lead, despite the fact that it technically didn’t.
When all is said and done, Canadians have to look at both the last government and this new government and ask a very serious question. If the last one wasn’t working because of political infighting which saw its ability to function diminished, how will this new one be any different? If the Parliamentary blame game is going to continue to consume the House, what did this election accomplish other than the establishment of the status quo?
Analytically speaking, Stephen Harper should have walked away with it. First, he faced easily one of the worst Liberal leaders in that party’s history. Second, he’s an economist, and his expertise, given what has been transpiring financially around the world, should have been far more pronounced. Truth be told, if he couldn’t do it last night he never will, a fact that should be resounding with Conservative supporters this morning - more so than the fact that the party has secured its second minority government in a row. The cold, hard truth is that if the Conservatives possessed the true support of the Canadian public they would have won a majority. Thus, the fact that they failed to do so in the most apathetic election since Confederation speaks volumes.
by Alice Klein
it’s hard to be upbeat right now since the overwhelming first-past-the-post message of the election is a strengthened Harper minority. But given the array of forces aligned on his side, the Conservatives actually did relatively poorly. Harper had all the ingredients for a perfect Tory storm.
We had the lowest voter turnout in history (which always favours the incumbents), an unprecedented destabilizing economic crisis (which favours the safe haven of the known), no real opponents in the race (Jack Layton’s spin notwithstanding) and a giant corporate media conglomerate onside (CTVglobemedia) that showed its hand publicly when it actually went so far as to intervene in the election on Harper’s behalf (the outrageously unethical tape release).
But Canadians have failed to stand up and deliver.
My Canada includes Quebec – something for which I am thankful every day, but at no time more than today, when Quebeckers have literally saved the country as a whole. While the hype played on about the Bloc being a party that has lost its raison d’être with the demise of a separatist agenda, Gilles Duceppe has shown that the Bloc holds a new place that defends the cultural identity and best interests of this beloved province at the same time that it resonates with those who are like-minded in the rest of Canada.
This idea of a new connection between the Bloc and other progressive parties in the rest of Canada is one of the most hopeful possibilities to emerge out of this election. Quebeckers and urbanites unite. Cities from St. John’s to Victoria also tended to stand up to the Tory tide, most notably in our own fair province, with Hamilton, Guelph, Kit-chener, Windsor, London, Ottawa, Kingston, Sudbury, Sault St. Marie, Timmins and Thunder Bay all resisting the blue tide to some degree. Of course, our Toronto deserves a special nod for really holding back the blue line. Yay us!
On the subject of cities, my Canada does not include Alberta or Saskatchewan. (Just kidding.)
But outside of the Bloc, all the parties were losers. The Liberal blood-bath is obvious. It is great that the NDP picked up extra seats, but the party failed to increase its popular vote, making Layton’s bluster about running for prime minister just embarrassing to anyone but those passionately inside the party fold already.
The Greens did well, increasing their support to almost 7 per cent but failing to reach the 10 or more per cent some had predicted. Too bad we will lose Elizabeth May’s refreshing voice in national affairs now that the election is over and she has no seat. It’s especially egregious since, as Fair Vote Canada points out, the 940,000 votes cast for the Green party sent no one to Parliament, while 813,000 Conservative voters in Alberta alone were able to elect 27 MPs.
The need for electoral reform and cross-party collaboration may well become the sleeper issues of this election. A vibrant and innovative movement sprang up across the country aimed at doing the impossible, given our electoral system and the mood of the times. Defeating the Tories was sadly not in the cards.
Next week, with time to analyze the results, I will report on how the movement for strategic voting to dump Harper actually fared across the country. But on a larger scale, the truth is that collectively we have stopped a Tory majority.
And the majority of Canadians are interested in programs and policies that we will not be seeing from Harper. In the next few months, cooperation between the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc could promote some of these policies and programs that the majority have supported.
And should they hammer out a coalition platform based on the many planks they agree on, from arts and culture to climate change, they have the opportunity, after a non-confidence motion, to offer themselves as an alternative government to the governor general.
Thankfully, a new grassroots move-ment has started laying the foundation for this unprecedented path. It is still a long shot, but this movement has tremendous energy and, now that we aren’t competing for votes in an election, a tremendous opportunity to reach out and gather in those from all four opposition parties. We are entering an extremely unpredictable and volatile era. It is no time to give up. We may yet make our dreams for Canada come true.
by Mai Nguyen, rabble staff
So here we are again…living in yet another Canada under the leadership of the Conservative government. It’s a hard blow for students, immigrants, families, the working class and so many more. But it’s not so much for the corporations.
