The West is in and Ontario has joined it

How the election led to an unprecedented realignment of Canadian politics

A new power couple

Photograph by Chris Bolin

Democracy, great and terrible as the sea: unknowable, implacable, irresistible, destroyer of parties, deliverer of others, humbler of leaders, elector of bricklayers and assistant pub managers. Tremble before it, and stay out of its path when it moves.

Five parties were picked up, shaken out and tossed aside by the voters in this astonishing election, but of all the many implications one is fundamental: the Conservatives are now in a position to replace the Liberals as the natural governing party in Canada, as dominant, potentially, in the 21st century as the Liberals were in the 20th. This isn’t just a victory, the first Conservative majority in a generation. It is (at least under the terms of the current electoral system) a realignment. Simply put, the West is in—and Ontario has joined it.

The temptation, looking at the wreckage of the Liberal and Bloc Québécois parties and the meteoric rise of the NDP, is to compare this election to 1993, which shattered Brian Mulroney’s old Conservative coalition into its Bloc and Reform party fragments. But it’s much more consequential than that. In retrospect, 1993 changed very little. It handed power to the Liberals, but it did nothing to alter the long-term dynamic of Canadian politics: the remorseless shrinking of the Liberal base.

Once, under William Lyon Mackenzie King, Liberals governed with a majority in every region of the country. But they lost the West to the Conservatives in 1958, and never recovered. They lost Quebec in 1984, and have never really recovered there, either. The collapse of the Conservatives in 1993, and the splitting of the vote on the right that ensued, allowed Jean Chrétien to eke out three more majorities, largely on the strength of the Liberals’ near-total dominance of Ontario. But it did nothing to enlarge the Liberal base: neither the West nor Quebec rejoined the fold.

By contrast, this election looks a lot more like 1891, when Wilfrid Laurier established the Liberal dynasty in Quebec, the foundation stone of Liberal governments for nearly a century; or 1935, when King added Ontario to the Liberal column. Now Stephen Harper has at last recaptured Ontario for the Conservatives, and in so doing has created a new governing coalition, unlike any that has gone before: the West plus Ontario.

Quebec and Atlantic Canada (Laurier and King), or Quebec and Ontario (Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau) we’ve seen. Conservatives sometimes put together majorities out of Ontario and Atlantic Canada (Bennett) or Quebec and the West (Mulroney). But Ontario and the West? That’s new. They have voted together before, of course, but the combination has never previously been enough to produce a majority on its own. But as the population has shifted westward, so has the centre of gravity of Canadian politics.

It is likely to prove more durable than previous Conservative governments, if only because it has been so long in the making. This is not like the sudden sweeps of John Diefenbaker and Mulroney, born of the collapse of previous Liberal governments, only to collapse of their own internal contradictions. This is one that has been built slowly, election after election, through defeat and victory.

The Conservative dominance of the West is the single most established fact in Canadian politics, a dynasty now in its sixth decade. And it has only grown more pronounced over time. On Monday night, the Conservatives won 54 per cent of the vote in Manitoba, 56 per cent in Saskatchewan, 67 in Alberta, and 46 in B.C.: an astounding 55 per cent average across the West—nine points higher than they averaged in 2004.

But meanwhile the same growth has been occurring in Ontario. Conservative parties won two seats in Ontario in 2000, 24 in 2004, 40 in 2006, 51 in 2008, and now 73—the first time the Conservatives have carried Ontario since 1984. Not only did the Tories take most of the seats in rural Ontario, but they also took 32 seats in the Greater Toronto Area, propelled by rising support among immigrant groups. Overall the Tories took 44 per cent of the vote in Ontario—12 points higher than in 2004.

What does this mean? It means the West, having spent most of the last 53 years in opposition, is now firmly installed in power. And it now has Ontario as its partner. This is the new axis of Canadian politics: the West begins at the Ottawa River.

Ontario’s decision is more momentous when you think of what it has endured of late. For much of the campaign, Ontario was very much in play. It had been through a harsh recession, and had become for the first time a “have-not” province, dependent on federal equalization payments. There was a real question as to which way it would turn: to the parties promising an expanded role for government, or to the party promising to cut taxes and spending.

That it chose the latter suggests the greater durability of this coalition. The Diefenbaker sweep was based on cultish enthusiasm and the machinery of Maurice Duplessis in Quebec; Mulroney cobbled together two mutually antagonistic political movements, western populists and Quebec nationalists, united only in their loathing of Ottawa. By contrast, this is based on a real affinity of ideology and interests. For all the attention paid to the Tories’ inability to get over 40 per cent in the polls nationally, the greater truth is this: they have 50 per cent of the vote in two-thirds of the country. As it turns out, that’s enough.

And as the population continues to shift westward, it will be more than enough. At the next election, there will be 30-odd more seats in Ontario and the West, based on the redistribution bill the Tories introduced in the last Parliament; and in elections after that, more still. Add to that the coming abolition of party subsidies, as promised in their platform, and the Conservative grip on power looks secure.

AND YET it all could have turned out much differently. The Tories ran a frankly miserable campaign, aimed entirely at holding on to their existing base, but with little obvious appeal to the uncommitted. Though their strategy was sound, and their platform contained some interesting proposals, their message was presented in an oddly sullen tone: paranoid of the media, spiteful of their opponents. Indeed, until the last weekend of the campaign they appeared to be losing support, not gaining it. They benefited enormously from the disarray on the left: first the collapse of the Liberals, then, at the end, by the shocking rise of the NDP.

To be fair, the Tories were in part responsible for both. It was Harper who successfully framed the election as a choice between the stability of a Conservative majority or another “reckless coalition” of the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc—the enduring legacy of the December 2008 fiasco—putting the Liberals in a box from which they struggled the whole campaign to escape.

To voters frustrated with the political impasse of the last several years, Harper said: only the Tories could win a majority, while the Liberals, behind by a dozen points or more in the polls at the start of the campaign, could not. Voters who were comfortable with a Conservative minority, but wary of giving them a majority, were told that the former option was no longer available to them: a Conservative minority would surely be defeated in the House at the first opportunity. After all, was that not what had precipitated the election: the withdrawal of confidence by the other three parties?

As much as Michael Ignatieff tried to evade that logic, it proved ineluctible. If he wanted to govern, he had to leave open the possibility of doing so with the support of the NDP, at least. But in so doing, he allowed himself to be tied rather too closely to the other parties, at least for centrist voters’ taste: the more so in view of the Liberals’ disastrous decision to abandon the centre, in favour of a marked appeal to the left.

I’ll concede there was a certain logic to it: steal voters from the NDP, knock them out of contention early, and drive up Liberal numbers to within striking range of the Conservatives. Then appeal to voters to give Ignatieff a majority, rather than Harper. There was just one problem with it. It couldn’t possibly work.

The Liberal platform was just left enough to put off voters to their right, without persuading anyone to their left. It came off as what it was: a strategy, rather than a philosophy, feeding doubts about the sincerity and authenticity of the man promoting it, already planted by months of Tory attack ads. Add to that Jack Layton’s powerful personal appeal, and NDP voters had little reason to switch—the more so given all the talk of post-election alliances. After all, if the Conservatives could win the election and still be tossed from power, what reason had they to heed appeals to vote Liberal to “stop Harper”? Quite the contrary: better to give Jack a strong bargaining position in the negotiations to come.

All that the Liberals leftward deke accomplished, then, was to leave the Tories in absolute possession of the centre-right: the only party promising to cut taxes and spending, while four parties promised to raise them—the only party, indeed, that seemed particularly concerned with creating wealth, rather than redistributing it. Yet as much as the Liberals ceded the economy to the Tories, neither could they lay claim to any other issues in the public mind: the NDP owned health care and accountability, the Greens the environment. (As one pollster put it, about the only issue Ignatieff polled strongest on was foreign policy. Ouch.) And as the Liberal campaign began to stall, the opening was left for the NDP to make its move.

In a way, the NDP message was the flip side of the Conservatives’. Where Harper offered a majority as the solution to seven years of partisan bickering and brinksmanship, the NDP offered another: kick everybody in the shins: Conservatives, Liberals and, in Quebec, the Bloc.

And yet, as protest votes go, it was peculiarly sweet-tempered. The strategies of the other parties seemed aimed at forcing voters down one chute or another, with strident appeals to fear. You have to vote Conservative, Harper told them, to stop the coalition. You have to vote Liberal, Ignatieff told them, to stop Harper. You have to vote BQ, Gilles Duceppe told Quebecers, to defend Quebec from federal depredations. The faces of all three men scowled out at Canadians from campaign ads and the televised debates.

