Canadian Politics

Redrawing the Canadian Political Map

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 (, The Toronto Star (, and the CBC ( 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?

13 replies on “Redrawing the Canadian Political Map”

I was one of the two million people who voted in the advance polls since I was moving the weekend before the election. I’m very glad that I moved to a NDP riding (Ottawa Centre) from a Liberal riding (Ottawa South, where I voted) and that I don’t have a Tory MP at the moment – for a while I thought I was going to end up with John Baird representing me. I voted Liberal because I was uncertain in the NDP’s ability to form a government, and also because I really like David McGuinty. I hope the NDP does well as the official opposition, but with a bunch of rookie MPs and Harper’s majority I don’t know if they can do much. I really hope this doesn’t turn into the same situation the Ontario NDP faced after the 1990 provincial election, where they unexpectedly won, nobody was experienced, and the government didn’t do well, leading to the election of Mike Harris (the name still sends shivers down Ontarians’ spines…) in 1995. Whatever happens with the NDP, it will be interesting to see, and I really hope Stephen Harper doesn’t turn the country too far right over the next four years.

This election gave me chills for so many reasons. An NDP opposition make my heart soar. This is what is needed. The liberals constantly bench issues that they can’t figure out or don’t want to made a judgement on because it would paint them as too blue or too orange. Jack has a lot of work to do because I don’t think anyone (even some of his newly elected party members) thought that they would win so many seats. I can only say that I truly hope that he is able to pull them all together to form a party that more canadians will come to see as a “real” option. (And I’m saying this as a die-hard NDPer, but with Liberal/Conservative parents who would never dream of voting for the NDP because they are “too idealistic” for them.)

A Conservative majority scares the shit out of me. The nonsense Harper has pulled as a minority leader was outrageous but now he basically has free reign. I can’t see him touching too much stuff because Jack is fairly media savvy and I can only imagine what would happen if he started to touch health care. Also, I think Harper knows that his voters are a lot of boomers who love not paying money for healthcare, so he’s fairly stuck with that. However, I’m worried that abortion funding will be altered, union rights will be stripped and same sex marriage could be overturned. Harper seems to have a dislike for “scary” things like gays and vaginas. But he’s a diehard U!S!A! follower. And for someone who hated on Ignatieff so hard for basically being an American, he sure gives mixed messages.

My riding went liberal as it was predicted to, but I’d be all for a proportional system of representation. Harper will never call for it seeing as this broken first past the post system got him his very tenuous majority. As bad as it could be for the country, I can only hope he fucks up and fucks up huge in order for people to wake up and realize that the tories do not have anyone’s best interest, aside from their own, at heart. Although with all his other fuck ups, I’d hate to speculate how big it would have to be to shake this country awake.

In terms of proportional representation, I read an article recently, I feel like it was in McLeans, talking about how the Conservative party was actually pushing for proportional representation but the BQ and the Liberals were against it. I can’t recall more details than that, but like you said, with the Cons knowing what they do, I can’t see them pushing for electoral reform now.

The big story to me is, I think, that Canadians aren’t happy with strategic voting: that’s why the Conservatives made such huge gains. I think this points to the flaws of the first-past-the-post system, which is completely non-representative of the way Canadians vote. But people aren’t willing to, or just don’t like, strategic voting (against) someone rather than straightforward voting (for) someone.

Yet my heart expands seeing that the NDP is now the official opposition.

For me the biggest, and most disturbing, story is that Stephen Harper was found in contempt of Parliament, stripped countless people of their basic rights in Toronto during the G20, lied about where he got the money for his stupid fake lake, put Parliament on hold during the Olympics so he could avoid being questioned about torturing political detainees, ignored experts who told him his census plan would be damaging, and allowed a cabinet member to insert the word “not” into an already signed document, yet STILL won a majority. He has eroded the democracy in our country considerably, yet people are mostly concerned about what their tax return is going to look like next year and whether or not they have to take 15 minutes out of their lives to fill out a long gun registration form. I feel sad that he’s still our Prime Minister, but I’m even more sad that so many people have rewarded him for his bad behavior.

Yes. Exactly. I was trying to be slight less partisan in his piece but this makes me so mad. There are 40% of Canadians out there who don’t care that they have be constantly lied to since Harper came to office.

I sincerely hope that the more moderate side of his party keeps him in check and that the NDP make a lot of noise in the House of Commons. If nothing else, I hope the Canadian public comes to their senses in 2015.

This pisses me off to no end. I’m only a lowly permanent resident, so I cannot vote, and I feel so powerless because I could not get my voice heard on May 2, even if one more NDP wouldn’t have made a difference here in Nunavut.

How can people be OK with their government blatantly breaking the law?!

From my vantage point in Ottawa-Vanier, I think the biggest story was the rise of the NDP. I think Jack Layton has his work cut out for him, but he’s got a number of veteran MPs (Peter Stouffer, for example) to help him lead the opposition.

I think I’m still in denial about the Conservative majority. I’m highly skeptical about it, that’s for sure. But in the end, the truth will be in their actions, not campaign promises.

It’s a new Canada, no doubt about it.

I’m a left leaner, single mother and an Albertan. Definitely *not* a Stephen Harper supporter. I am concerned about the future of education, health care, women’s rights and I’m concerned for those who depend on social assistance. That said I have chosen to focus on the success of the NDP as the big election story. I never thought it possible for Jack Layton’s NDP party to make such advances, especially not at the expense of the Liberals.

Our right isn’t the same as your right, though. Although Stephen Harper goes to a pretty extreme church he seems to realize that it’s not appropriate to incorporate his religious beliefs into his political beliefs. When it comes down to it the Canadian right is probably on par with the U.S. Democratic party.

That seems to be what’s happening. I would caution you though, that we have a lot of what we call “Red Tories.” People who are members of the Conservative Party but are pretty left-leaning on a lot of issues. There are a lot of voters who have traditionally supported the Liberals, and lost faith in this election. The Conservatives were their next best option. Personally, I don’t think the Conservatives will touch universal healthcare (on the federal level) or same-sex marriage. But yes, for the next four years Canada will be skewing right.

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