Four parties enter, two parties leave

A vote for Layton today was, objectively, a vote to return to a two-party system

The odd truth about Conservative HQ: the crowd is cheering NDP victories almost as vigorously as it’s cheering Conservative ones. I don’t say it is cheering them AS vigorously, but… there’s a sense that these people, most of them Calgarians, know the score. You remember how the Soviets used to use that adverb “objectively”? “Voting socially democratic is objectively fascist [because it supposedly tends to help the fascists].” Well, a vote for Layton today was, “objectively”, a vote to return to a two-party system. And as far as this room is concerned, the Conservatives have much the stronger hand in a head-to-head fight.

They are probably right. For now. We have about 100 New Democrat MPs. 64 will be small-N new. Of these, let’s say 20 will be half-daft or culpably undisciplined or just plain silly. (Harper and other Old Reformers know alllll about this.) But more of these candidates than you think are starting out with strong Quebec Inc. backgrounds in the civil service, or in technologies of civilization like banking and engineering. And Darwinian pressure acts fast to beautify and strengthen a population. Indeed, this is part of a possible rationale for very frequent elections. But I guess those days are over for now, aren’t they?

One day, this Calgary audience may regret its applause for the instantaneous transformation of the New Democrats into the most broad-based national party since Mulroney’s PCs. Or, Jack Layton could get sick and be gone in four months, and the events of this night will, in retrospect, seem to have been writ in water.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.