02 May 2011

Electoral Tide Turning In Canada

When Prime Minister Stephen Harper lost a vote of no confidence in late March over not releasing details of his anti-crime legislation, his five year old minority Conservative Government fell and elections were scheduled for early May.

Politics from our neighbor to the north rarely attract American attention unless the Quebecquois get close to seceding from the Canadian Federation.  Going into the election, it was a question of whether the Progressive Conservative Party (the “Tories”)  would pick up the requisite ridings so as to avoid forming another minority government. There was also the outside chance that all the other parties would band together to form a coalition government

But the early results are showing an interesting trend.  Two parties which have dominated Canadian politics have been decimated.  The Bloc Québécois, the regional party dedicated to promoting Quebec sovereignty which has dominated the provincial politics since 1991, has been decimated.  The  Bloc québécois used to have enough seats to work in coalition with a National Party (read Liberals) and leverage their power for their francophonic constituents.  The BQ went from 49 seats in the National Parliament in Ottawa to 3 seats.  Most of their voters seem to have emigrated to the “Dippers”, the New Democratic Party.

The Liberal Party (a.k.a. “The Grits), which used to dominate Canadian politics, have experienced quite a change in fortune.  Although the Grits held power for 69 years during the 20th Century, they are sinking from 77 seats to somewhere in the range of the low 30s.  Their share of vote went from 30% to around 20%.

The Liberals should not be totally written off.  After Progressive Conservative Party Prime Minister Brian Mulroney retired in 1993, his party went from 169 seat majority to only holding 2 seats.  But eventually they merged with Canadian Alliance and their successors have been quite successful during the last decade.

The NPD ran on a platform that “Ottawa’s Broken”. As a social democrat party, they would certainly be on the left and want lots of social spending akin to the progressives in America. The utter collapse of the Bloc Québécois and the marginalization of the Liberal Party allowed the NDP to treble their ridings.  In the exuberance of election returns, the NDP leadership effused that the NDP is from sea to sea and that Canada is moving towards being a two party system.

The Conservatives look as if they will increase their lead to 16 ridings. This will be the first majority government in Canada since 2004.

It is encouraging that Canada is gravitating away from the political Balkanization that has plagued them since the late 1960s.  Perhaps the francophones will work within the federal system rather than bridle against it.

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