And along came Layton, with his courtly manners and perpetual smile, asking them, in effect, “Would you like to vote New Democrat?” That seems to have been all there was to it. There wasn’t much that was new in the NDP message—its policies remain the same frumpy mix of dirigisme and populist business-bashing they have always been—but neither was there the same negativity. To compound the oddity, here was a protest against “politics as usual” being led by a 25-year career politician. Yet in today’s sourpuss politics, Layton’s old-school vibe came off as positively radical. Imagine: a candidate who actually seemed to be enjoying himself, as if he liked people.

Voters in Quebec, weary of the Bloc and positively alarmed at the prospect of another referendum—for above all Quebecers prefer not to have to choose—were the first to respond, vaulting the party into first place in a province where it had only recently climbed above 10 per cent of the vote. That got the attention of left-of-centre voters in the rest of Canada, accustomed to being told they were “wasting their votes” if they opted for the NDP over the Liberals. Before you knew it, the NDP had doubled their vote nationwide.

There’s never been a surge to match it. Soon the Liberals found themselves whipsawed between the NDP and the Conservatives. As the NDP climbed in the polls, left-wing voters abandoned them in favour of the NDP, the better to “stop Harper.” Then, as the NDP started to draw within a few points of the Conservatives, right-wing Liberals decamped for the Conservatives, especially in Ontario, in order to stop the NDP. That late shift seemed to catch the pollsters unawares, but it was probably on the order of two to three percentage points, pushing the Tories over the top and cratering Liberal support.

THE RESULTING carnage—the Liberals gravely wounded, the Bloc mortally so—leaves as much altered on the opposition side as on the government’s, but with much less sense of its durability. The kind of sudden ballooning in support the NDP enjoyed has been seen before, especially in Quebec: it rarely lasts, not least when so much of it is attached to the personality of the leader. Quebecers have been shifting their support about wildly in recent years, without evident regard for ideological consistency: it’s the left-wing NDP now but it was the centre-right Coalition pour L’Avenir du Québec earlier, and the further-right Action Démocratique du Québec before that. The best that can be said is that the Quebec vote is in play.

The NDP will now have to cope with the challenges of success. It has done the country the singular service of dispatching the Bloc. Now it must manage the expectations aroused by its own strident appeals to Quebec nationalism, without alienating either its new-found followers in Quebec or its traditional base elsewhere in the country. At the same time, as the second party in an emerging two-party system, it must adapt to the rules of a very different political game.

Does it sharpen the divisions between itself and the government, in hopes of forcing the remains of the anti-Conservative majority into its camp—but at risk of yielding the centre ground to the Tories? Or does it pitch its tent for the centre, and risk being dragged to the right as the Conservatives remake Canadian politics in their image?

But the Liberals’ dilemma is much more acute. Indeed, it is existential. The party needs time to debate its future direction—but in the meantime, the Conservatives and the NDP will be tearing into its support on the right and left. Should it, as some on the left of the party are urging, opt for a merger with the NDP—assuming the NDP has any interest in such an alliance—it will find itself deserted by many of its centre-right supporters. But if it tries to carry on, crippled, adrift, and deprived of a substantial part of its funding, it risks bleeding support, even some MPs, to the NDP.

If it is to survive, it will have to make the case for the continuing relevance of a centrist party in Canadian politics. If all that being a Liberal means is to be a little less conservative than the Conservatives, a little less progressive than the New Democrats, the party may find itself meeting the same fate as the British Liberal party. But if it is bold enough to redefine the middle—to outflank the Conservatives on some issues, and the New Democrats on others, while claiming ownership of issues like democratic reform, or the need for a strong national government, capable of defending the national interest against the provinces, it may yet hope to rise again. Look on it as an opportunity, Liberals: it’s not as if you’ve got anything to lose.




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The West is in and Ontario has joined it

  1. Good analysis of the outcome of the election. From here on, most people have by now come around to agree that the era of the decline of cheap gas has come to an end. The world will continue to splash all available fossil fuels onto the bonfire of unsustainable economic growth faster and faster. During such increasingly desperate years, perhaps decades, a conservative government will remain in ascendance.

  2. The west has joined the east . WOW there is a statement. Harper could not get a majority with just the west so he sold his soul and the reform party to get it. Now it will be Ontario that will tell both Harper and the west how to run the country . Oh , and don't forget there is an opposition from Quebec . The west is still out. If you think otherwise try and get a job teaching sunday school .

    • I think Harper's strategy is turn Ontario into the West.

      Yeah, I don't know if it will work either.

      • Compromise guys… Harper won because he could control the extremists in his party.

        His elected MPs from Ontario will make his job easier.

        Canada has to move to the right to face the challenging times ahead. But calmly without extremism.

  3. I think you hit the nail right on the head Andrew when you talk about the Liberals approaching things issue by issue. That is essentially what the conservatives have done. They keep their massive support for the rural west by pledging to get rid of the CWB and by killing the long gun registry. (The latter gains them support from aboriginals as well).

    So the Liberals need to approach things issue by issue and see where they can get some support. Being rather ideologically neutral, they can blend specific left wing policies and specific right wing policies that both sides could live with. Since they aren't bound by doctrines of politics based on sociology or socialism like the NDP, nor on the doctrines of freedom from government like the conservatives, they are free to craft individual policy that can reach large and small voting blocks.

    However, they have to do two things.

    First, they can't claim that the NDP are the lesser evil to the Conservatives. Not only does this ally them with socialist ideology, but you take on the baggage of the other party. Notice that the NDP stopped doing this and refused to ally with the Liberals for most of the last 5 years. They are no longer "The Liberals in a hurry" but a distinctly socialist option.

    Secondly, they actually have to put boots on the ground to find those niche issues. A bus tour for the leader isn't going to cut it. They need intelligence riding by riding over what the specific business and social interests are for that specific riding, and come up with policy to attract them. Broad based policy that they thought up for their urban professional wage-earning base isn't going to cut in anymore.

    • You are like Coyne no understanding of Canadians . Look , Tronto is Liberal . They could see Harper was going to get his Majority so the best thing to do would be to join him and take over and destroy his secert agenda . The tory government will be controlled by Ontario. Do not think otherwise. Oh, and listen to the speech from the throne.

      • I'm not disputing that Toronto is Liberal.

        However, there are bits of policy in the conservative platform that appealed to Toronto voters, particularly ones that owned small businesses, and there were a lot of troops on the ground.

        Why is the west so conservative? It is because we have voted conservative for 6 decades in Alberta, and 3 decades in Saskatchewan since the NDP abandoned us. Social conservatism and conservative ideology are much easier to swallow if you are already voting for them anyway. If you vote like a conservative, you think like a conservative. You vote like a Dipper, you are going to think like a dipper.

        Elections matter for both the direction of the country and the direction of society.

        • A few years ago Newfoundland had to send salt fish to Alberta to keep them from starving And now because of oil they seem to think they have all the answers . Newfoundland is the same ,oil ,and all of a sudden you are different people . Have provinces they are. Remember it is a federation where the rich helps the poor. Tories believe in maintaining the gap and widening it where they can. NDP believes in narrowing the gap and Liberals believe in getting rid of it.

          • I think Alberta has long since paid back Newfoundland for their salted fish.

            Also, if you want to discuss transfer payments, which is better. Taking money from production regions of the country so that people can have a false economy where they are, or moving people to where the economy is?

            I tend the think the latter, though your mileage will vary. I also don't mind other provinces bailing out have-not provinces in the short term, but when it becomes a chronic problem then the government (such as Quebec and yes Saskatchewan and Newfoundland up until a short while ago) is probably not pursuing policies to either improve their economy or live within their means.

          • Ah yes, people are pawns to be moved around the country as suits the economic elites, who are the only ones who benefit. Conservatives talk about family values, but what happens to those families torn asunder by economic necessity? What of the elderly parents deprived of the comfort and support of their offspring in their decline? What of the grandchildren deprived of the joys and insights that only a retired senior can provide? Some family values, indeed!

          • The Maritimes have been doing this for over 100 years; Boston, Toronto, and now Alberta. The West shouldn't be thought of as a region not to be plunfered. It should be a region that people should want to move to for economic well being, clean air, blue skies. Alberta and Saskatchewan can welcome millions of people over the next 5 to 10 years.

