Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Beyond the Surface: Post-Election Thoughts

I don’t want to spend time fixated on the events of last night. If you’re curious for the results there are many fine outlets that can give you the details. I’m hoping to provide at least some cursory analysis of how the election may impact upon us.

First, the Conservatives have achieved their ambition and won the first Conservative majority government since 1993 (elected in 1988 under Mulroney). Congratulations are deserved for their impressive effort. Many of my progressive friends are deeply concerned about the idea of a Harper majority government. My rebuttal is that I do not trust majority governments of any stripe.

My vote helped to elect Malcolm Allen in Welland for the NDP. While I am pleased with my vote and proud of the outcome I would be concerned if my vote fed into a push that resulted in a majority Layton government. Again, as I have stated on this blog before, majority governments lack the same kind of accountability a minority intrinsically possesses.

It’s difficult to say what Harper will do with his majority. The constraint on the budget means that big spending programs and tax alterations are not likely to be found in the coming years. Every Prime Minister wants to leave a legacy. Trudeau is probably the best example of a Prime Minister who sought to leave his mark on the country in the modern era.

Since Harper cannot enact the kind of economic program he may desire, with the exception, perhaps, of spending cuts, he is forced to look up other avenues to keep his government busy. One thing that I believe may be on the table is a Senate reform push. The Senate has been a pet project of the Prime Minister since his Reform Party days. Perhaps now we may see some action on the issue with support from the NDP, though not needed. Harper may turn his attention to social and governmental (as in good governance) issues.

The results of last night’s election are so dramatic it is perhaps a good thing that there is a majority in place. Every party needs time to adjust to the new reality. The NDP have to look at being a heavily Quebec-based party. The Liberals must now find a new leader, and a new purpose. The Greens must work on a parliamentary strategy, what will they do now that they have their seat in Ottawa? The Conservatives have to figure out how to work with their new cadre of urban, suburban and Atlantic members. The government must also figure out its relationship to Quebec, a province they were nearly drummed out of entirely. The Bloc has to figure out its future altogether, as in, does it have one?

Be wary of using the word realignment. This election could be a freak. Quebec could quickly tire of its large number of rookie orange MPs. The Liberals could seem the reasonable alternative to the unstable NDP and the Harper Conservatives. The Bloc could feed into resentment at all the federalist parties and return to its former prominence. None can be known for sure until parliament gets back to work.

No doubt the next few months and years should provide something for political junkies to gawk at. Much like going into the election it is, the outcome is very uncertain.

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