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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Coming to Grips with the Election Implications

So here we are, in a "stable majority government" in times of enormous uncertainty in the world.  Democracy has spoken and the collective wisdom of an ever diminishing number of democratically engaged citizens sets Canada on a new course.  It looks like voter turnout was even lower this time than the dismal showing in the 2008 election with early indications showing we are flirting with 50% turnout.

We have the results and they are impressive.  Mr. Harper is the clear winner and deserves congratulations for such an impressive tactical accomplishment.  With Mr. Harper's absolute majority he now has absolute personal power and is now personally entrusted with the future of the country.

The check and balance on Mr. Harper's absolute power is the NDP who have been blessed and burdened with official opposition status.  Again congratulations are in order but to Jack Layton personally, not the NDP. This is Jack's victory as much as the majority government is Mr. Harper's victory.

Those who voted for Mr. Harper seem to have been attracted by the need for the stability of a majority government.  However, the stability promise of the "Harper Government" is unlikely given the economic, social, political and environmental instability of the world and in the country we now live in. The majority given to Mr;. Harper will more likely result in quicker more decisive political decisions but that is no guarantee of a future that is steady-state stable and certain.

The promise to balance the budget quickly but still undertake enormous spending projects without raising taxes in an economy that most likely a flat line growth profile means money will have to come from serious cuts many other government programs. That is the clear, unequivocal and well articulated game plan of the Harper government. There is no hidden agenda here.

The NDP has been entrusted to be the caring and compassionate conscious of Canadians and to keep the Harper Government honest and accountable.  I have no doubt of the integrity of the Layton lead NDP and its capacity to play that role.  However, much of the reality of the NDP political fortunes are embedded in the nationhood aspirations of Quebec.  It is unclear to me if the death of the Bloc and the resurrection of the Dippers in Quebec means a rejection of separation for federalism.  Or is the shift to the NDP just a smarter political tactic by Quebeckers to have fresh faces to push an entitlement agenda in Ottawa?

How beholden is the NDP going to be to the Quebec agenda given that all politics are local at the end of the day?  Will we see a return to the focus on Ontario and Quebec as the political power bases that determines the direction for the country like we had in Trudeau's time?  Will the west feel like it is "in" or "out" as the country stumbles into a new narrative or returns and retreats into an old one?

As for the Liberals, the writing is not only on the wall it is all over their political structure.  Humility was the tone I heard in Mr. Iggnatieff's concession and confession speech last night. It is only one of the key lessons the Liberals have to take to heart as they rebuild from the grass roots up. They have to pick up on Mr;. Iggnatieff's comment that "democracy teaches hard lessons" and the Liberal political challenge now is one of showing character and courage.  Are they able to rethink everything and rebuild with a new sense of purpose with an open heart and mind that resonates with  Canadians?  Time will tell.

The Bloc is done but what is the Quebec agenda for the NDP?  Is it separation or federation? We still don't know but we will be enlightened on what the shift to the NDP from the Bloc means for Canada sooner than later.  How Mr. Harper responds to Quebec is also uncertain?  Will he punish them of appeal to them?  He has done both in the past.  Again the future is uncertain.

As for Elizabeth May and Linda Duncan, we have the best indication that at the end of the day all politics are local.  The coalesced citizens and engaged them in ways that encourages people like me who are worried about the viability of our democracy if citizenship means disengaged cynicism instead of informed activism.

Congratulations to Mr. Harper and Mr. Layton.  Condolences to Mr. Iggnatieff and Mr Duceppe.  Thumbs up to Ms May and Ms. Duncan for bucking the trends and showing citizens that they can make a difference.

So no federal election for four more years.  I wonder how much economic and social stability we will actually have?  I wonder how much Canadian politics will change by then too?  As for me I see more uncertainty than stability, challenges that are more about complexity than simplicity.  I see a fiscal and environmental fog in the future and no clear path forward.  So one with the day as we stumble into the future where stability actually means no near term elections but uncertainty in all other aspects of being and becoming the next Canada.