So what did the election actually change?
Well…what to make of this election?
The NDP triple their seats and become the Official Opposition. Harper is now the Prime Minister for the next 4 years, the Liberals are historically routed.
Elizabeth May has become the first Green Party MP. The Bloc Quebequois are toast – for now. Will this lead to a clear and starker choice on competing visions of Canada?
A few thoughts. First, the NDP caucus will now have a vastly different dynamic with about half of the caucus coming from Quebec. That is a massive re-alignment and may propel the NDP into power in the next election if Quebec voters remain onside.
However, the NDP will face the same constitutional difficulties as the Liberals in acknowledging Quebec as a distinct society and accepting an asymmetrical federalism. My sense is that the NDP is in many ways poised to become the new Liberals.
Second, it will be fascinating to see if the NDP, in displacing the Liberal centre and yearning for electoral supremacy, succumb to a political philosophy that is increasingly less radical and more constricted by corporate interests. My guess is yes.
Third, the real political issues remain government accountability, representation and participation. Will we now see the NDP push for a different electoral process that includes aspects of proportional representation? Will Harper enact unilateral policies that disregard the interests of the 60% of Canadians who did not vote for him? Will any of the parties advocate for policies (like those championed by Democracy Watch) around citizen participation in decision-making and the need for governmental accountability?
In any case, my previous thoughts on this election and electoral process still stand: an evil leader, a gentler opposition, and an antiquated political decision-making structure that continues to struggle along in need of fundamental change.
Jack Layton has claimed to champion electoral reforms in this country; let’s hold him accountable.