The results are in and Conservative leader Stephen Harper has secured a majority government. In the House of Commons, the NDP – which nearly tripled its seat count – will undoubtedly play a significant role as the Official Opposition. And civil society organizations like the Council of Canadians will need to rise to this new challenge and play a critical role in mobilizing public opinion and community action as the extra-parliamentary opposition. While Harper acted in an authoritarian way with his previous minority governments and may see his new majority government as an end to the constraints on his power, democracy does not work that way and he will not have free reign until the next election, likely in October 2015.
THE RESULTS: Here is the new seat count in the House of Commons compared to the last sitting: Conservatives 167 (143), NDP 102 (36), Liberals 34 (77), Bloc Quebecois 4 (47), Green 1 (0). CTV reports, “(The Liberals now) fall into third place for the first time in the party’s storied history. …Equally stunning is the ascent of NDP Leader Jack Layton, who will make history by becoming the first-ever NDP leader to move into Stornaway as official Opposition leader.”
THE POPULAR VOTE: The Conservatives won 39 per cent of the vote, the NDP 31 per cent, the Liberals 19 per cent, and the Bloc Quebecois 6 per cent. The Conservatives won 5.8 million votes, the NDP 4.5 million, and the Liberals 2.8 million votes.
WHAT HAPPENED: “Much of the NDP’s rise has been attributed to a burst of support in Quebec, while the Conservatives were able to breach the Liberal heartland in Toronto (and) voters in Ontario ran from the Liberals to Harper’s Conservatives en masse. Many gains came in the so-called 905 region, where the Conservatives made major inroads with new Canadians.”
THE HARPER AGENDA: The Globe and Mail reports, “Stephen Harper will put this new-found authority to immediate use. …(A majority government) gives him four years to pursue his policies as he sees fit without having to shelve long-term plans every few months in case his rivals might defeat him. …He will be able to schedule government spending cuts over four years… it may also give him leeway to cut payments to provinces if his promise to keep health transfers rising at 6 per cent annually puts too much pressure on Ottawa’s coffers… say goodbye to the long-gun registry and $2-per-vote subsidies for political parties… And get ready for term limits on senators and greater foreign ownership of companies that offer telecom services such as cellphones. …The Tories will also be tempted to kill the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly over selling Western Canadian grain…”
OUR CAMPAIGNS: A Conservative majority will also pursue as they have promised the Canada-European Union free trade agreement at ‘full-throttle’, seek to complete negotiations with the United States on perimeter security, and likely continue to ignore the funding needed for a clean-up of the Great Lakes, for upgrades to municipal water and wastewater infrastructure, and for clean drinking water in First Nations. The government will also prioritize new jet fighters over action on climate change, and will continue to seek an expansion of the tar sands, as well as likely fracking, oil and gas exploration in the Arctic, and Schedule 2 exemptions for mining companies. As noted above, the six per cent increase in health care funding past the 2014 negotiations for the Canada Health Accord is now in question.
THE OPPOSITION IN PARLIAMENT: The Leader of the Official Opposition-to be Jack Layton said last night, “I’ve always favoured proposition over opposition. But we will oppose the government when it’s off track. I will propose constructive solutions focused on helping Canadians.”
NOTABLE LOSSES: Those who lost their seats last night include: Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe, foreign minister Lawrence Cannon, Liberals Martha Hall Findlay, Gerrard Kennedy, Ujjal Dosanjh, and Ken Dryden, NDP Tony Martin, and Independent Helena Guergis. NDP candidate Nettie Wiebe lost her bid in Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar by just over 500 votes.
NOTABLE WINS: New additions to the House include: Green party leader Elizabeth May, and New Democrats Peggy Nash and Andrew Cash.
RETURNING INCUMBENTS: Notable returning incumbents include Conservatives: John Baird, Bev Oda, Peter Van Loan, Peter Kent, and Gerald Keddy; the New Democrats Linda Duncan and Peter Julian; and Liberals Frank Valeriote, Francis Scarpaleggia and Justin Trudeau. Also Conservative Dick Harris who represents the riding where Fish Lake is located; Conservative Tony Clement who represents the riding where the G20 took place last summer; asbestos-promoting Conservative Christian Paradis; and Liberal Scott Andrews who represents the riding where Sandy Pond is located.
NDP/LIBERAL MERGER? Metro reports, “Bob Rae, the former NDP premier of Ontario and a federal Liberal leadership contender, hinted strongly that the time has come to debate a potential merger between Liberals and New Democrats.”
VOTER TURNOUT: The Canadian Press reports, “The Tory majority appears to have been won on the back of a low voter turnout. An incomplete Elections Canada report early Tuesday said that 60 per cent of eligible Canadians had voted. …Canadians registered a record low turnout of 59 per cent in the federal campaign three years ago.” Another Canadian Press report has the voter turnout at 56 per cent. A final number should be available later today or sometime this week.
THE 2015 ELECTION: Now that Harper has his majority, under his fixed election date law Canada will next go to the polls in October 2015. Between now and then we’ll need to think outside the (ballot) box, rise to the challenge, and continue to fight for the Canada we want.