A sociology professor very recently said to my class of about 50 students that we are essentially feeding into several profit-driven corporations. What was she talking about? She was talking about the very institution we students hand over more than $20,000 to for an education degree: an educational institute that’s linked to some of the most powerful corporations in the world.
Last year, Ted Rogers (The) presented Ryerson University with a $15 million donation to go towards a business management building located smack dab at Toronto’s Bay Street. As a result, the building was renamed to the Ted Rogers School of Management.
Just a couple blocks over is the Rogers Communications Centre, housing schools of journalism, radio and television arts, and professional communication. That opened up in 1991 with the help of a hefty $25 million cheque donated by the late father of Ted Rogers.
I always used to laugh when people would joke about Ryerson’s imminent name change to “Rogers University.” Now that Harper has gained nearly 20 more seats in the House of Commons this past election, I don’t think I should be laughing anymore.
And don’t think it’s just Rogers. There’s Harry Rosen, Coca Cola, Aramark, all of which have comfortably integrated into our campus. While Ryerson is busy developing relationships with financial elites instead of their students, Harper is cutting taxes for these corporations. So, what the heck does that make of us, the students that have no say in these business deals?
Corporations shouldn’t have this kind of monopoly over our education. Educational institutions shouldn’t even have to fall into such a compromising process of globalization. With the kinds of priorities the Conservative government has on their agenda, however, it’s not even an option for universities to forget about corporate partnerships. If only.
Where the benefit really goes is to these corporations, while educational institutions merely operate at the whims of them.
By Murray Dobbin
Stephane Dion may not be the only leader under pressure to resign as a result of the election. The knives seem to be out for Elizabeth May over her toying with the idea of strategic voting. In the last weeks of the campaign May suggested three times that defeating Harper was more important than winning votes or seats - and then reversed herself each time. A new web site - www.emaygoaway.ca http://www.emaygoaway.ca/ has been set up calling on her to resign. The site includes a letter allegedly written by May’s daughter Victoria Cate, just days before the election, to candidates in ‘swing ridings’ encouraging strategic voting.
Under “Who we are” the site’s founders say:
“We are a group of Green party members, old and new, who believe that the Green Party of Canada needs new leadership. We hope that Elizabeth May will do the honourable thing and resign as the leader of a party. We are candidates and campaign managers, EDA members and executive who believe that the Elizabeth May has hurt the Green party, its candidates, members and supporters. The 2008 federal election results have harmed the Green party of Canada and this limits its ability to plan for future elections. We also believe that strategic voting is an affront to democracy and does nothing to advance a progressive agenda for Canada or the environment.”
The home page features this statement:
“The Green party of Canada needs new leadership
It has been reported that Elizabeth May endorsed the leader of the Liberal party of Canada for Prime Minister. In the dying days of the 2008 election campaign, it was repeatedly reported that she advocated that Canadians not vote for Green party candidates and instead, vote for New Democrat and Liberal candidates where they could defeat Conservatives.
The damage is done. In the last few days of the campaign, after her public musings about strategic voting, Green party national and regional poll numbers dropped dramatically. In fact, if all of the drop can be attributed to votes switching based on media reports of Elizabeth May advocating strategic voting, the national Green party lost nearly $1 million in annual funding.
Elizabeth May’s comments seem to have caused great harm to Green party campaigns across the country. Candidates, their family, friends and supporters say they were hurt, personally and politically, by her reported advocacy of candidates from other political parties.
Not only did this campaign to elect Liberals and New Democrats cost the Green Party votes, it seems to have cost local campaigns enough of the vote to get the federal rebate so that they could plan for the future.
The Green party needs a leader who supports the Green party over other political parties. Reports clearly indicate that Elizabeth May used her leadership of the Green party to support other parties. Elizabeth May must resign. If she does not, it is incumbent on every Green party member across Canada to ask for new leadership.
This is our political party. We must demand leadership that supports our party. We must act now to ensure that our party has new leadership before the next federal election.”
By Fred Wilson
Enough already with the “if only we had PR…” We don’t and won’t anytime soon. The election results are completely understandable when 37% vote for one party, and no other party is within 10 points of that. But it still didn’t produce majority government – thanks to Quebec.
It is likely too soon to really comprehend what happened yesterday. The best we can do today is to begin asking good questions.
