The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Conservatives Win Majority

And with a fairly decent margin.  The collapse of the Liberals in Ontario, and the choice of BC to go largely Conservative seem to have been the key. Looking closely at the results, I don’t think the robocalls were the deciding factor in enough ridings to have changed the overall result.  Hopefully the courts will show their independence and investigate this question aggressively, but with a majority government, Harper will be in a position to shut down such investigations and has show in the past that he has no qualms using such power.

Southern Ontario, outside the city cores, went hard Conservative, in most cases over 50% (call them Alberta South).  This continues the trend of Ontario suburbs thinking that the man who has presided over the destruction of Canadian manufacturing is going to save them by keeping their housing values high and driving Toronto into the ground, because suburbs don’t need healthy cities.  This bet on the part of Canadian suburbanites will work out as well for them as it has for American suburbanites.

Going forward this is probably good for the NDP.  Their job now is to be a good opposition, and to make the case that everything Harper does is wrong, destructive and will be rolled back by an NDP government.  As for the Liberals, job 1 is to ditch Ignatieff, job 2 is to make the case to Ontario that they are the party that can actually run government properly, and make the economy work again.  “You had it pretty good in the 90s, didn’t you?” should be their mantra.  Especially as it looks to me like Canada is about to go into recession, certainly it’s in danger of doing so.  Of course, Harper has 4 to 5 years to try and ride it out, but I’m going to say that now that he has full power, he will screw it up.  He’s that sort of guy.

For Canada?  Not so good.  But, under the rules as they exist (minus the robocalls), the Conservatives won.  Even if Harper did cheat (and I would be highly surprised if the Conservatives weren’t behind the robocalls), it’s highly unlikely that the Courts will call him to account, since he will be in a position to shut down police investigations.  Still, there is nothing he can do that can’t be undone by another majority government, and apparently Canadians need to learn what happens when you let someone like Harper have a majority.  That learning will be unpleasant, but I guess it’s necessary.  In particular for Ontarians, who have voted against their own self interest.  It’s one thing for the Prairies to vote for “loot now, worry about the hangover later”, it’s another for Ontario to vote “make Dutch disease permanent and destroy our industrial base.”


The Canadian Election


Our Depravity


  1. As for the Liberals, job 1 is to ditch Ignatieff, job 2 is to make the case to Ontario that they are the party that can actually run government properly, and make the economy work again.

    I don’t think that will be a problem as I heard on Twitter that Iggy lost tonight. Serves the idiot right, if true.

  2. Daniel De Groot

    I’m really hoping this leads to a resurgence in support for electoral system reform. 56% of Ontario didn’t vote for Harper. Not all of us need or want that lesson, but the 44% have ensured we’ll get it.

    A Liberal talking head speculated that blue Liberals had voted tory to head off an NDP government. That’s probably correct, and highlights the success of the RWNM even here in tarring the NDP with Rae, while the much more recent Harris-Eves days are forgotten. The NDP need to find a way to spend the next four years reminding voters who privatized the 407, killed people at Walkerton and left the province in debt.

    I’m thinking too that the unpopularity of the BC and Ontario Liberal governments was an underappreciated factor here. McGuinty kept his head low, but that absence speaks volumes.

  3. Ian Welsh

    Yeah, putting through the HST in both provinces made them hated. Though I’m proud to say I hated McGuinty even before he was elected. Weasel.

    My guess is that the Liberals are toast. Next election will see even more people voting strategically to the NDP to get the Cons out.

  4. Alan

    The Ontario provincial influence certainly can’t be discounted. McGuinty’s tenure has been disastrous for Ontario on so many fronts. I think the HST is actually a minor issue compared to all the rest of the ways he’s made life harder for average people. This, coupled with Ignatieff’s similarity to Dalton… the same kind of disconnect from reality, the same kind of purely intellectual or theoretical understanding of people’s real struggles… it probably turned a lot of people off.

    I actually think this election has the potential to be very positive for Canada. The NDP have made massive gains (and there are a lot of young, energetic new Parliamentarians coming in), we’ve swept the BQ out the door, most of the crusty old guard who weren’t doing anything or who were net negatives are gone (bye Joe Volpe…), the Greens have a foothold, and Harper was running the country before as if he had a majority (so little has changed).

    I agree with you that a recession is coming. High dollar killing exports, people in Ontario crunched by the combination of high fuel prices, high mortgage payments, and Dalton’s insane energy policy, and the real estate bubble is on the verge of bursting. Then again, we may make it through. The high dollar reduces the need to raise interest rates, which may avoid bursting the real estate bubble.

  5. Realistically, the Conservatives were the party with a lock on a large swath of votes. No other party had it, not even the Bloc. And the Conservatives (ie, Reform) has had that lock consistently and as of now 15 years at least. So it was only a matter of time—they just had to roll the dice often enough.

