Election analysis: No more room in between right and left?

Par David-Éric Simard le 10 juin 2011

We have just witnessed several surprising political upheavals that have changed the Canadian political landscape. Is this ephemeral, or the path we are set on for the next generation? Despite the passage of a few weeks to take it all in, it is still hard to believe that we now live under a majority Conservative government. For many people, it’s difficult to clearly see what has changed and where our country is headed. In our immediate environment, Quebec’s political map has been painted NDP orange while most of Canada’s other regions are now Conservative blue. This clear distinction leaves many of us wondering whether there’s still a place for Liberal red and the Bloc’s light blue on the political horizon beyond the next four years.       

What surprised many who followed the campaign closely, was seeing Michel Igniatieff in a different light: except for the all-important debates, he was passionate and a strong performer, answering question after question with steadfast fortitude. For all Igniatieff’s efforts, liberals where rewarded with their worst showing since Canadian political time began. While Conservative attack ads and campaigning too far left on the political spectrum hurt the Liberals, the underlying problem has not really been their leadership choices, but the more profound issue of confidence, and this, not entirely related to the sponsorship scandal. Arrogance might be the more appropriate culprit. The belief that the Liberal Party could have an open internecine war of succession and still hold to the image of the ''natural governing party'' was too much for many supporters. Which future leader you supported in the party, for many, became more important than trying to win Canadians’ trust. This disunity within Liberals ranks brought to light the newfound unity between fragmented Conservative Parties. That was the story of the last decade.  

Of the 102 NDP seats, 59 are from Quebec. The Bloc has been reduced to 4 MPs and Gilles Duceppe himself lost his seat by a fair margin. This is, albeit to a lesser degree, a second ''Beau risque''. In part, Quebecers want to participate in the federation but on their terms. For those that think that it is not the time to mend the constitution because it does not matter to Quebecers, should rethink their strategy. The time will come when we will have to face this issue head on. 

The NPD is the only federal party that Quebecers have not tried. If they fail, we can foresee a replay of 1995 with the ‘’Parti Québecois’’ possibly returning to power before the next federal election. It could be very treacherous waters for Canada.  This time, English Canada looks different than it did back then. There seems to be a rightward shift across the English provinces, contrasting strongly with social democracy in Quebec. The value divide seems to have augmented, if only by appearance, because of the considerable Conservative victory outside Quebec. 

Canadians must remember that many Quebecers are tired of the same old voices promoting sovereignty, but not necessarily of the ideal itself. This makes the NDP victory there difficult to repeat, time and policy will tell if “Le bon Jack” and Thomas Mulcair’s “NPD’’ will be able to make this momentous victory into permanent favor with Quebec’s fickle voters. It is difficult to know what will happen in the next four years. Will it be a more divided country or will Quebec finally adhere to its rightful place within Canada? All bets are off. 

Many people do not see themselves in a Canada where power is tilted westward. Canada is changing, but will this mean big oil and suburbia at the helm of policy and polls for the next generation? Is the idea that we are socially minded a fading ideal? All this remains to be seen. Perhaps, in the end, Canadians will hold this very Conservative government close enough to the Centre, and if they try to veer too fast and too far to the Right, the death of the Liberal Canada, and the Liberal Party may be a little premature. 

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