          • Yes they built Boston , Toronto and now Alberta . Where else will you find people who work hard
            If it were left to the people of these areas to build it would not have happened. As to the clean air have you heard of the huge oil spill in Alberta and how the large river is now polluted beyond saving.
            Look you are only 100 years old some of the first settlers are still alive while the east is 500 years old . It would do well if you would listen to your older brothers ans sisters.

          • Yes, many of us used to be Maritimers.

            These transplanted Maritimers generally vote conservative, because they want to work and be prosperous. The ones that stayed home because they took the government money are generally not as happy as their western counterparts.

          • Alberta and Saskatchewan will not be able to welcome millions of people because we will run out of water. The fools who think we are immune to global warming will soon be trying to live in a land of extremes: drought, floods and tornadoes, with skyrocketing prices for food and fossil fuels.
            http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=

          • Most estimates say that global warming is probably not going to affect the Canadian Prairies very much, and in fact might actually make it wetter.

            However, while increased global temperatures on average are assured, as is increased desertification, it is difficult to determine what the end result of the climate will be in a particular region. There is just too much to know.

            But really, unless we want to make huge sacrifices to our standard of living (and deny the rest of the world an increase in theirs) global warming is pretty much inevitable. That isn't to say we shouldn't put money aside for dealing with it, or that we shouldn't encourage more sustainable consumption… but it isn't going to be solved by shutting down the oil sands or punishing people for making a living there.

          • And the inevitability of some climate change doesn't mean we should be indifferent between a little and a lot. If we dump the world's entire supply of fossil fuels into the atmosphere over the next 100 years, the results for our grandkids are liable to be pretty interesting.

          • I can agree with that. But unless we are going to build nuclear plants everywhere in the world, people are going to consume fossil fuels. No matter how left wing you are, we are consuming far more gasoline and electricity than our parents and grandparents did because we have far more things that require energy to live our lives.

            Unless people are willing to make consumption (particularly energy consumption) prohibitively expensive, then there is going to be no reduction in consumption. No reduction in consumption, then no influencing climate change. Nor are there going to be very many happy people when all of their bills go up much faster than their income (which would have to happen if you curb consumption).

            Now you can try to cut consumption by taking control of the market, but like I said earlier, socialism causes environmental disasters that we greedy pig capitalists haven't had to deal with.

          • You seem to be suggesting that achieving an increase of only 100% increase in emissions per year would not help vs. a scenario where it increases 600% so emissions per capita matches the West for the whole world. Note that doesn't allow for emissions to grow in the West. Once we agree that it's desirable for us not to have every economically burnable bit of carbon in the atmosphere, then we're just talking about levels.

            We don't need to nationalize any industries to influence emissions. That's a fallacy. We regulate all kinds of other emissions/pollutants.

          • Well sure, but when we limited those other emissions/pollutants we did destroy certain industries. Heck, look at the fact that we can't even shut down asbestos production because of politics.

            My point is that unless people are really willing to increase the cost of their standard of living, then reducing carbon production is really a non-starter. You won't get consumers to agree to it, much less producers who are directly dependent for their livelihood.

          • Bollocks. Regulating sulfur dioxide emissions didn't eliminate thermal-coal power generation or steel-making, and regulating lead in gasoline hasn't put a dent in gasoline consumption, or the car industry.

            I think you're underestimating what people are willing to do to address environmental problems. The issue might be moot, though. High oil prices are helping to funnel vast torrents of money into making oil irrelevant as a fuel source. It's not getting any easier to find the stuff, but the cost of alternatives is falling every year.

          • Oh, and the outcomes are on a continuum, not discrete. We don't have to build 10,000 nuclear plants to reduce carbon emissions. A few hundred will go a long way. I like the idea of the market deciding the least value-added carbon emissions through a carbon tax. It's better than cap-and-trade, because there need not be any transfer of wealth between jurisdictions, which is a political non-starter.

          • I'm glad you at least recognize the need for nuclear power.

            Though that has nasty downsides as well. One of the reasons nuclear waste isn't such a huge environmental concern is that we haven't got many nuclear plants. Plus, people are talking about shutting down nuke plants in the wake of Japan not building them.

          • More than that, I strongly support nuclear power. It's just about the least dangerous form of power available to us.

            Nuclear waste storage isn't a big problem. Breeder reactors can use 'spent' nuclear fuel (that has, in reality, barely been used). It can be stored quite safely in dry casks in the mean time. There are a few commercial breeder reactors already, and tens of billions is being spent on R&D alone for new reactor technologies, in addition to the hundreds of billions for new plants.

          • That is a tragedy alright. But transfer payments only make sense if there is going to be jobs in the future, and you have to keep people there who are trained and ready to resume those jobs. If the economy just isn't there, hiring people do to nothing is just going to cause social and economic problems.

            People need to be productive to be happy, and people need to have pride in what they do.

          • Pursuing policies to improve their economies…. Past conservitives allowed foreign countries to catch fish off Newfoundland on condition that they purchase wheat from the praries. So to save these people and allow them to remain where they lived and not move them to Newfoundland That province lost its fisheries, destroyed by the western farmers. Short memories and the truth hurts always. Try and keep in mind that it is a federation. You are telling me that all those people living along the Red River should be moved to higher ground. Only a Margaret Thatcher Tory could think that way.

          • Well, I do think people should move to higher ground if they are frequently being flooded… or at least take precautions when building their homes or infrastructure that they are in a river valley that frequently floods. A very apt analogy, thank you.

            As for allowing foreign countries to fish off the coast of Newfoundland in exchange for wheat, I don't know if it destroyed your fishery (Newfs were pretty good doing that by themselves) but the government also turned around and used the CWB to sell wheat for below market prices in exchange for manufacturing jobs in Ontario. In either case, these are both examples of robbing one region of the country for the sake of another. Did your fish help Western Canada's agriculture industry? Did lower priced western wheat save Ontario's manufacturing sector? It did not, and all it did was leave a lingering animosity between Saskatchewan, Ontario and Newfoundland.

            For the record, when Brian Tobin sent the ships to secure the nose and tail of the Grand Banks, we cheered for you. Everyone did. My father, a hardcore conservative even by my standards said "The Newfies should vote Liberal for 20 years". We weren't worried about losing any grain deals in exchange for your fish, because that isn't real economic security and growth anyway. It isn't like selling out your fish increased any wheat prices.

          • Yanni you have missed my point either your fault or mine does not matter. The liberals believe in sharing the wealth . That is what has made Canada great. You people believe in keeping it for your selves. A huge difference. I am asking you to read "The Shock Doctrine " " The Rise of Disaster Capitalism " by Naomi Klein.

            It won't make you a liberal but hopefully it will make you a better man.

          • I believe in sharing the wealth too. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it.

            If you simply take and redistribute, without any expectation of something in return, you create a culture of dependence and poverty. That is simply a fact.

  4. God Bless Stephen Harper for ensuring that the MAINSTREAM MORAL MAJORITY in English-speaking and immigrant (particularly Asian) Canada will now have our voices controlling the federal Government, instead of the bleeding-heart Trudeau/Chretien DOWNTOWN ELITIST ULTRA-EXTREME-LEFT.

    • welcome to Jim's world of raving fundie extremism. thank your god that there isn't a guy with a butterfly net at your door.

      <ding dong>

    • Nice post troll.

    • Well for one thing, Liberals didn't win elections all those years by BEING EXTREME LEFT, no matter how much you capslock it. For another just keep it up with that MORAL MAJORITY talk and Ontario will desert the Conservatives in a jiffy.

  5. I think Ontario voters are fed up with tax and spend Liberals. First Rob Ford, now Harper and in October, Tim Hudak. It does not need a lot of analysis, we are broke and simply cannot afford any more taxes.

    The TV ad that did Iggy in was his statement that he would not take a GST hike off the table!

    • So why on earth did we elect the guys who raised the payroll taxes while cutting taxes for the rich bosses?

    • Wrong peggy, Ontario voted for Harper's spend and borrow track record.

  6. The productive, wealth generating, tax paying, Transfer Payment making parts of Canada are together. The areas that believe they are Entitled to Their Entitlements are together.

    Nice split. The good guys are in charge, the cap-in-hand gang are hanging together, waiting for some $money.

    Happy days for Canadian tax payers, sanity is returning to our political debate.

    • good guys do not break the laws of parliament. the whole world knows our pm is in contempt of parliament, hardly a position that inspires respect or confidence.

