Canadians decided to give the Tories a chance. Harper and his Conservatives won 124 seats last night, including 10 in Quebec and 40 in Ontario, just enough to form a slim minority government [for coverage and analysis see, for example, CP, 24 January 2006. Story posted at http://www.cknw.com/news/news.cfm?dir=national&file=n012425A&n=1
]. The Liberals have been reduced to opposition and 103 MPs, down 30. The Bloc, while walking away with 51 seats in Quebec, lost considerable ground, both in terms of public support and Commons representation, shedding about 6% from the previous figure of roughly 49% of popular vote total and 7 MPs. Jack Layton’s New Democrats gained, up 10 seats to 29. There’s also one independent.
Perhaps the real story is former PM Paul Martin. He decided to end his political career on a high note, with one of the finest speeches he’s given, perhaps ever. He’ll stay on to represent his constituents, but won’t be taking his party into any upcoming elections. In being gracious about accepting the results, and in resigning and promising only to stay on until his Liberals can find a successor, he has almost certainly guaranteed that the divisions plaguing the Liberal Party will either be bridged, or at the very least kept from surfacing in public.
Already some are speculating that the Grits will be preoccupied with internal issues, with rebuilding, making it almost certain that Harper will have at least 8-12 months to govern with little serious opposition. There are those, too, who say the Bloc are big losers. They had hoped to win at least 60 seats and take over 50% of the popular vote in Quebec. Instead, they lost the momentum to the federalists, and some say this will make Gilles Duceppe cautious. While the NDP did gain ground, they are far from the balance of power. No matter how hard they press, they are unlikely to be able to cause too many problems for Harper. At least, that appears to be conventional thinking.
In fact, much of the analysis, in order to prove true, I suspect supposes that events outside the country will have little, no, or indirect impact on how politics is run. But if the pace of external events overtakes what’s likely to begin happening, analyses may have to be revised. There’s no certainty that Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran will remain manageable for an indefinite period. That could mean the parties may have far less time for navel gazing than they would want or expect, and debate and governing could get very interesting.
Posted by Stan Markotich
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