Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Post-election musings - the West got in.

So we have a Conservative minority. How about that?

As a former (and soon to be one again) Westerner, I feel good that Western Canada is finally getting to play in the main sandbox again. I was expecting a Tory minority, but I thought they would have more seats. Especially in BC.

The strength of the NDP vote will help to counterbalance any extreme tendencies in Parliament. While they're not quite the balance of power, they do form a significant party in a Parliament where getting things done is going to be a daily adventure.

But the biggest surprise for me is the Liberals' strength. I really thought they would end up with a lot less seats. But at 103, they are still a strong force and a significant opposition, despite their abysmal campaign. If they can hold on to 103 seats with a leader like Paul Martin running a campaign like he did, I wonder what will happen with a new leader? Much will depend on the performance of the Tories.

I think the Liberal party's rebirth could happen a lot quicker than anyone is predicting. An exciting leadership race, especially if there are some new faces in the mix, will drive a lot of those bad memories about Gomery, Martin, et al, into the background. And if the Tories stumble at all while the Liberals are making themselves look fresh and exciting, who knows how fast things could turn around? As John Manley put it on CBC last night (and of course, he could be one of those seeking the leadership) "We've seen things turn around pretty fast before," referring to Joe Clark's stunning loss in 1980.

While the change in government should be a good thing, given my previous musings about the necessity of shaking things up every so often, I'm worried about the Tories' lack of urban representation in the large cities.

Like it or not, there are three major urban centres in this country (Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver) and the Tories were all but shut out in them. The result is a fairly significant rural/urban split and it's going to be a challenge for Prime Minister-designate Stephen Harper. (Not long ago, I didn't think I'd ever hear that!)

Just how much is he really going to be able to accomplish, without any clear partners in Parliament? It's interesting to note that with 155 seats necessary for a majority, the Liberals (103), Bloc (51) and Independent (1) add up to 155. The Tories (124) and the NDP (39) fall just short of the magic 155 number.

What does that mean? I'm not sure. But with the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc all less than enthusiastic about a couple of the Conservatives' biggest election planks (a GST cut and their daycare proposal) what are the chances of Harper pushing those things through? And if he doesn't, will that make him look less effective? Or smart for avoiding a potential mine-field?

I don't think that the Liberals or the Bloc will want an election soon. The Liberals are heading into recovery mode, as well as a leadership campaign. The Bloc, after being spooked by their inability to maintain their seat count and popular vote count, certainly don't want an election until after the next provincial election. (And I doubt that anyone else wants another election either.)

So we are looking at a relatively stable government, but whether they're actually going to be able to do much is an open question.

I don't have the answers, obviously, or even interesting predictions. Like a lot of people, I'm going to sit back and see what happens. But one thing jumped out at me last night. This is the first time the Prime Minister (and the Governor General, for that matter) have been younger than me. Now that's something to think about.

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