  7. It seems to me that reporting and comment on the recent federal election has missed something very important indeed (though Andrew almost gets it). The true divide in the country, as it was in the 2008 election but even more so now, is between Québec and the Rest of Canada (RoC, once quaintly known as English Canada). The Conservatives in Québec this year won 16.5 per cent of the popular vote and only six seats out of 75, that is eight per cent of them.

    In the RoC the Conservatives won 48 per cent of the vote (almost a majority, in a contest with three other serious parties) and 167 of 233 seats, that is a thumping 72 per cent of them. The difference with Québec could hardly be more pronounced.

    The clear fact is that the Conservatives are dominant at this point in the RoC while barely a force in la belle province. Moreover the Conservative government plans to add 30 new seats in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia to reflect those provinces' increase in population. Most of those seats will be suburban ones, just the sort of seat very likely to be picked up by the Conservatives. So it seems probable that their dominance in the RoC will increase; meanwhile it is hard to see any great breakthrough for them in Québec in light of the three most recent federal election results there.

    So the true great Canadian political divide looks well set only to widen further.

    Mark
    Ottawa

    • I think Andrew does indeed "get it" as his great analysis yesterday showed.

      Something that has stuck with me was Brian Mulroney's comment during CTV coverage on May 2nd, that Quebec is a kind of "social democratic" society. I believe this is why they can be comfortable voting NDP but not so much CPC. I would say the Atlantic provinces are somewhat "social democratic" too. Unfortunately for them, the power base is indeed shifting westward.

      I think it's going to be interesting to see how Harper addresses the apparently likely rise of the PQ as of next provincial elections. Will the PQ engineer a crisis and how will Harper respond to that? Will he use a crisis to try to split the NDP into NPD and NDP so that he can strengthen the CPC outside Quebec? Will he find a way to get Quebecers to love him?

      • He will get support from the Bouchard sovereignists if he finally stops treating Quebec like a spoiled teenager and kicks them out of the basement into the real world where they can get a job and pay their own rent.

        They can still be part of the family, but need to grow up and accept some responsibility.

        Quebec's lack of maturity and teenage rebellion phase has gone on far to long and they have to grow up and accept responsibility. It will be better for everyone.

        First comes respect and then love

        • I think Max Bernier will come into play again. He very much appeals to the "adults" in PQ, specifically the fiscal conservatives, plus Harper needs more PQ representation.

    • My only nitpick in this analysis is that the Tories took 161 seats in the RoC, not 167 (remember those six they won in Quebec).

  8. With the Liberals now out of play for either the next 4 years or forever, Layton finally has the power he thought that being the official opposition would give him; only problem is that thanks in part to his efforts, the government has a majority so the official opposition has no power whatever. Harper finally has the absolute power he thought a majority would give him; only problem is that he now has no more excuses for not doing what his base wants. Lesson for every day of the next 4 years to the both: be careful what you wish for. It could be an interesting 4 years.

  9. This is an argument about what Canada wants to be when it grows up.

    Alberta is all about for hard work, being rewarded for work and risks and individual accountability, paying your own way and small government and low taxes.

    Quebec has stood for big government, high taxes and the government being responsible for the well being of all individuals from the cradle to the grave,

    Both areas have great natural assets… space, power, minerals, forests and water …..much more than the rest of the World.

    Alberta and its political system and the philosophy of its people have created the best social programs, education, hospitals etc AND also pay for a huge chunk of Quebec's.

    If you are in Ontario you have examples of two very different systems and which one they want to follow.

    Even more striking is Saskatchewan. After decades of socialism and being a never-have province they finally switched over to the Alberta model and are now the strongest Province in the federation.

    • Alberta has cut and slashed its education programs since Ralph was in power. To describe it as the best in education is to reveal that you have not been in a school or spoken with a teacher in quite some time. The Alberta model works great for the haves. Not so well for the have nots.

      • The teachers still got paid more and the education budget was bigger per capita in Alberta than it was in Saskatchewan under the NDP.

    • You really have no idea what our social programs are like in Alberta, do you?

      • Do you? Do you have any idea how many different (and flexible) subsidy options there are for daycare, for example? As for education, the EPSB regularly hosts visitors from other provinces and countries to check out their model. We still have a high dropout rate, but that has more to do with the ability to earn a very good living working either directly in the oil industry or in the many related supporting industries. We've got the top program for autistic children in the country, and some of the top talent in medicine overall.

        Is it perfect? No. But you won't likely see our premier fly to the US for surgery, either.

    • If only Ontario had the good sense to put a trillion dollars worth of oil in its back yard, it too could be a low-tax utopia like Alberta.

  10. I find it odd that someone like Coyne, who has written so often and so eloquently about the failings and deceptions of a FPTP electoral system, could fall back on lazy generalizations about how "the West" voted as if we all voted the same, en masse, and the FPTP results actually reflected accurately how we voted.

    I saw today that the SNP won a majority government in the Scottish Parliament, via STV. It's in those situations that you can honestly make statements like, (geographical location) voted en masse for (party).

    • Did George Galloway get his seat???

      • Bet ol' Georgie Boy will continue to persue his lawsuite against Kenney now.

        "In the Glasgow list, Patrick Harvie became the first Green to reclaim his position at Holyrood, but there was no place for Respect's George Galloway, although his Coalition against the Cuts grouping did amass more second votes than the LibDems in the city."

      • Um, no. But, what possible relevance could that have in reply to a comment about false perceptions of geographical consistency in unproportional electoral systems?

    • But is Coyne wrong? The Tories did take 55% of the vote out west, with three other (more or less serious) parties splitting the rest. I don't know how else you could characterize that fact. With a PR or STV system, the Tories would still have won an abslute majority of the seats in Western Canada.

      • Imagine a hypothetical country that just had an election in which 55% of the population voted one way and 45% another way. Would you find it accurate to describe that hypothetical country as unified whole? I wouldn't.

  11. The "for entertainment purposes only" pollsters that had the CPC at 33% of the popular vote and with absolutely no chance at a majority did the Quebec voters a HUGE disservice.

    They went to the polls thinking that Jack Layton might be the PM today and would at least have major influence.

    The Quebec voters are very immature and easily confused. We in the rest of Canada have attributed them far greater political acumen than they have every actually displayed.

    • please limit the "we in the rest of Canada" to yourself only – bashing quebec voters for their choices is ridiculous and says far more about your than it does them …

    • Quebec voters are a hell of a lot smarter than many Albertans; speaking as an Albertan who is not stupidly Conservative.

    • These posts underline my conviction that when someone signs off as the Voice of Reason, that is code for : my particualr set of prejudices trump whatever contrary information may be out there.

  12. Very good analysis of the results of the election. However, I am deeply disappointed to see that Layton and his party so flagrantly nominated/appointed candidates in Quebec who had no business running. What Layton has done should be the subject of an ethics inquiry in the House. There should be common rules for how candidates are nominated/appointed by all parties. To simply put in a pylon risks what has happened now. A pile of activists, university students who are actually still in school etc and who are now being charged with helping to run the country. Some of these people have no life experience. It is really sad and Layton needs to be held accountable for his kiddie MPs and the fact he cannot be a credible official opposition party. Layton should enjoy his day in the sun as it will end soon enough. He is lucky Harper has a majority government.

    • "What Layton has done should be the subject of an ethics inquiry in the House."

      Don't be ridiculous! That is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever seen. An ethics inquiry because they've got bad candidates who won anyway? An ethics inquiry against winning? An ethics inquiry against fielding candidates? You can't blame the NDP if they did their best to field a candidate in every riding! Puhleaze.

      What your describing is an affront to democracy. One of the pillars of democracy is that anyone can participate – you don't have to be royalty, you don't have to have connections. Anyone can run for office. There are no qualifications, it's up to the people to decide who represents them, and nobody else. Not some bureaucrat in Ottawa, not some elected officials – anyone can run, and the people decide who will be their representative. If the people choose someone they don't know, that's their choice. If they're dumb enough to complain that they don't like their own vote, that's their problem. The NDP can do whatever the heck they like when they choose their candidates – it's called democracy.

    • Yes, like the 1997 Quebec Reform candidates were carefully chosen for their education, background, and ability to effectively represent the caucus. Do the names Suzanne Bherer, Hagop Karlozian, or Gilles St.Laurent mean anything to you? Nope, because they were the Reform's sacrificial lambs and no one even bothered to check out their backgrounds.

      Every party does it, in every election. It's actually amusing to see so many CPC supporters acting all elitist. You've turned into the right-wing Liberal party.