    Unlike the American system, though, in Canada voters get to feel the results of their choices nearly immediately. So perhaps the lesson will at least be useful and will give the NDP time to establish themselves as a credible alternative government.

  6. As a brown person myself, also, I can perhaps make the comment about the Ontario suburbs that no one else will make: a lot of people of my background (South Asian) have no value for cities or urban centers (ie, sewers of disease and poor people), and view the suburban life as the North American Dream. Public transit and Indo/Pak immigrants are in my experience like oil and water. That I believe is a nontrivial factor in what happened in Ontario, particularly considering the concentration of my kind of folk in Milton and Mississauga, places I would never myself voluntarily visit if it weren’t for the fact that I have so many relatives in the GTA suburbs none of whom live any closer to downtown than a 40-minute drive.

    After all, how can ordinary people hold the enormous weddings without a big back suburban yard?

  7. LC

    I think living in Quebec, I underestimated the Ontario blue Liberals going Con. Or, I do think they may not have done that so much as still reflexively voted Lib thinking that despite the NDP surge, it wouldn’t really result in NDPs moving up, resulting in a bigger vote split than we might have seen if people had decided to go strategic.

    I’m disappointed though, and not thinking clearly. Mandos is right, though, that the Cons have a solid base they just aren’t losing anytime soon. Well, maybe soon if Harper indulges his id.

  8. They have the lock because their is an unsatisfied grudge in Canadian politics that now has the chance to be satisfied, and we’ll see where it gets the Conservatives from there.

  9. It’s the same pattern we’re seeing in the USA and Western Europe, no? As soon as the economy turns sour, there’s a faction that turns to the right, and a smaller one that turns to the left. Exactly why anyone would continue to support the right, which has failed at almost everything it has put its hands to, leaving disaster in its wake, I do not see.

    Or maybe I do. In Southern Ontario a Marxist reading of the voters as petit bourgeoisie might work. BC is likely voting just as US western states are voting: western conservative. What do you think?

    In any event, my sympathies to the Canadians. They may have voted this government in, but I do not believe they will like how it governs.

  10. Notorious P.A.T.

    Well that will teach me to get my hopes up about anything.

  11. Old Wolf

    I’m ambivalent about the outcome. It is a short term disaster for the country but I think it could have been worse.

    The NDP tripled their caucus in 24 hrs. That would be a challenge for any party to deal with but it is more complicated in this case. I think the NDP has elected only one MP from Quebec ever and now 2/3 of the caucus is from Quebec. Moreover, some of those candidates and most of the people who voted for them supported the separatists in the last election.

    Many of the new MPs have negligible experience. Most of them didn’t expect to win. Some of them didn’t intend to win. Hell, one of the new MPs spent part of the 5 week campaign vacationing in Vegas, never spoke to the media and wasn’t even in her constituency yesterday.

    Turning this group into a cohesive caucus than can provide an effective and credible opposition is going to be a challenge. I think trying to turn it into a government – especially in a minority situation where they had to come to some arrangement with a leaderless, despondent Liberal Party that just spent the last month trashing the NDP – would have been a recipe for a train wreck. The arrangement would probably have imploded within 6 months leading to another election in which the NDP would likely have been trashed and giving the Cons a huge majority for the next 2 or 3 elections.

    The NDP has a great opportunity but they have a helluvalot of work to do. There is a whole shopping list of things they need to do and I think it is going to be hard enough to get them all done without having to try to run a government at the same time.

    That said, the next 4 years is going to suck – big time.

  12. Iggy sounds hideous, like a failed Tony Blair

    I hope Americans take heart from this election, Canadians have showed us that when your liberal party is not liberal you do have alternatives

  13. David Kowalski

    Going back to Mandos, “The Conservatives were the party with a lock on a large swath of votes.” What stands out to an outsider is exactly that. Conservatives won 27 of 28 seats in Alberta, 13 of 14 in Saskatchewan, 11 of 14 in Manitoba, and 8 of 10 in New Brunswick. Somebody has to either eat into those margins or chop away in Ontario (73 of 106) severely or the Conservatives will rule for a long, long time.

    Add them up. That’s 132 of the 155 seats needed for a majority without Quebec, BC, or most of the Atlantic provinces. The Conservative showing in Quebec (6 of 75 seats) is weak but looks “strong” compared to some of these results.

    The Conservatives demonized Ignatief the way that Republicans tried to demonize Nancy Pelosi and failed. There were a lot more weaknesses with Harper that were kicked under the carpet. The final spin of the dice by Iggy was to attack the NDP. Harper seemed to gain about 2 points at the end. Probably courtesy of Iggy. A 38-33 result might not have givem the Cons a majority. It certainly didn’t help the Liberals who continued to drop to under 19%.