How do we explain the extra 3 points that the Conservatives gained in the last couple of days after the ABC campaign had them trending downward? Those gains were to some extent matched by a corresponding softening of the NDP vote (if we can rely on Nanos’ numbers) to the point where it exceeded the 2006 result by just one percent – in spite of Layton’s effective campaign and country-wide impact. Was there an invisible strategic vote that cost the NDP? It doesn’t appear so, because neither Liberals nor Greens were the beneficiaries.
Perhaps those additional NDP votes that did not materialize were another dimension of the low voter turn out. I think we need to know who didn’t vote, and how much that drop affected outcomes.
Another question we have to answer is how union households and workers voted. Why did the “orange crush” sweep Northern Ontario, but fail in British Columbia where there are similar rural and industrial forest based communities?
Lower the Conservative vote by 3 points and add that to the NDP column, and we would be having a very different conversation today about transformational possibilities for a different government. Of course that speculation, however exciting, is no more useful than complaining about the lack of PR. The useful questions are what opportunities there are now for parliamentary majorities on key issues – not just to block Harper’s agenda, but to implement some alternatives. Or must we relive the last year of the first Harper minority, with him governing as if he has a majority, and a pathetic Liberal opposition making that possible?
Good questions are the basis of good analysis, and maybe some useful answers. In the meantime, lets thank the Quebecois who blocked the majority and bought us some time to get this figured out.
by rabble staff
rabble board member and columnist Duncan Cameron has his take on last night’s results:
The Harper attempt at forming a majority government was stopped at the Ottawa River. The Conservative campaign succeeded in reviving the Bloc Québecois. Putting to rest his critics, Gilles Duceppe managed to keep the nearly 50 seats needed to ensure that to win a majority the Conservatives had to win 62 per cent of the seats outside Quebec (or 145 out of 233). With 133 seats added to his 10 in Quebec, Harper came close, thanks to Conservative strength in Ontario.
Listening to what Harper had to say about locking up 14-year-olds, seeing his disdain for artistic endeavors and thinking about a free market economist holding power as the world financial economy collapses, much of Quebec decided to vote strategically to stop him.
Read the full article here.
by Beisan Zubi
I am still extremely unsettled by the election results, and am working through them with a furrowed brow. I understand that a lot of the vote distribution issues all relate to our constitution, but they lack a basic sense of equality and reason. In order to prevent premature wrinkles, these conflicting points about the election need to be vented about:
1. The Green party and the Bloc Quebecois received only a difference of 3% of the of popular votes from the Canadian public, but the BQ emerged with 50 seats and the Greens with none. Quoi?
2. The BQ received half the number of votes that the NDP did, but leads them by 13 seats.
3. Quebec’s (some might say unfair) advantage in Members of Parliament in relation to population, stemming from appeasements in the 1980s, lead to this seat distribution inequality. A non-Quebecois vote counts less when ridings don’t balance their populations; is this a human rights issue, an inequality in our citizenship?
4. HOWEVER this inequality, and the Quebecois support for the BQ, is the main thing that stopped the Conservatives from getting their majority this election.
5. HOWEVER this only a specific circumstance, and overall proportional representation is the only fix to what seems like a fundamentally flawed system.
6. The NDP got more ridings this year which shows to me more Canadians are looking at it like a viable ruling party (although as a friend commented to me yesterday, “Jack Layton will not be Prime minister until he shaves that mustache.”)
7. The Liberals got LESS seats, which seems like a shock, and suggests that Canada is becoming less centrist and more polarized, which evokes a fear of our culture and political system of becoming more Americanized.
8. Obviously the efforts of those advocating strategic voting and Canadian pop stars making “We are the world”-type songs about climate change, does not affect voters en masse. Maybe a telethon next time?
9. Less people voted yesterday than ever before in Canadian democratic history. Are we A) apathetic, B) lazy, C) ignorant, D) feeling disenfranchised, E) All of the above?
10. I never really worried about Alberta and Saskatchewan. They seemed like friendly salt-o-the-earth types, with fields of wheat and cows. But I’ve never been more frightened of the concept of the idea of entire provinces, in exception to one riding each, voting Conservative. Who are these people and don’t they get the Colbert Report up there? Are they hallucinating on petroleum fumes?
by Dionne Brand
To prove they could waste our time and money.
There should have been not one single pseudo victory/concession speech last night. Stephen Harper should have slunk away in embarrassment. The whole election exercise was redundant.