      • Sorry, but most CPC supporters don't think that way. Most CPC supporters are just having a laugh at Layton's expense with all the trouble he'll be going through pulling his MPs together into some form of functional team. The NDP was even suggesting that they hold off bringing parliament back so they have more time to get a handle on things. It's a laugh.

        • Harper dodged a bullet in that his Tory candidates weren't scrutinized, every party has unqualified (if one can define "qualified") and in some cases, wacko members. Maybe the young NDP'ers won't put up with the endless and unproductive B.S. that characterizes most Parliamentary discourse. Let's wait and see before judging.

    • there's lots of historical precedent for electing pylons in the Conservative caucus … besides, there is no job description, anyone can run, perhaps you might specify what you think the standards for "life experience" are other than "not these guys" and then I'll put in my standards for integrity and compassion and hint, the answer will be not those CPC guys and those Liberals never really learned their lesson …

      FYI, Obama was an activist before running for Congress, and he went into politics because he realized that was the only place he could effect change … and as for their negative effect – we have yet to see whether this is the case … you've judged and sentenced them before they've even gotten to Ottawa …

    • That is nonsense. The only qualification that matters for being an MP, is to be elected by your constituents. There were a lot of candidates across the country who had extensive “experience” and good CVs who were defeated (Michale Ignatieff comes to mind).

      The voters made their choice as is their right. If they didn’t know what choice they were making, that is their fault. They had six weeks to find out who their candidates where, information that is readily available. Heck, I don’t live in Quebec, but I knew about their candidate who was spending the election in Las Vagas – it was on the national news well before election day. People need to take some personal responsibility for their vote.

      The fact that thousands of people obviously didn’t care about their local candidate and instead voted for the party and the leader, is actually an indictment of our whole Parliamentry system. You can go on, idealistically and naively about how these MPs will be responsible for “leading the country” but what most voters recognized is that that is a joke. MPs power has been so diminished that they are essentially voting monkeys. Many of those elected in Quebec, perhaps inadvertently, proves, that it really does not matter who your local MP is. And that is truly unfortunate. But trying to pin the blame for that on Jack Layton is simply partisan BS.

      • Sadly, all of that is true. Freeing M.P.s from strict party discipline would give us a much better democracy.

    • It's not often that I strenuously object to one of your points, hollinm, so I will tread carefully here…

      What Layton has done should be the subject of an ethics inquiry in the House.

      ABSOLUTELY NOT! There is nothing unethical about being (or approving) a weak candidate who then happens to be elected by the voters on the basis of party and-or leader popularity. If they are Canadian citizens, over 18, eligible to run, and the hundred nomination signatures are valid (ahem…), then that's it. You are the legitimate MP if the voters in your riding say you are.

      Some, maybe even many, but not all, will turn out to be disasters. But Layton must not face a House ethics committee over this. He and his party will face us, the voters, over this. And that is how it should be.

    • The new NDP MPs are light years ahead of the neaderthals that came to Ottawa in the 1990s and early 2000s with the political tag team of Manning, Day and Harper.

    • Fine then. I want an inquirey into the fresh-faced Roto-Rooter employee that ran for the Conservatives in East Van a bunch of years ago. I mean, what if he won?!!

  13. Help!!!!!!!!!!

    I am trying to get the comments from this blog to come on my emails. They use to but for some reason no longer. Can someone tell me if there is a setting on my computer that is preventing the comments from being downloaded onto my email.

    • Check your junkmail inbox?

  14. Andrew, you could at least given credit to michael bliss and his witings in the New Canada west of the mb/on border years ago. That new Canada has moved across that border and now includes all of Ontario save unber unionized ridings and hyperurban Toronto. And it may have an island in NB.

    And the CPC ran a textbook perfect campaign holding what it had and running the gauntlet of the national campaign of the four oppo parties and a biased, anti-conservative MSM whil it focused on the groundwar and the forty or fifty seats that were needed to win a majority. It was hardly a miserable failure – in fact quite the opposite.

    Your errors and omissions are disappointing. Inhave followed your writings going back to the days of meech. I even cited some of them when I appeared before the charest commission. I haunted your blog while it lasted. Now in the last few years you seem to have lost your bearings and your political analysis has almost become a litmus test – if andrew coyne approves/disapproves – do the opposite.

    I wish you the best andrew, but your writings above and in the last few years have been far from your best.

    • There was a time when Coyne railed about our one-party state, near the end of 13 years of uninterrupted Liberal rule, 11 of those years with majority governments. Just 5 years of minority Conservative rule later, he wanted the Liberals back in charge again. I guess he's entitled to change his opinion, but I also find myself in disagreement much more often.

      • To be fair, Coyne is more of a natural Conservative. It's just that the Conservatives are so hard to support if you're paying attention.

    • it was text book perfect only from the perspective of winning a game, playing the electorate, and ugly trench warfare over the finish line … other than that – disgusting, Mr. Harper unhappy sneering man, ugly attack ads – nothing to do with policy, refusing to take questions, intimidating the media, ejecting people from rallys with the help of the RCMP goon squad, I'd say it was miserable …

      as for the rest, it doesn't follow, sorry …

      • Politics is a contact sport. Wear a cup. All party’s engage in some rough and tumble tactics. So dies the MSM. The CPC strategy worked as planned. The LPC’s trumped up charge of contempt / then Heathcare / then scary Tories didn’t. Mr coyne argues that the CPC campaign was a failure. I see no evidence where it counts – seats won.

  15. It's likely true that we are looking at CPC majorities over the next decade.

    After all, there is no alternative anymore, with the only other healthy party being a hollow leftwing shell poorly prepared for the scrutiny that comes with being official opposition, let alone government.

    The NDP has one hell of a learning curve ahead of them and I suspect they really wish now that they had spent more time focusing on the quality of their candidates. Clearly though, running 308 was a stretch for them.

    In this country, if you can't capture a sizable portion of the center, you don't form government. That's where the single largest group of voters sit afterall, and from my perspective so-called fiscal conservatives sit on the right edge of that center. You need them to form government.

    But what happens when you're back to a two party system, and the surviving opposition has 50 years of history as tax and spend socialists?

    You have a one party state, that's what.

  16. "while claiming ownership of issues like democratic reform"

    Um, this was never credible and never will be. It's just another file available for Layton to seize. Wells is right when he says: "But even on more consequential stories about ethics, the calculation was that Liberals couldn't draw blood because—well, because they were Liberals. "

    It was the Liberals who wrote the book on finding new and inventive ways to be dirty, starting from Chretien, whose favourite slogans all involved the fact that he was a winner and that's all that mattered. People could see the conniving tricks the Liberals have been pulling the last few years, from leaving the house so they didn't have to vote, to repeatedly passing spending bills despite the rules, to the coalition attempt just 2 weeks after an election they lost, to the ridiculous engineered votes of contempt over accounting and document management. This is just a short list. For these shysters to claim the high road is a laugh.

    And let's not forget that the Cons have always had democratic reform in their platform: Senate reform. They still do. They've been torpedoed on this file previously due to opposition from numerous places, including the Liberals. Harper went so far as to leave a huge portion of the Senate empty, until he realized he was risking his party by doing so – if the opposition defeated his government and seized power that would leave them the entire Senate to fill at their whims.

    Yet somehow the Liberals are a vehicle of democratic REFORM? Don't make me laugh.

    • There's no democratic reform coming to the Senate. Sorry. All we're going to get is term limits and faux-elections. Maybe.

      Fun thought experiment: had the NDP won a minority government Monday, would the Conservative toadies in the Senate have blocked their legislation?

  17. Well, being a wage slave isn't that happy a life either.

    Maybe it is a personality thing, I am far less productive than I should be because I'm living somewhere economically depressed for the sake of my wife's career. But what I want is my own land, my own income and my own legacy. Just maximizing luxury and minimizing effort would drive me nuts, even if I was retirement age.

  18. Harper has a great opportunity here, but he has to be careful.

    Ontarians have proven over the years both provincially and federally that they prefer their governments boring. Yes that's right: boring.

    A bit of nonsense here or there doesn't move them in great numbers and they almost eschew idealogical bandwagons, as witnessed by the 3D center split this election where as many voters ran from Jack as ran to him.

    Don't give them too much reason to pay attention and you can get elected over and over.

    Delve too much into the wings however, and they're likely to toss you and go for the next most boring party they can find. LOL

    • Were Harris or Rae boring?

      • Depends on who you ask I suppose, but you only have the choices you have right? Preference is one thing, options another.

