Canadian shake-up: Conservatives win but opposition makes head-turning gains

Canadians woke up to a strikingly changed political landscape today, largely because of one national politician’s charisma and another’s lack of it.

National elections yesterday produced Canada’s first majority government in seven years. At the same time, it all but wiped out Canada’s traditional ruling party, the centrist Liberal Party, and propelled the historically marginal socialists to the important role of official opposition. Observers are already talking about the permanent demise of the Liberals, which has governed the country for most of the past century.

“This is a huge defeat. It’s almost as if the Democrats were elected in only three States, and it changes the map of Canadian federal politics,” said political scientist Stephen Clarkson.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Canada, Politics in General

15 comments on “Canadian shake-up: Conservatives win but opposition makes head-turning gains

  1. Ad Orientem says:

    I have been following this election for a while and it really is big news. It has understandably been buried by another big news story, especially here in the US. But it is quite significant.

  2. Kendall Harmon says:

    It is indeed Ad Orientem. As someone who lived in Canada for two years in graduate school, it still boggles my mind how little many Americans know about their neighbors just to the north.

  3. Ian+ says:

    What is says to this Canadian voter is that the Liberals had nothing of value to offer the nation, whereas during the time of the present Conservative government, the economy has been great even in light of what’s happened in the US, and everything is quite stable. Nothing to complain about, so why change the government?

  4. Alta Californian says:

    I once did a major research project on Canadian history in college, a paper I then presented at the annual humanities symposium. My work won some plaudits, but I was repeatedly asked afterwords by attending faculty and guests whether I am Canadian. I was met with puzzled stares when I replied that I am not, as if it was just assumed that no American would be interested in Canadian history.

  5. WarrenS says:

    Ian+, this Canadian voter doesn’t completely agree – 60% of voters voted for candidates other than Conservatives. But I’m okay with the outcome. What do you think the results achieved by the NDP, which I would argue are more significant than what happened to the Liberals, have to say?

  6. farstrider+ says:

    I’m not Ian, but…

    In any given election 60% of Canadians vote for a party other than the one that wins. The majority one by the conservatives is pretty standard for majority gov’ts as far as I can see…

    I’m not sure as to the “bare” significance of the NDP’s surprising gains. We could be seeing a new polarization between right and left more along the lines of the divisions amongst our neighbours to the south (although the NDP is significantly more to the left than the Democrats). I suspect the divide between right and left within the Liberals may signal the end of them as a viable party. The Tories and the NDP both owe their great gains to disaffected Liberals.

  7. farstrider+ says:

    Sorry the second sentence should read, “The majority won by the Conservatives…”

  8. WarrenS says:

    Farstrider+, actually, the Progressive Conservatives gained just over 50% of the popular vote in 1984 – but that was exceptional. My point, though, was that it isn’t really accurate to infer that most Canadians wanted to continue with the status quo. The NDP gains probably owe as much or more to disaffected Bloc Quebecois supporters than to disaffected Liberals. I think the comparison to the situation in the US is overly simplistic without trying to understand the Quebec dynamic. And things could change again significantly in the next election. The Progressive Conservatives were reduced to two seats in 1993 – and now the Conservatives (albeit in a somewhat different form than the PC) have a majority. It doesn’t look good for the Liberals, but I’m not sure a wise man would bet against them ever making a comeback.

  9. farstrider+ says:

    Hi WarrenS,

    With regard to the right-left divide, you’re probably right– Quebec needs to be taken into account. At the same time, though, the Conservatives managed to win a majority with only a few (six, was it?) seats in Quebec… which is relatively unheard of. And while the NDP couldn’t have done what they did without the great sea-change in Quebec, they also saw great gains across.

    Does this mean a northern “culture war?” I don’t think so. But to me it seems like there is a widening gap between right and left.

    Those who gave Harper his majority felt that he is the best man for the job. He’s kept us afloat during some very rough weather. This includes a significant number of Liberals who preferred the devil they knew to the one they didn’t (namely, Layton).

    Those who voted NDP have responded as many will given a recession (even some who would traditionally vote for a centrist party).

    As for the Liberals coming back… they might. It would certainly be odd to think of Canadian politics without them.

    But you are right. Next election Quebec may come into play in ways it hasn’t in decades, and who can say what that means for the Federalist parties (or, indeed, the Bloc)?

  10. farstrider+ says:

    In hindsight I recognize that my last comment wasn’t exactly non-partisan. Sorry about that… but you get the drift of what I was saying, I hope.

  11. WarrenS says:

    No problem – are any of us really non-partisan?

  12. kmh1 says:

    Harper is from a conservative Christian background and Layton is doctrinaire secular. Interesting, eh? (couldn’t resist that)
    Will a majority Conservative government now get rid of those “human rights” inquisitions that punish stand up comedians who offend drunk lesbians in night clubs?

  13. kmh1 says:

    BTW, the title of this piece is a strange one. It was the Conservatives who “made gains” and the opposition that realigned, with a collapse of the Liberals and even more the Bloc-heads.

  14. Ian+ says:

    WarrenS, I think it’s highly significant that the NDP is now the official opposition party. I guess I only implied that in my comment on the Liberals. The latter has nothing to offer because the NDP has the corner on the social agenda.

  15. WarrenS says:

    Kmh1, although a leader’s personal convictions are not trivial, if he/she tries to force those convictions on a populace that generally is not supportive of them (as I would argue is the case with Harper’s Christian views), that leader will likely not survive long. I think Harper understood that well when he said he would not reopent the abortion issue. This forum, by the way, is not a good place to start if you want to understand Canadians in a broad sense.