So the conservatives crow about a ‘strengthened’ minority and walk back their statements, at the beginning of this sham, that they were seeking a majority. How is that a victory and how is it worth the country’s time and money? What conceit. Their mandate is no stronger, no more viable than it was the last time. If anything it is confirmation that a striking majority of people in the country, 62%, do not trust them – didn’t trust them the first time and do not trust them, yet again, to hand them the full instruments of power. I heard their surrogates on the CBC this morning play that insulting game of trying to convince listeners that all this was good news for the Conservatives. Tim Powers sounded either delusional or cunning, I don’t know which one, suggesting Stephen Harper minority was comparable to Lester B. Pearson’s. Barbara Mc Dougall managed to haul the political corpse of Mulroney into the discussion time and again, once saying that he would have helped in Quebec (is she kidding) and that the party solidified their position in Canada. What this election also proved was that Liberal party fatigue among the electorate has been followed by Liberal vagueness in their party.
So the liberals were unable to persuade anyone that global warming is catching up with us and we must change our lifestyles and priorities. I’d say that’s a massive failure. At the end of last week, lacking faith in their ability to mobilise people around a greener economy, the liberals rolled out Paul Martin raising his victorious hand as creator of something they called, the maple leaf miracle. He of the dirtier economy performed that whole ‘miracle’ we should remember on the backs of working people. Martin you will remember slashed unemployment insurance benefits, - (what he called the ‘surplus funds’); cut transfers to the provinces which resulted in reduced services (and I would extrapolate, provoking the tensions around in health care,) and liberal governments reneged on childcare time and again. One was hardly inclined to think they’d do any different. But they weren’t trying to convince me really. In rolling out Paul Martin they were trying to impress the same financial circles that were so gaga over Martin’s earlier budgets. They were saying, hey we’re the same people, despite the green talk of Stephane Dion. Big business didn’t seem to be buying it though. Their media mouthpieces lined up editorially for the conservatives.
This morning Lloyd Axworthy was talking about centre left coalition.
So the NDP has 8 seats and Jack Layton was still trying out the words prime minister in his speech last night. What he should really be saying, repeating in fact, is proportional representation.
In the absence of proportional representation, give me minority government. We get better government and they don’t get absolute power. Politicians actually have to do a job, they all have to keep their eye on us and what we want. Smalltime bickering and amateur brinksmanship is bearable if, in the end, we get reasonable government. Now if only those parties could stop acting as if they will ever again achieve the old style majorities; if they would take a hint and change their mind set from absolute power, if they would start governing the way voters indicate they want to be governed…
It seems to me that three consecutive minority governments should spell the demise of the first past the post practice. We’ve now enacted in three consecutive elections proportional representation without enacting the law of proportional representation. We are de facto proportional simply not de jure. Sometimes people are way ahead of politicians.
By Trish Hennessy, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
As Canadians living in a free and open democracy, we hit a new low yesterday.
It was Canada’s 40th federal election – an election waged during perilous economic times, globally and domestically.
And yet, only 59% of eligible voters came out to vote. That represents the lowest voter turnout in our entire democratic history.
And so, today, I write this lament.
This is a lament for the generations of strivers and visionaries who came before us to build a nation that at times has been the envy of many other nations – largely because of social programs and international peace stances that Canadians voted for in healthy, robust numbers long before this, the day of disengagement.
This is a lament for the democracy so many men gave up lives to protect, on battlefields in foreign lands during demonically turbulent times.
This is a lament for an active, engaged citizenry – the kind that keeps democracies alive, atuned, on the cutting edge.
This is a lament for election campaigns decided on issues, not solely and shallowly on nice looking sweaters and perceptions of something closely resembling leadership.
This is a lament for election campaigns that steered away from Bart Simpson low-brow humour (like puffin poop) and reminded us of our higher selves, our greater potential.
This is a lament for the days when people cast a vote, because they could and because they cared.
This is a lament for the days before strategic voting, that grand idea that looks good on paper but has never achieved its desired goal in Canada and never could. It is a cynical use of our democracy and turns more people off than it turns them on.
This is a lament for leadership that used to turn people on. That used to tell us what we could do with our great nation. That offered hope and vision and a new future for generations to come. That gave us something to vote for rather than against.
This is a lament for the Canada I know and love. A Canada that reached a new and unimpressive low yesterday. May that low be our very last.
Only registered users may submit comments to our site. To register, simply click the "signup" link below to create an account. After you've completed the quick sign up process, return to this page and you will be able to comment.