        I lived through the Harris years, and while many were flabergasted that he got a second term, he had provided fairly good government and people didn't see a solid/stable alternative.

        Ontarians just want government that works and isn't in their face too much. Not too far left or right and given that option, they take it.

        That's why so many Ontarians, previously wary of Harper and thinking the Liberals provided solid/stable/not in your face governing, were so suddenly moved when it looked like any coalition would have Jack at its head. The Liberals seemed to have ceased to be an option.

        IMO of course.

        • One of the items that flabbergasted me when Harris took power in Ontario, was his announcement that they discovered there were nearly twice the number of OHIP cards/numbers in the system as the population of Ontatio!!!

  19. Good article, but please specify exactly where the Liberals planned to raise taxes? Cancelling further corporate tax cuts is hardly the same as raising rates if that's what you are implying.

    • Psst: the election is over. You can stop caring about platforms now.

    • The Liberals campaigned on raising taxes from the existing rate to a higher rate. They wanted to reverse a tax cut that happened over a year ago. Since that cut already happened a long time ago, they're no longer cancelling anything, they're raising taxes from the existing rate to a higher rate.

      • Yup. they were at 18%, now are at 16.5%, and are slated to go to 15%.

        The Liberals planned to raise them to 18%. That is a tax raise.

      • You're right. It's just how Harper raised taxes on the lowest income tax bracket when he was elected.

    • The Liberals were going to roll back two legislated corporate tax reductions which they failed to vote against (in sufficient numbers because their members were told to be absent). They kept saying these corporate tax reductions were in the Conservatives budget but the public knew better. They were passed in 2007, before the previous election. And neither the Liberals nor NDP tried to stop them, which they could have done.

      The economics literature is clear that lower corporate taxes lead to higher wages and counter the impact of a higher dollar in sustaining employment. That's why Paul Martin reduced them, and Flaherty (and McGuinty). People get this.

      And, of course, Ignatieff famously sneered to the media that he wouldn't take a GST hike "off the table".

      Other tax hikes? Well, to give away $1,000 a year to students has to come from somewhere, as do the civil servant paycheques to administer that odd program (instead of bumping up existing loans/grants).

  20. As for globalization, that is a fact of life and bigger than any one government. Refusing to participate in it would have been more ruinous for the country than the loss of unskilled labour.

    The solution for getting back at the economic elites is to become a capitalist yourself and take their money.

    • Globalization, a fact of life? Like death and taxes, we had no choice? Other jurisdictions chose other paths and have done better than us in cushioning their populations from the vagaries of unrestrained neoliberalism. I for one cannot accept your defeatism. We are a country with a tradition of supporting each other through tough times. The workers of Canada answered the call of the elites in two world wars and put their lives on the line to protect their privilege. The least they could have done is include us in their calculus before consigning what appears to be a generation of young people to barrista hell.

      • As for getting back at the elites, that has no appeal whatsoever. I am one of those that believes that one does not become better than his enemy by becoming him. I have principles and I will hold to them in spite of the fact that not doing so would harm my economic prospects. For example, I had your piece of land and your vaunted income, but mine was obtained honestly. Where other growers were selling Purple Fountain Grass as a perennial, I would not, as it is only a perennial in Florida. So much of what passes as commerce these days is dependent on misdirection, if not outright deceit. 3G networks are being sold as 4G because of a reinterpretation of the standard brought about by lobbying by the big telecoms.

        • It is the job of the consumer to make proper market choices. If you are getting crap, then it is your responsibility to give your business to someone who screw you over.

          A crooked capitalist generally thrives because the government won't let him go out of business. Why do the big three have worse cars than the imports? The government won't let them fail and make room for new automakers. Why do banking institutions get to piss away money on bad investments? The government is there to bail them out.

          Transfer payments and government interference in the economy creates a lot of the capitalist behaviors that you despise. Complete government control of the economy creates environmental disasters and shoddy products like the West has never had to contend with.

          • Consumerism is killing us.

          • True, but socialism kills people much, much, faster.

          • You seem to be conflating socialism and communism in your posts. There is quite a difference.

          • Yanni, please reread your first paragraph. I don't think it says what you mean. As for the consumer making proper choices, who has the time and energy any more to do it properly. We must rely on what information we can glean, and as often as not that is massaged to give the impression of authority while being sponsored by a corporation that wants our custom. For instance, for years a certain automotive magazine voted car of the year to a rotation of manufacturers based on advertising revenue rather than on true value. That and consumer loyalty led to the false notion that America produced the best cars.

            Advertisers have been having their way with us for over a century and have become quite slick in their seductions.

          • Second, there is a close relationship between government and business, especially when the Conservatives are in power. Have you never noticed when Jim Flaherty, the Finance Minister is questioned about a decision, he always asserts that the best experts had been consulted. These experts are all representative of the economic elites. They receive their loaves and fishes for promoting the interests of same elites. In return, the politicians receive consultancies and board positions when they leave the political sphere. It is nowhere more egregious than south of the border where it is pandemic. No wonder no one wants to interfere.

          • Third, government interference in the economy is inevitable. Some things like defence, education, health care and infrastructure are dependent on government support. Health and safety standards need to be developed and enforced. Law and order is needed for the security of the individual and the enforcement of contracts is necessary for a stable economic environment.

            In and of itself government is not the problem. The problem arises when the government tries to avoid its responsibilities and leave the market to sort out the winners and losers, without regard for the long term viability of the common weal. I am sure you would not want a state where 'Are there no prisons, are there no workhouses' is a common plaint. We left that behind more than a century ago and have prospered accordingly.

          • Oh, I'm not that hardcore about it. However, you have to understand that government interference in the economy causes as much, if not more, than leaving things alone. Any government interference in the economy should be carefully considered and short term.

            You have to understand if the government picks the winners and losers, then what matters is not that you produce a good product and area responsible corporate citizen. What matters is that you are politically connected. A lot of abuse that you lay on capitalism can be attributed to being able to get away with them because of those political connections.

          • I guess you agree with Tabatha Southey's take on the right's view on the economy:

            "Conservative principles generally hold that the economy is essentially a beautiful and self-regulating thing, from which only excellent things come, and with which it's best not to tamper too much artificially. It's pretty much their version of a vagina."

            Me, I love to dive in and conjour up as many 'petite mortes' as I can deliver. Everybody ends up smiling.

          • Yes, we are sexually excited by a free market. It isn't because we think socialist theories aren't based on fact and that the people who espouse them don't know enough about market forces to know the consequences of their constant interference in the economy.

            How about you actually view your opponents with respect?

          • So which is it? Should governments interfere and have a close relationship with business so that they are protected from the market (corporate welfare, transfer payments, protectionism and tariffs) or do you want the corporations to compete in the global market?

            Don't you see that the more you try to frustrate the natural economy, the more you help corporations and bad business practices? Government can hold corporations to minimum standards on labour and the environment, but they can't generate wealth. They can only redistribute it, and usually it is done with a great deal of corruption.

          • Have you ever heard the age of persuasion? It is a series about advertising on the CBC. One of the maxims of that show is that advertising only helps a bad product fail faster.

            In other words, you can generally only fool someone once with a bad product, and once they try it the relationship between you and your customer is ruined.

            That's why the Honda Civic is the #1 selling car in Canada, not a domestic brand.

      • Okay, so what do you want to do about globalization? Shut off our market to trade? We're an export economy, and I fail to see how punishing exporters for the sake of manufacturers (when they cannot make things as well as their cheaper competition) is to the benefit of everyone.

        Besides, do you realize how much the standard of living has increased around the world because of globalization? We had the developed money and the economy, and without globalization people would have been trapped in socialist regimes. Globalization is causing the Arab spring, because people gained access to technology and other resources that could only come about due to world trade. You want to toss all that away to save some unskilled union jobs in Ontario?

        You are a cold heartless man sir.

          • Sure, but you own a car, use a computer, and keep your house at a comfortable 20 degrees (or higher). You are middle class, so you consume as much as someone of the middle class.

            You are also not prepared to pay more for the standard of living that you currently enjoy. So ranting and raving about how we are all doomed is the opposite of being a solution to the problem.

        • This comment was deleted.

          • See but you want a planned economy, and the record on planned economies of 1) protecting the environment and 2) providing a good standard of living for everyone is terrible. Absolutely terrible.

