Tuesday, October 27, 2015

2015 Federal Election Reflection

Now that eight days has past (has it only been eight days?), let's talk about the election.

For anyone who follows me on social media it will have been clear that I was very disappointed in the result. I am a member of the New Democratic Party and volunteered for Amarjit Sangha, the candidate for Brampton South. New Democrats were on the verge of forming government, but support peaked on August 27th at 37%.

There is a lot to write about in the election, I'll do my best to keep this succinct. If you want a great overview of the campaign I would strongly recommend Paul Well's very long piece about the campaign here

I was pleased to see turnout went up. Before the election I developed a infographic for a friend that suggested that when turnout went up dramatic shifts in power could happen, such as in the Alberta provincial election. I am confident that many of the new voters were drawn to the Liberals, but all three parties were motivated to get their vote out. However, it is important for those supporters to remember that Trudeau's majority is in fact arguably less legitimate than Harper's. Harper won a majority in 2011 with 39.6% and Trudeau won with 39.5%. Though with a larger overall turnout the sense of legitimacy from the country as a whole is stronger. Regardless the distortions of First-Past-the-Post continue.

The victory of the Liberals can be attributed to three things. First was the exhaustion of the electorate with the Conservatives. There was a strong case made by Tom Mulcair in the House of Commons and a long list of scandals drained enthusiasm and support from Harper which was only compounded by a bitter, angry, and Islamophobic campaign. In this environment the struggle was over who would be the best option to defeat the Conservatives. At the start it was the NDP, but as the NDP vote sank the Liberals gained momentum. Finally, the tremendously low expectations for Trudeau played into his hands. No serious gaffe or misstep marred his campaign. Meaning that as it went on the "He's not ready" meme worked less and less effectively as it rang hollow.

Trudeau's majority was built by sweeping Atlantic Canada, vote splitting in Quebec and a strong win in Ontario that mirrors Kathleen Wynne's provincial win in 2014.

I was hoping to offer some insight in the aftermath about the specific vote in Brampton. Sadly, looking at all five ridings (Brampton East, Brampton North, Brampton Centre, Brampton South, and Brampton West) they were swept up in a Liberal wave that gave the Liberals almost every single seat in the GTA. The peculiars of each campaign in this environment are almost meaningless.

And what of the vanquished Harper? The near-decade long premiership of Harper has come to an end. He announced his intent to resign as PM and leader of the Conservative Party. Now the Conservatives will turn inward and must fight the urge to eat their young. First the party must find an appropriate interim leader and other Conservatives must debate whether or not they want to lead the 99 member Conservative caucus as the Official Opposition. The Conservatives should take heart though. They had 99 seats with a smaller share of the vote in 2004. It is fair to say the Conservatives had something of a fresh breakthrough in Quebec.

And what of the NDP? Upon reflection I think the NDP made the very common mistake of fighting the last war. If this election was the conclusion to the 2011 election, or a replay of it I think that Tom Mulcair could be the one picking cabinet members now. But this was not a replay of 2011 and the dynamic was very different. An interesting observation I heard from a journalist is that the NDP coalition simply became too unwieldy. It was a complex composition of voters with divergent opinions and interests. It forced the NDP to take positions that would alienate parts of its coalition. This was embodied in the niqab debate.

In my opinion Tom Mulcair should continue as the NDP leader. With the Conservatives wandering off into the wilderness the Trudeau government will need an effective opposition. Mulcair has proven more than capable at holding a government to account. The NDP managed to hold on in Quebec, which suggests the Orange Wave may have some lasting permanence. A number of 'safe' NDP seats were lost, that should be recoverable in the next election and 2015 was the second best result for the NDP in number of seats.

While Stephen Harper exits Canadian political life it is important to remember that Harperism will not leave with him. I doubt this is the last time we'll see an aggressively centralizing, media-controlling prime minister. The Liberal Party embraced many positions of the Conservatives over the last four years and heading into the election. Prime Minister-Designate Trudeau may have a challenging four years ahead of him. His caucus is large, but his majority is somewhat thin. It is heavily rooted in Eastern and Central Canada. With the growing size of Canada's House of Commons he will have a larger group of backbenchers, over 150 of whom are rookies, to manage. Expectations will be high for the Liberals and undoubtedly the Canadian public and opposition parties will be watching carefully. 

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