The campaign is finally winding down—but with all the talk of a coalition, there remains confusion over what the results on election night will mean for the parties and for Canada. Let’s clear things up once and for all.
Scenario: Conservatives win 155 seats or more. According to the Tories, a Stephen Harper majority would usher in an era of robust economic growth, deficit reduction and unprecedented prosperity—although it’s still not entirely clear how all this will happen when the Conservatives are planning little more for the next five years than a new tax credit for playing the flute.
For their part, some Liberals now estimate it may take as little as 20 minutes after the dawn of a Harper majority for the entire country to catch fire. It’s all there in the party’s new slogan: “Ruuuuun!”
A Harper majority would certainly prompt a lot of soul-searching among the three parties that forced the election. For most Liberals, this soul-searching is likely to take the form of blaming people who aren’t them. In keeping with the Liberal way, such criticism is likely to be expressed only in the most respectful possible manner—anonymously and through the media. Expect a lot of variations on “I could have done way better” from such famed political legends as Former Liberal Strategist and Veteran Liberal Insider.
Scenario: Conservatives win the most seats, but fall short of a majority. This would leave Canadians stuck with the status quo, which I believe is the correct Latin translation for, “Are you #*!%ing kidding me?” A third Tory minority would be a wholly unsatisfying outcome for all involved, similar in feeling to watching an episode of Jersey Shore in which they aren’t all eaten by tigers.
Under this scenario, Harper would be very angry. And you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry. Or when he’s miffed. Or glum, bored, eating or awake. In the meantime, Canadians would be exposed to endless speculation about the coalition and non-confidence votes and what the Governor General may rule. In short, this scenario would be a hellish hellscape from hell, with no hope of relief for anyone with even a passing interest in current events. Naturally, this remains among the most likely of the outcomes.
One weird twist: among those rooting against a Harper majority and for the ongoing threat of a left-leaning coalition will surely be the bigwigs at Sun News Network. The upstart right-wing news channel understands that to thrive it needs an arch-enemy, just as Fox News needs a Democratic president and Sarah Palin needs words of three syllables or more.
Scenario: Conservatives and Liberals in a dead heat. Given recent polls, this outcome is now highly unlikely—but it would give us the greatest possible exposure to the musings of constitutional experts. And you don’t need me to tell you that for pure entertainment value, nothing beats a good ol’ musing from an established authority in constitutional history, am I right? WHO’S WITH ME??
Scenario: The Liberals win the most seats. This is the most plausible outcome in the alternate universe that Liberal operatives have crudely constructed so they can get through the election without stabbing themselves in the eye with a fork.
It’s been a frustrating campaign for Liberals. The platform was decent enough. The advertising has been pretty good. And at last report no one in the party has recently robbed the federal treasury of tens of millions of dollars. So you can imagine their exasperation at being unable to get the party’s poll numbers to move up. For some unknown reason, people just aren’t rushing to vote Liberal. (That’s Michael Ignatieff’s nickname, by the way: Unknown Reason.)
Scenario: The NDP wins the most seats. This outcome would represent the sort of highly unusual post-election scenario that esteemed constitutional scholars formally describe as “a prank.” Across our country, scrutineers will have teamed up to pull an elaborate ruse, and good on them, because it’s a humdinger. Who gets to tell Jack Layton the truth? And how long can we wait before we do it? Let’s at least let him brainstorm which five members of his team he’ll appoint Co-Ministers of Finance. After this election campaign, we could all use a good laugh.