            So why did planned economies do such a bad job? The priorities were always based on politics rather than need. If the socialist government determined that a project go ahead that was environmentally devastating, and the environmental bureau wasn't that influential then it would go ahead. The citizenry didn't have the advantage of having rich people who could meet the government with their own resources to protect environmental issues. Plutocrats, as much as me hate them from time to time, are absolutely necessary for our liberty because they are the only ones with the funds to challenge a bureaucracy.

            As for Monsanto you are speaking of patenting seeds like roundup ready canola or roundup ready corn right? Well who gave them the power to patent those seeds? The Liberal Government and the Liberal-appointed court. The provincial NDP of Saskatchewan also went along with it. So having a left wing government in charge as a check to corporations doesn't seem like a sure bet to me.

          • Straw man argument. You say I want a planned economy. Please show me where I did that. I thought I said I wanted a smart, compassionate economy that meets the need of as many of its participants as possible and helps them achieve their personal ambitions while at the same time protecting against both human and environmental injustices. It isn't a dialectic. There is a continuum, and as in quantum physics, there are many states in which we can exist. Sometimes one is the most appropriate and at others another works best.

            Please read '23 Things They Don't Tell You about Capitalism' by Ha-Joon Chang to disabuse yourself of any notion of a free or as you put it a natural market. It is an incisive and valuable critique of neoliberal economics based on an analysis of the recent past.

        • I want us to think globally and act locally. It is not within our power to control the forces of world trade, but it is within our power to control how we interact with them. Nowhere have I said that we should punish exporters but I would that their exports would benefit all the people you purport to wish to help.

          We have a well educated population and with support it could be used to help design the systems and products that would enhance the quality of life for as many as possible while at the same time helping them avoid the ecological disaster of big everything. Instead we ensure that corporations such as Monsanto reap unseemly profits while depriving subsistence farmers of a means of survival. We deny cheap medications to needy patients to protect the outrageous and unnecessary profits of the pharmaceutical industry.

          How is that in any way cruel and heartless?

  21. Or does [the NDP] pitch its tent for the centre, and risk being dragged to the right as the Conservatives remake Canadian politics in their image?

    I don't see that as the biggest risk. Pitching for the centre risks its own self-destruction, as internal dissent from the mistaken but ever-so-earnest socialist-leaning (and labour union) members will have them storming off in a prestonmanningian huff.

    Besides, I don't know that Layton has it in him to betray the principles that got him this far.

    • Nice that at least one party leader doesn't.

      • Too bad that's the party, though.

        • To be truthful, I'd rather have a party that I don't like, but can predict, than a party that I maybe like, but can't trust between one day and the next.

  22. I'll argue with that statement the West is in. The West is a conveniently forgotten place-holder. We always vote the same way, have done for 60 years according to the article. And then we whine about not being given any attention by government. I'm not sure why we'd expect anything else.

    Until the West shows evidence of being willing to change its vote, we'll never be "in". At best, we'll be on the favored side of Ontario.

    • Sure, but that is largely because the other parties have neglected the place so long that people now vote Conservative out of habit.

      You are a lefty in the west Thwim. Aren't you the slightest bit annoyed that the left doesn't even try to gain seats out here? It wasn't that long ago that there were red and orange seats in even the most backwoods, cousin marrying, moonshine swilling, grubby rednecked, podunk ridings in the west. Right up until 1993 in fact.

      It wasn't Conservative lies and intrigue that decimated their numbers out here. If you truly believe that the West isn't getting proper representation, then the other parties should be able to win seats, as long as they are interested in representing them. As long as.

      Also, you spending less time commentating on Macleans and more time organizing for your party would probably help.

      • You should have come to my riding, try telling me then they weren't trying to gain seats — or that they were poorly organized. As an addition, kindly don't make assumptions as to what I do, and I'll kindly not point out the ass u are.

        That aside, I argue that if opposition parties don't try to gain seats out here it's because they can be pretty sure it's a wasted effort, meaning a waste of resources that could have been used in ridings where they could gain.

        Look at the results. After a hell of a campaign run by the Liberal candidate, she got third place to a party that promised an even more extreme version of cap & trade, and ran a paper-candidate with no campaign. In addition, the CPC candidate had a 2:1 margin on all his opposition put together. Even though anybody I talked to during the campaign agreed that he wasn't doing much of anything for the riding at all. (Oh.. remember that assumption you made, you ass?)

        This area's blasted territory for any party but the CPC.. and everybody, including the CPC.. knows that. Until we start waking up and show that we might be paying some attention, there really is no reason for any other party to bother wasting their resources or even thinking about us.. and precious little reason for the CPC to either.

        • See but that just blames the voters. What if the Reform Party had taken that attitude to Ontario?

          It took 20 years and a lot of constant effort, but they finally broke through. The sins of the Liberals in Alberta were huge, and left a lasting legacy of people's lives and dreams being ruined.

          Yes, it is going to be a monumental effort of resources. As great as that of the Reform Party becoming the government. It took 20 years of trying to convince Ontario to let them in, and much compromise and sacrifice. Why should the Conservatives have dumped so many resources into Ontario? They wanted to form government, that's why.

          Likewise, even if it is hopeless for years, the Liberals and the NDP are going to have to dump resources into the West like the Conservatives dumped it into Ontario. The population and the center of power has shifted.

          I would suggest you take that Liberal candidate you like, and keep on campaigning for the next 4 years. Every month there should be something going on with the Liberal campaign, and more money collected to keep going to the next month. I would also recommend that you pick up some western friendly policies that the Liberals can adopt that won't anger the traditional Liberal base in Ontario. Withdrawing support for the CWB would have been an excellent move to show that your party understands what the West wants without costing a single Liberal vote. I'm sure that there are many other things that are trivial to Ontario but important out West. The Tories are also going to start chopping down some planks of alienation, like the CWB and the long gun registry. You might be able to recover without the constant reminders of policies in their daily life that make people angry.

          • Except that most farmers, from what we know, like the CWB.. otherwise they wouldn't choose their directors like they do. And I know, I know, you've got the story of electoral fraud that has no proof anybody can see, but parties can't act on that until it's shown that there really was fraud going on.

            As for the long-gun registry, you're suggesting throwing out what is a good idea to pander for votes. They start doing that, they lose the only constiuents they've got left.. those who like them because they've got good ideas. Yeah, I'm sure that'll fly.

          • *sigh* You do realize that the CWB elections have about 30-40% participation right? Odd that, since farmers don't seem to have a problem turning out for provincial and federal elections. It's almost like, despite your skepticism, everyone knows the elections are a crock and they don't bother to participate. It isn't like the CWB elections are overseen by Elections Canada. No the only way to get rid of the CWB is to vote Conservative, so they do.

            Anyway, if you truly believe that Canadian farmers will be angry at the CWB being made voluntary, you'd best make sure the Liberals start campaigning in rural ridings in Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

            But really, I don't see how you can believe that the CWB is wanted. The very idea is patently absurd. Farmers market every other grain that they own. It would be a like all the shoe stores in Canada deciding that they need a single desk buyer to control the price of high heels, but not any other shoe. Why would farmers need help marketing wheat and malt barley, crops that are often not the highest acreage planted, and not any other grain whose acreage can be larger than wheat or barley on any given year?

        • In 2004 the Liberals' national popular vote declined from 40.7% to 36.7% — a four-point drop; yet the Liberal vote rose in every Western province. Why did that happen, Thwim?

          My hypothesis is that those Westerners voted for Paul Martin's party because he asked them to. He promoted Ralph Goodale, Anne McLellan, and Reg Alcock to major portfolios, spoke about reforming the Senate, recruited star candidates like Glen Murray and Chris Axworthy, and generally made every open-to-Western-concerns signal a Liberal PM could. These moves had an effect — a lot of Westerners jumped on the PM PM bandwagon, and not all of them jumped off when the Sponsorship Scandal broke, despite confirming every negative stereotype Conservatives make about Liberal politicians.

          The fact that progress could be made in the West in the face of Adscam proves that it's NOT a "waste of time" to try to address Western concerns. Scorning evidence of your own success in order to make the all-too-easy, whiny "voters are dumb and mean" point is why your party is dying and why it deserves to, if your attitude prevails.

          • 2004 was an interesting year. It was the first year that we had merged PC and Reform parties.

            I suggest an alternative reason: Red Tories betrayed by Peter MacKay

            That was mine, anyway. That was when I started paying attention. I've been unimpressed since.

    • I couldn't agree more and when Ontario figures out that the big spending, big government, stimulas package Harper tack record won't be continued, Ontario will take over and leave the West "out". In addition most of Harper's campaign promises are sure to provide the PQ with a handy narrative that will make a Yes referendum a cakewalk. At the end of the 41st Parliament there will be another seismic shift eliminating this Harper coalition Andrew Coyne is so breathless about.

