Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Short Election Perspective

An analysis of yesterday's federal general election is pretty much unnecessary. The result speak for themselves, however, Ian at Tilting at Windmills has a detailed post-mortem of the election and the campaign coupled with a pretty decent look at the future of the upcoming parliament. Scott in Montreal has a "rumination" and does a bit of crystal-balling on at least one of a countless number of possible scenarios. Laura at LWC discusses the departure of Paul Martin and how it was an inevitable result with any kind of Conservative win.

If anything was obvious this morning it is that there is no overwhelming desire to make a political right turn in this country. Canadians were happy with the direction the country was going - they were not happy with the shenanigans of the Chretien Liberals. There was a desire, particularly in the rural regions and smaller cities to effect a change in Ottawa and it was that vote which made the difference. The three largest cities rejected the Conservatives.

British Columbia did what it always does, and voted in opposition to the general direction of the country thus reducing the number of Conservative seats than that held from the previous election. The other message from BC voters was that the ultra-right social conservatives were out of touch with the general feelings of the electorate.

The pundits suggested the voters were behaving strategically. I don't think so. Even if voters were able to communicate across the great expanse, such a conspiratorial exercise would be almost impossible. The 64% of voters that actually made the trip to the polls voted as individuals and marked the ballots as individuals. The results may have the appearance of a strategic response but that is the extent of it. There is really no way to tell how many people actually changed their minds from the time they left home until they actually marked their ballots.

I believe Stephen Harper has one of the most difficult jobs any prime minister will ever face. He has one of the most tenuous minority governments in history. While no one wants another election too soon, he cannot rely on the desire for political stability as protection while pursuing any program a majority of Canadians do not want, nor can he dismantle programs or institutions that raise, first the curiosity and then, the ire of the electorate. Harper also has to overcome one other issue - it's all well and good to sit in opposition and snipe away at government; it's quite another thing to have to produce results and Harper has never been in a position where he hasn't been in opposition. When he makes a mistake, and he will, the wolves across the aisle will attack and mercilessly tear him to pieces.

The next 60 days should prove interesting.

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