After a marathon of an election campaign that turned out to be more surprising than expected, I thought I'd post a few thoughts here as the 42nd general election becomes part of the history books. Having lived in quite a few places in my working life and maintaining ties to a few of them I found myself paying attention to not only my own riding but a few others as well. Then of course we had the Conservative implosion, the NDP evisceration and the Liberals rising from the dead. Rather, than write too many paragraphs, I've decided just to focus on a few points that have occupied my thoughts.
1. David Yurdiga wins in Fort McMurray-Cold Lake - No real surprise here. This is Alberta after all. I found myself making many secret predictions as the campaign wore on and this was the only one that was a sure bet. Obviously I'm no Yurdiga fan and would have loved to see a different result. But the people of the riding have spoken. Interestingly, after the provincial election earlier this year, this leaves our region with both an provincial government and a federal government that runs against a long history here of voting for Tory. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out. Just how much influence Yurdiga will have now in Ottawa is anyone's guess as I would argue that he was just as useless during the last Parliament but time will tell.
2. Cracks in the Tory's Alberta fortress? - I suspected the Liberals would pick up a seat or two here but the provincial NDP's gains here simply didn't translate onto the federal scene. I think perhaps many Albertans saw what had happened in the provincial election and, sensing Liberals gains in other parts of the country, decided to vote Tory to counter-balance this. At least, that's my interpretation of it. At least we can be confident that the province won't be shut out of Cabinet in the next Parliament.
3. Liberal majority - I'll leave the analysis to the pundits and political scientists but as late as a week ago, the concept of a majority, and especially a Liberal majority, never registered with me. It's actually still sinking in for me as for the longest time I would have bet the farm on either a Tory or an NDP minority.
4. When people vote, Canadians win - It was wonderful to see from media reports that the number of Canadians who voted in this election was the highest in 20 years. Our riding here is notorious for having low voter turn outs. In last years by-election, the participation rate was a ridiculous 15% and in the 2011 election it sat around 40%. This year, however, just over 60% cast ballots. I love to see people exercise their democratic freedom to vote regardless of whether I agree with their politics.
5. Bye-bye Leona - Another riding I followed aside from my own was the Nunavut riding since of course I used to live there prior to moving to Alberta. I knew Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq wasn't very popular their and would be in a tough race to win re-election against a strong bid from Liberal candidate Hunter Tootoo. As an aside, I can say that I personally met both candidates while I lived up on Baffin Island. In such a small population this is bound to happen but I still found it a pretty neat experience. I remember Tootoo as a very effective MLA during Nunavut's first governments after splitting from the NWT in 1999. The riding will be well-represented.
6. Eastern Ontario surprises - If I had a "WTH" moment during election night, it would definitely have to be in regards to a trio of eastern Ontario ridings voting Liberal. Granted, its been 15 years since I lived there but growing up this tended to be very strong Tory country. Perhaps the boundary re-distributions had something to do with it, or people were just fed up and wanting change. The Tories seemed to have a pretty commanding lead at the start of the campaign in Northumberland-Peterborough South, Peterborough-Kawartha, Bay of Quinte and Hastings-Lennox and Addington but blew huge tractor tire on election night. The Liberals taking Peterborough-Kawartha I'm sure had a lot to do with the Dean del Mastro nonsense but seeing a big red blotch painted in the blue sea between Toronto and Ottawa is something I'm not used to seeing and wouldn't have predicted.
7. Windsor/Essex stays NDP - I lived more or less permanently in Windsor, Ontario for 7 years....in Herb Gray's old riding of Windsor West as a matter oaf fact. There's no question the NDP are very strong here (and coming from small-town conservative Ontario I felt like a fish out of water, politically speaking) so I tended to keep my head down. No real surprise the NDP did well here though I thought for awhile that neighbouring Essex County would vote Tory along with much of the rest of rural south-west Ontario. I remember it always being a tight race between the NDP and the Tories and fortunately (if you are an NDP at least), the party was able to wrestle this seat back from the Conservatives. Which was a good thing for them especially because.............
8. NDP Evisceration - I expected the NDP to take a hit but I didn't expect them to fall this much....all the way to 44 seats. While I'm not NDP fan I was hoping that they would at least be able to finish off the Bloc Quebecois and finally put them out of their misery but alas it was not to be. I don't envy Mulcair and senior party leaders who are now faced with rebuilding the party almost from the ground up. Certainly the loss of some long term MP's will be felt for some time. They will still be a force in this next Parliament I'm sure but definitely not on the scale they were following the 2011 election.
9. The rise of the Libertarians - As one who voted for a small party, and is interested in seeing it grow and thrive, I was great to see a big increase in the Libertarian vote. While the party attracted some support back in the early '80's and billed itself as Canada's 4th party mainstream party, the rise of the Reform Party attracted a lot of it's right-wing away and pretty much killed off the Libertarians for a couple of elections. This year, the party saw a whooping 522.72% increase in votes, from roughly 6000 total voted in 2011 to a little over 37,000 votes in 2015. Yes, it's small, but I feel the party did a much better job at getting its message out and much of the party's success can be attributed to party leader Tim Moen, who actually used to live right here in Fort McMurray until recently. I've always been interested in the formation and growth of small political parties and the entire process behind that but that is a whole other topic.
10. New Prime Minister - And of course I couldn't complete this post with at least some thoughts on the Prime Ministers. In an attempt to be as non-partisan as possible, I think Harper's wooden style just didn't work for many Canadians (and then there is a whole slew of Tory policy on top of that I'll just leave aside for now) Clearly, Canadians were looking for change. Will see this with Trudeau? That remains to be seen of course. I got the sense that Canadians went a little bit too American during the campaign and there was too much focus on the leader....the hold "cult of personality" vibe. Leaders are important of course but they aren't the only component of a political party or a government. I think that in the end, this focus on personality really came back to bite the Tories. While there is much Liberal policy I disagree with I'm willing to give Trudeau an opportunity. After all, the Tories under-estimated the guy and we saw the result of that the other evening.