  23. I believe there has always been a divide between doers and takers in Canada. When both NDP and Liberals issued strings of promises, which mostly copied each other, the choices became starkly clearer.

    Once Quebec are tired and have enough of being a have not province, then we will see them soon joining the rest of the country – for good. The more ROC panders to their demands the longer realization and maturation comes, and the less likely they will respect ROC for those pandering.

  24. Ontario, and Toronto especially, are going to be fine. There is a degree of unnecessary pain being felt due to the rapid rise in the dollar, but manufacturing is only part of the economy here. The economy is dominated by services, many of which are relatively indifferent to the exchange rate.

    Alberta and Saskatchewan, if they were good neighbours, we try to neutralize some of the currency appreciation by converting their stores of natural resources into stores of financial resources to benefit their populations over the longer term. Digging it up and blowing the proceeds immediately on consumption cause their economies to run overly hot, contribute to currency distortions, and leave future generations with little in the way of a legacy.

    • I'm not sure if Alberta's economy is running overly hot. Sure things are very expensive in Fort McMurray, but that's because you have people earning a high income in an isolated area. Sure Calgary is booming like mad, but once that is over why can't they earn money from "services" like Toronto is? How can they develop that service economy without consuming to create that market? What financial resources should they be converting their oil funds into?

      Anyway, I don't see why once the oil boom is over, Calgary can't simply be a world-class city like other cities that don't have a resource base. Plus, Alberta is a big province, so there are other resources to draw upon.

      • Toronto has ready access to markets (150 million people within a day's drive). Calgary is pretty isolated. Oil is also crowding out any meaningful development of a service economy. It's really impressive how underdeveloped this sector is in Alberta given its low taxes and the hundreds of millions that have been spent trying to 'diversify'.

        Norway, on the other hand, has a thriving service sector because the used their oil wealth to buy up assets throughout the world in a sovereign wealth fund rather than spending it on current consumption. They'll do just fine if someone invents cold fusion and oil goes to $10 a barrel. Alberta would be in a world of hurt.

  25. Oh we're talking stupid hyperbole now. Okay.

    I'm sure people on the left of center are willing to compensate every nickel of lost income when they shut down the oilsands.

  26. Uh. No.

  27. Yes, and if you look at the provincial numbers you'll see that they actually won the popular vote in PEI by a couple hundred votes. They only won one seat there (to the Liberals' three), but that's just because the vote splits worked out that way.

  28. Is it only me who thinks that there is no true centrist party? I mean, if you look at the Liberal party's beliefs, they are clearly left-wing. Even on the 'test your political leanings' site linked from the cbc, the liberals are placed pretty far into the the left-wing quadrant. The liberals have more increasingly towards the left. This means that the only option for people who don't believe in socialist-humanist ideologies are the conservatives. It's not wonder they won.

  29. One final stop at this liberal cesspool magazine to say my final farewell to all you ner-do-well Liberals who are sup[porting a losing cause. As I have said so many times on this site, Liberalism as an ideology is dead in Canada. Have fun with your next 15 years searching for a new ideology. The country will see 3 consecutive conservative majorities before the left even has a chance to form government.

  30. and ends at the Rockies.

  31. Andrew;

    "Liberals: it's not as if you've got anything to lose." We now know that is the rallying cry that really yells: Liberals: Be assured that Andrew will always endorse you! No matter how bereft you are of policy and how daft a caricature of a leader you come forward with Andrew and the rest of the ACM will be there to build you up.

    Sad Andrew. Very sad.

  32. Check out Centrist Party of Canada on facebook and help create a new party that is centre to centre-right. Since Canada has no moderate conservative party I feel it is needed now more than ever. The party would try to especially attract those in the centre who are red tories and blue liberals who are dissatisfied with both the two major parties. I feel if we followed the traditions of moderate conservative parties around the world the party would be successful.

    The party would try to grow the economy using moderate tax cuts, and it would focus on growing the middle class as well. The party would be centre to centre-right and would want a moderate social safety net, protecting health and education for the most vulnerable and all Canadians and for making sure our social programs are there for future generations.

    That is something moderate conservatives, one nation conservatives and those in the centre we believe most people would want.

    Thank you and remember the site to find out more about the party is on facebook and the name of the party is called the Centrist Party of Canada. Centrism does not have to end but if parties focus on certain areas then it is not death but they need to adapt.

    • You just described the Conservative Party of Canada less the lipservice-only mild social conservativism.

  33. (part 2)

    I agree with your dichotomy of tax-and-spenders vs tax-cutter-budget-balancers. That was pre-ordained and focus-grouped and held up in the ridings where expected (with the exceptions of losses by Cannon, Smith and the QC-area MPs to the Orange crush).

    For the most part, the media totally missed what was happening. The travelling media worried about how many questions they could ask instead of listening to the very carefully crafted message Harper was delivering and actually asking rally attendees what those words meant to them. late in the campaign one national writer asked out loud why Conservative rally attendees were booing the media. But he didn't ask them. For the most part reporters didn't report. They told us what they were thinking, not what the public was thinking, whether at rallies or random on the street. When reporters did go to doors, or actually ask questions, they found what was going to happen, and why. Twitterers, for the most part, weren't asking those people. They had interesting insights, but their commenting was on the part of the iceberg that was visible, not the 9/10s below the surface, bobbing and weaving. And mostly those insights were just sideshow. This was a majority going in, and wasn't lost. What was lost, was the role of the Liberal Party to set any agenda.

    • Very good piece Aaron Ralph. The most important score in this election was Conservatives 1 vs Anti-Conservative Media 0. Most of the MSM was anti-Conservative.

  34. The left in the Vancouver, gulf islands and Vancouver Island areas are an embarassment to the rest of this west. Look at the type of people who live there. Complete opposites to those in the rest of the province who believe in hard work and honesty as well as earning your own living. The rest of BC is tired of being 'ruled' by a small enclave in the southwestern part of the province. Time to split the province in two??

    • There is no need to divide the province, just push Conservative candidates to work harder. There were many areas in BC where people did not receive any pamphlets and had no clue as to who represented the conservative party. Where I live was one of those places. It was surprising as everybody got pamphlets from Liberal, NDP, and Greens in each mail boxes but nada from Conservatives. Conspiracy, who knows? If this could happen in BC, I wonder how many more in other provinces this occurred. If there are any here who worked or an insider for Conservatives, can anyone get back to us what is going on?

  35. There is only thing that could save the Liberals given the compression of the application of political thought (everyone now pay's homage to Bismarck's Welfare State designed to flank Social Democrats in the 19th century … what change?). So we are reduced to discordant themes cobbling together dissonant policies to hold some imaginary center. At least Conservatives have the theme of giving people 'choice' and the left attempts to communicate 'social goals' all within the context of a fairly traditional and entrenched Welfare State whose focus has narrowed over the years, decades, centuries (… again, what change?).

    The only thing that can save the Liberals when everyone looks the same once they are in power is to have a charismatic leader. That is the only way that they can take power from the 'manager' or prevent the ascencion of the 'agent'.

    • Promoting nanny statehood when:

      1) Many nanny countries are failing
      2) Our own universal health care is heavily burdened and unsustainable
      3) There is world recession going on
      4) Closer to home our largest economic trading partner the US is in financial meltdown
      5) Taxation deadline coincided with the voting time

      So no matter how charismatic the leader, presenting a leftist spending platform was a dumb idea. Probably Bob Rae, Ujjal Dosanjh, and the likes have successfully turned Liberal away from the centrist position and dragged it to the left.

  36. I think it's too early to say that Ontario is on board with the Conservatives. A good many of the last-minute seat gains in Ontario were caused by the "orange surge" splitting the vote and allowing the Conservatives to run up the middle.

    The next four years will be determinative. If the Conservatives can solidify their tenuous support in the ridings they just took, then the claims of the article will hold water. But I think that will require a sea change in the behaviour of the CPC.

  37. ….once again, do we even have a choice for the next 4 crappy years ?
    No.
    -sheeesh.

  38. and you sir used to be like me.
    Internationally, when your bread is buttered with $FAT you sing praises for something(s) that you're not even HERE for anymore.
    ….and since you're not paying the same exhorbetant CDN taxes now are you? (comcon, don't lie now)
    Give it a rest TEX -you're a PHONEY in US, and not a Canadiam in US.
    Go away plz.

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