When the Canadian election was called on March 25, I was certain of the outcome. For the past five years, Canada had been tangled in a Conservative minority government. I believed that when we emerged post-election we would end up in exactly the same place as we were before. In fact, what has emerged during this election campaign has been breath-taking. It has gone in directions that few expected.
This election opened with Stephen Harper’s Conservatives being found in contempt of Parliament, notably refusing to provide the Opposition with cost estimates and details of upcoming bills. In spite of being the only government in the history of Canada, not to mention the only government in the British Commonwealth, to be found in Contempt of Parliament, the Conservatives have been successful in deflecting criticism, holding on to their base and doing relatively well in the polls.
This doesn’t mean that the Conservatives have been the only story in this election campaign. The following have been some of the highlights of the 2011 election:
- The voter turnout at advance polls: In the 2008 election, there was a 58.8% voter turnout. Advance polls gathered 1,528,780 votes from across the country. This time around, those numbers were 34% higher, with polls collecting over 2,000,000 votes. Something was happening in this campaign that was compelling people to vote.
- The “Orange Crush”: The New Democratic Party, or the NDP, has long been the third place party on the federal level. They have been seen as too left and radical to be a legitimate choice. It’s worth mentioning that at one point they considered changing their name to the New Socialist Party. Yeah, they’re those guys. They always had their supporters, but in the eyes of many they were a questionable choice. In the final days of the election the polls were showing a breakthrough in the province of Quebec with the NDP stealing many seats from the Bloc Quebecois and the Liberal Party. From the 2008 election to this year, the NDP has gone from 37 seats to 102. At 10:12 p.m. ET, the CBC declared the NDP the official opposition and Jack Layton the Leader of the Opposition: the first time in history for the NDP.
- The dramatic fall of one of Canada’s founding parties: The Liberal Party is central to Canadian history. They have been there since day one. Many of Canada’s most well-known Prime Ministers have come from their ranks: Lester B. Pearson, Jean Chretien, and Pierre Trudeau. They are the “nostalgia” party. However, the 21st century has not been kind to the Liberals. Wracked with scandals and leaders lacking any charisma, this election brought about their worst ever results. In the 2008 election, the Liberals had 77 seats across the country. In 2011 they lost 43, ending with 34 seats, placing the Liberals firmly in third place. The leader of the party, Michael Ignatieff, even lost his riding in Etobicoke-Lakeshore, ON. On the morning of May 3, he resigned.
At 10 p.m. ET, the CBC projected a Conservative government. At 10:51, The Conservatives were declared to have a majority government, with 167 seats across the country.
What does a Conservative majority mean for Canada? Obviously, it means that the Conservatives will have much more power and that they won’t have to compromise with other parties to pass their mandate. For left-leaning Canadians, it’s a scary premise. The Conservative government’s actions surrounding the G20 Summit in Toronto in the summer of 2010, including the largest mass arrest in Canadian history, made them the enemy of many Torontonians. Their tough-on-crime agenda will likely not benefit the homeless and mentally ill. Many worry about the far right faction within the party. Those who are against same-sex marriage and reproductive rights do not dominate the party, but they are very present and have power. Stephen Harper, our Prime Minister, is one of those far right few. The country of Canada is set to drastically change.
I’m not an expert, only a political enthusiast camped out in the riding Western Arctic.
Today the political lines have been dramatically redrawn on the map of Canada. I urge you to keep tabs on The Globe and Mail (www.theglobeandmail.com), The Toronto Star (www.thestar.com), and the CBC (www.cbc.ca) for more Canadian news. Keep your eyes on us. It’s about to get messy.
So, Persephoneers, what do you think was the biggest story of the 2011 Canadian election?