  14. Julien

    Spot on analysis guys, but I think Old Wolf sums up nicely why it’s just as well that the NDP isn’t our next government. They will need time to digest and integrate all those new MPs and turn themselves into an effective fighting machine.

    I can’t help but think that vote-splitting on the left might have contributed a lot to the Conservatives victory in Ontario and BC. I’ll need to check the numbers out. But that makes me think that a union of the left might be the best strategic move, looking a 2015 and further.

    As for a Conservative majority, I’ll quote H.L. Mencken: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” It’ll suck, but it’s the best antidote to all that “How bad could it be?” thinking.

    And let’s see how they manage to integrate the wishes of their western Reform roots and their newly elected Ontarian deputation. Me thinks it won’t be so easy.

  15. alyosha

    As an American (who’s thinking of emigrating), these results look ominous. On the plus side, you swept away a lot of dead wood (BQ and Libs), but on the negative you have a very inexperienced NDP facing a secure, and re-energized Conservative party.

    The thing I’ll be watching most closely – and as an outsider, this is what I understand the least – are the various safeguards built into your system, which, if they functioned properly, would act to prevent an entrenched oligarchy from taking over the political system, as has happened in America. Someone has, or needs to do a systematic study of the key things that befell America (or any other 20th century fascist regime) in its descent toward fascism, as a way of measuring how far down this path Canada has fallen, and what are the milestones to look out for.

    Obviously the Cons will be busying themselves till the next election trying to rip out as many of these safeguards as possible, and from what I’ve read they already started back when they were a minority – it’s in their nature.

    A key thing that happened in America is the rise of right wing media – which deserves a detailed study by itself – and which grew to the point where it achieved significant mindshare, and so bullied the traditional gatekeeping media, that the country lost its ability to tell, or even discuss, right from wrong, truth from fiction. The deliberate rise of ignorance and confusion, the resulting lack of consensus in this country, and the diminution of peaceful ways to work this out, is huge in letting the powerful gut the system for themselves.

  16. Michael

    I’d also say one of the real reasons the republicans were able to so comprehensively assume control of the united states political system was the creation of the two tiered system of laws. While there has always been some level of unfairness in how the rich and powerful are treated vs the poor I think the pardon of Richard Nixon was a real watershed moment for this. It had the effect of legitimizing this two tiered system among the masses of the citizenry and sent a clear message to the politicians in our country as long as you get high enough on the rungs of power you will never be held to account for your actions

    The other aspect was the takeover of the court system. After the liberal years of the 1960’s the republicans made court packing one of their most important objectives. It had the dual effect of making sure there was little recourse for the weak through the judicial system, and once they took over the supreme court gave them an effective veto over all progressive legislation meaning that even the democratic process couldn’t undo their policies.

    I’d also argue this is a standard feature of any authoritarian regime that likes to pretend it’s democratic. For a good example of how this functions you should look at the failure of khatami’s reformist movement in Iran and the stonewalling of the guardian council to prevent any real reform from taking place. Also look at the chicanery practiced during the majlis elections; pretty much all the reformist candidates were banned in the 2004 elections virtually guaranteeing a conservative sweep of the parliament.

  17. Ian Welsh

    Old Wolf is correct that the NDP needs time to become a real party, and so in that sense this is good for the NDP. I would have prefferred, however, that they got to learn as opposition to a minority Conservative government.

    Checks and balances: there are remarkably few. OTOH, because of that, there is little the Cons can do that a majority NDP government couldn’t simply undo. “Oh, sold that off? We’ll just nationalize it. Allowed more private health care in? We’ll just ban it.” And so on.

    I’ll have a more detailed post (which I’ll probably cross-post at POGGE), but probably not till tomorrow.

  18. David Kowalski: I’ve now written about your point re the Cons lock on certain provinces in a “where do we go from here” post as a guest blogger on another blog.

  19. Ignatieff has resigned as leader of the Liberals. That link says it’s the Liberals’ worst defeat ever. They sure lost a lot of seats, more than half the ones they had.

    Even in America that would be considered a lousy job of running a political party.

  20. Old Wolf

    Ian – I completely agree with you that the NDP could have learned to be a party just as well as the opposition in a minority government.

    The problem is that it isn’t just the NDP that has some learning to do. Far too many Canadians simply fail to understand just how much of an extremist Harper is – they really think that he is somehow related to the old PC party and is just unfairly maligned by those who accuse him of having a hidden agenda.

    Those people haven’t had a wakeup call in the last 5 years because the minority situation has meant Harper has had to be on his best behavior and another minority wouldn’t have changed that. They need to be exposed to the Harper we know is there.

    And that is already happening. Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said today that it is time to strip the Canadian Wheat Board of its monopoly on the sale of western Canadian grain. Explaining the Wheat Board for Americans is outside this brief comment but it has benefited prairie farmers to the tune of billions of dollars over the decades.

