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CHANGING CANADA May 4, 2011

Posted by wmmbb in Global Electoral Politics.
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As Paul Keating might have observed the election has changed Canada, although in this instance without changing the government.

First past the post gave the winner a disproportionate return of seats for the votes. In round terms with 40% of the votes they won 54% of the seats. The Conservatives will feel they have mandate for their policies which will change Canada. The NDP are also big winners in that they become the Opposition with 30% of the vote and 33% of seats. The Liberals gained 19% of vote and 11% of the seats.

The details are more interesting. Heather McRobie reports in The Guardian:

Stephen Harper’s Conservative rule up until this point was already something of an anomaly, with his previous terms in office under a minority government. In retrospect, it’s astonishing that Harper dominated the political landscape through much of the 2000s despite the fact that the Conservative party hadn’t won a majority since 1988. In March, when the government was found to be in contempt of parliament – another precedent in the Commonwealth parliamentary system – Harper’s government fell, forcing the 2 May elections. The results of the election now give him four years of full-blown Conservative rule, a fact that hasn’t been welcomed by those who see him as Canada’s George Bush: Naomi Klein tweeted that a “hair-raising shock doctrine is coming our way”, as Harper now has the mandate to pursue his cuts to welfare provision and what many see as his support of environmental destruction (bear in mind that one of Harper’s milder actions on the environment was to dismiss the Kyoto protocol a “socialist scheme”.

But as Harper assumes office as the leader of a majority government, the composition of the parliament looks almost unrecognisable. Not only have the Liberals lost their position as the main party of opposition, but the party leader, the once seemingly indomitable Michael Ignatieff lost his own seat in what’s being described as an ‘historical collapse’ of the Liberals, previously one of Canada’s two main parties. In a strange parallel to this collapse of the Liberals, the Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe is resigning after losing his own riding, while the Bloc Québécois’ support has imploded to the point where it is hard to image the Québec sovereignty movement resurfacing as a national issue (can you be a “bloc” when you only have four seats in parliament?).

Canada, perhaps will now be subject to the politics of austerity and cut backs in social spending. Canadian politics has become interesting, not the least the potential fracture along geographic lines of the governing party and (I am guessing) the support of the Quebec voters for the NDP rather than the Liberals or Bloc Quebecois.

There was a low turnout, as well. The details of which I do not have.

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