January 24, 2006

Half a loaf: Better than no loaf

Some final thoughts on the national election.

According to Elections Canada, the preliminary, uncertified results from the 39th General Election are as follows:

Conservatives: 124
Liberals: 103
Bloc Québecois: 51
New Democrats: 29
Independent: 1

As of today, Canada has a new Prime Minister-designate: Conservative leader Stephen Harper. He will lead a minority government, meaning that while the Conservatives hold the most seats in the House of Commons, they have fewer seats than the combined three parties and one independent MP that form Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. Minority governments are weak and rarely last longer than a year; the Liberal minority that was defeated last night bucked that trend and survived about a year and a half.

Elections Canada has published a map [PDF] of the results. It's interesting to see the patterns that emerge, with the Conservative support being greatest in the West, naturally, except for the West Coast which went largely to the NDP. The three largest cities - Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver - remain Liberal strongholds. Here in Ottawa, however, thier support has been eroded: although they retained the central ridings, many of the suburban ones fell to the Conservatives.

Generally speaking, however, the Liberals' losses last night were the Conservatives' gains. This is especially true in Quebec, and the significance of that shift cannot be underestimated. French-Canadians have hated the Conservatives since the late 19th century, when then-Prime Minister John A. Macdonald had Louis Riel hanged for his part in the North-West Rebellion. Riel's execution was seen as symbolic of English Canada's oppression of the French. The Conservatives' gains in Quebec indicate either that the tide is turning, or at least that Quebec's discontent with the Liberals is now greater than that old grudge.

Things I expect to see on the Conservative government agenda:

  • Paul Martin's promise to cut gun-related crime by banning handguns isn't going to happen. No, wait, they've been banned from the streets of Canada for decades; handguns are already legal only on the shooting range and in owners' lockboxes. What will disappear, however, is that travesty of a national gun registry - a 2-billion-dollar boondoggle that has already exceeded its budget by three orders of magnitude.
  • I would not be surprised to see last year's infamous same-sex marriage legislation revisited, although with the Opposition filled with all the parties that supported it in the first place, I have my doubts that mistake is going to be rectified all that quickly.

Meanwhile, Paul Martin's leadership of the Liberal Party has come to an end after only two years. During his speech last night, Martin announced that he would soon be resigning his leadership. This means that the Liberals will be tied up for several months choosing a new leader. Names that are being floated as candidates to replace Martin include: current Ambassador to the U.S. Frank McKenna; former Fisheries Minister and premier of Newfoundland, Brian "Captain Canada" Tobin; and academic and Toronto MP-elect Michael Ignatieff. I've even seen Belinda Stronach's name mentioned; considering that only two years ago she was a contender for the Conservative party leadership, that would truly be an act of political prostitution. In any case, the Liberals probably not be interested in rocking the Parliamentary boat for awhile, and I think we Canadians are getting tired of elections for the time being.

As I write this, Dennis Prager is butchering "O Canada," both in words and melody. Oddly enough, it sounds like he has the same MP3 of the anthem that I've got kicking around. (Mind you, I think I ripped mine off from a government site!)

On that note, that's all I have to say about the election. We now return to regularly scheduled snarkiness.