    I applaud this decision not because I agree with it – I think it’s a terrible decision. I applaud it because the people it will most hurt are the prairie farmers who are some of the Conservatives’ staunchest supporters. Let’s hope their supporters keep experiencing the full wingnut.

  21. Ian Welsh

    Yeah, back when I was a Canadian blogger I wrote a few posts explaining why the Wheat Board was a good thing. But yes, also, the Prairies voted for this, hard. In most cases over 50% Conservative. So they’re getting what they deserve. Too bad, but I’ll retain my main sympathy for people who voted under 50% in their ridings. (Which means I will have little sympathy for most of suburban Ontario, as far as that goes. )

    Still, what Layton should say, explicitly and immediately, is “if I become PM I will reinstitute the Wheat Board’s monopoly.” Both because as farmers come to realize they’ve been screwed they’ll know where to go, and because it reduces the value of what Harper’s doing to those he’s doing it for. The forward value of privatizing revenue streams like that is reduced if the likely next government says they’ll undo it.

  22. The push to destroy the Wheat Board is a very old push made by some very noisy and agribusiness-supported astroturf Randroid farmers who think they can get better deals selling by themselves what a monopsony can’t on the international market.

    Unfortunately, undoing it may have NAFTA implications, I strongly suspect. That was why NAFTA was such a terrible deal for Canada and Canadian sovereignty as a whole.

  23. Old Wolf

    Mandos – No one in the US would complain if the Wheat Board disappeared entirely. American farmers, agribusiness and government hate it because they feel it gives Canadian producers an advantage. There has even been talk about claiming it violates NAFTA by giving a subsidy (which it isn’t) to Canadian farmers. The fact that those groups all oppose it should be all the reason we need to keep it. And typically American, when US farmers see something giving clear benefit to Canadians, instead of going to their government and demanding the same thing for themselves, they go to their government and demand we be stripped of it.

    Ian – My sympathies will be saved for the 60% of us who voted against the Conservatives and are going to be brutalized for the next 4 years so the 40% who voted for them can get an education.

    I’m not a cruel person and I hate to see anyone suffer unnecessarily. But my neighbours here on the prairies are responsible for over 50 of Harper’s MPs – I’d be quite happy to see a plague of locusts hit the farms of all those who helped make the next 4 years suck for the rest of us.

    When Mulroney was PM someone wrote on a bathroom wall “If you voted Conservative, you can’t shit here – your asshole’s in Ottawa.” Where did I leave that damn marker?

  24. David

    How common is it for Canadian parties
    to dump their leader if the party starts becoming unpopular
    in the polls ? I am whether the Cons would do this if Harper
    starts to create a mess.

  25. David

    Meant to write for the above “I am wondering whether the …

  26. Old Wolf

    Well this didn’t take long. “Tory backers push for ‘truly conservative’ government”

  27. David Kowalski

    The farm and mountain states in the US tend heavily Republican but have less clout in the US House than similar areas do in Canada. Every US House seat in Montana (Rehberg), Wyoming (Lummis), North Dakota (berg), South Dakota (Noemi), Nebraska (Fortenberry, Terry, Smith), and Kansas (Huelskemp. Jenkins, Yoder, Pompeo) is now Republican. A ;pt of this happened in 2010 as a bad situation got worse. Maybe something is happening although the economy in these areas is better than the national averages.

    The encouraging parallel is Colorado. The state has a Democratic Governor, two Democratic Senators and three of seven Democrats in its House delegation. Over half of Alberta’s population is Calgary, Edmonton and their suburbs. The NDP ought to be able to win some seats and either the NDP or the Liberals ought to win others but they need to get their act together.

    I only went through southern Ontario once but I noted the one and only instance I’ve seen of anti-Pakistani grafitti. It was so disgusting and obscene that it has stayed in m memory since 1974. Who remembers grafitti for 30+ years? In short visits I never got bad vibes from Vancouver, Victoria, Toronto, Quebec City, the Quebec countryside, or Montreal. So I think something is g0ing on there for a long time. BTW, the comparable item that lingered was a Ku Klux Klan billboard from the 60s that was disturbing but not obscene (a horseman in sheets with the slogan “Fight communism and integration, support the KU Klux Klan.”)

  28. someofparts

    Would you recommend some other websites, in addition to this one, where I could follow what the conservatives do up there over the next few years?

  29. Hi someofparts. I would recommend a few blogs, but there are many. One is them is Dr. Dawg’s Blawg. Another of them is POGGE (“Peace, Order, and Good Government, Eh?” at which Ian co-blogs occasionally, actually). Another one is DAMMIT JANET! (I’ve recently joined it but haven’t had time to write very much).

    All of these also cover US and international politics.

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