Congratulations to the Harper Party. The results are not what Harper wanted but he can claim a success if not a win. Harper’s goal in this early and unnecessary election was to get a majority and destroy Dion and bankrupt the Liberal Party. So, I wonder, do Canadians feel we did not waste $300,000,000.00 dollars that could have been spent for better purposes?
The Harper majority was close and yet elusive. Harper lost the majority himself due to his lack of deft about understanding the importance of arts and culture to Quebec. It is so weirdly Canadian that the country was saved from a Harper majority, and the consequences of his proven demagoguery, by a separatist political movement. Harper has been to the election well three times and can't finish the job even with the most opportune of times with the Liberals being so unready and unsteady to run effectively.
Dion was the least experienced leader in his first election and he and the Liberal party was not really ready to run when the Writ came down. He was defeated by his own lack of political experience, his platform and his party, especially in Ontario and B.C. The last figures I saw as about a 9% reduction of Liberal support in Ontario. One wonders if the old guard stayed home and did not engage in Dion’s cause.
Then there was the impact of the economic meltdown factor. The Nanos tracking over the Thanksgiving weekend showed a shift in Ontario on Sunday to the Harper party. Speculation is this shift if likely from anxiety over the economy and the normative default but unproven consciousness that Conservatives are better economic managers.
Layton did well but not up to expectations. His popular vote stays the same and he gained 8 seats. Go figure. He will soon quit bragging about winning a seat in Quebec because Mulcair will be groomed to replace Layton sooner than later. Linda Duncan’s breakthrough in Alberta is a personal victory for her due to a strong campaign and strategic voting - and not anything to do with the NDP.
So we are back to square one with no clarity of a political outcome and no public policy purpose beyond platitudes. We are fragmented regionally and at sea economically as the global financial turmoil washes over us and puts us into recession. We have no comprehensive or comprehensible environmental policy and as for progressive policies on social issues, forget about it.
May's is a story of hope over experience. The strategic impulse of Greens voting for the Liberals did not take off. The popular vote for the Greens doubled and most of that came out of the hide of Stephane Dion.
So now we have a strong right and a strong but crowded left but no progressive middle. Dion identified the progressives in the final days but not with enough time to catch on and coalesce as a consciousness never mind a movement. The social progressive/ fiscal conservative centre is wide open in the Canadian political consciousness.
The Harper Party has to learn how to govern effectively in a world that is extremely complex and in critical shape. Cute tactics like a GST tax cut will not be enough to instill confidence in the Harper Party. Harper will have to change his style and show us some substance. Layton will be caught in the Harper Party everything is Confidence motion trap in this Parliament. Dion has nothing personally to lose now. I expect to see him and his caucus voting against Harper’s trickery and skullduggery more often, especially if he trumps up phony confidence motions on ideologically driven bad legislation.
The future for the Liberals is clear. The Liberals have to return to their roots, put away their egos and get fiercely focused on finances and rebuilding a modern party. That will start with new leadership in the face of new political realities.
We need leadership that can articulate authentically on the real needs and hopes of Canadians.
We need politicians who believe in government and can present a proper role and responsibility for government as a force of good and not the enemy of the people.
I think it is time to reinvent the old federal Progressive Conservative party philosophy even if under the Liberal label. That is where the vote rich and disenchanted progressive middle is in Canada today.