Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Déjà vu

  • Conservatives - 124 seats (36.3% of votes)
  • Liberals - 103 (30.2%)
  • New Democrats - 29 (17.5%)
  • Bloc Québécois - 51 (10.5%)
  • Greens - 0 (4.5%)
  • Independent - 1
There were few surprises. The Conservatives got fewer seats than most expected, and the Liberals held on to somewhat more. But all in all, the pollsters and pundits got it right. Even the Tory surge in Quebec detected at the end of the campaign panned out on election day.

A small increase in support for the NDP over 2004 translated into another ten seats, but once again the party fell just short of gaining a balance of power. Oddly enough, that’s not good news for Stephen Harper. The balance of power is not the power to defeat the government all by yourself, but the power to sustain it by yourself against other Opposition parties. Because the NDP, unlike the Liberals and the Bloc, doesn’t hold a balance of power, Harper has one fewer potential partner to turn to in getting his legislation passed, and to play off against the other Opposition parties. For example, while devolution of power to the provinces might meet stiff opposition from Liberals and New Democrats, Harper will find an ally in the Bloc. If certain tax-cutting measures were opposed by the Bloc and the NDP, Harper might garner support from the Liberals. But if the Bloc and the Liberals unite against Senate reform, the enthusiastic support of the NDP will not be enough.

In practice, things are trickier: Conservatives and New Democrats together have 153 seats, two short of a majority; Liberals and the Bloc together have 154 seats, one short. Then there’s the Speaker, who doesn’t vote except in case of a tied vote. Normally, the Speaker comes from the party in power, but there’s speculation that Kingston-and-the-Islands Liberal Peter Milliken may win the job again. Throw into the mix newly elected Independent member André Arthur, controversial Quebec City ex-talk-show host, and a few months from now it could be déjà vu all over again.

Pet peeve department: Once again, the usual misleading blather about the alienated West has been trotted out. In Saturday’s Globe and Mail, the culprit was Roy MacGregor, with his piece “The West Is In with a Vengeance”. The article is all about Alberta. Alberta is not identical with western Canada. “The West” as an identifiable whole is a media myth. Vancouver and Victoria are closer to the Danforth in Toronto than to Conservative Alberta, which sometimes seems like the far side of the Moon. In last May’s B.C. provincial election, the combined NDP-Green vote exceeded 50%. Even parts of Alberta aren’t part of Conservative Alberta. The real split, insofar as there is one, is between urban Canada and rural/small-town Canada, not between East and West.

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home