Tuesday, October 20, 2015


In a previous blog, I speculated on the aftermath of the Canadian general election. Like most people, I thought that the result would be a minority government for one of the major parties, and that the time period after the election (starting today) would be more intense and more interesting than the campaign itself.

I was wrong.

In one of the most remarkable results in modern political history, the Liberals under Justin Trudeau have risen from the political dead to form a strong majority government. There will be no need of all the machinations, negotiations and manoeuverings I predicted would be necessary to make a minority work.

Justin Trudeau is Canada's 23rd Prime Minister, and he will be for the next four years. The Liberals will have free reign to implement their programme for the next four years. Liberals everywhere are rejoicing: Conservatives everywhere are wringing hands and planning their next campaign because, after all, this is what Conservatives do.

Whether the reader feels that the result was a good thing or the end of the world, three things have become evident.

First, anyone who underestimates Justin Trudeau does so at their peril. The Conservative attack ads, which aired well before the election writ was dropped, were highly disrespectful and refused to admit that Trudeau had any real ability. The Conservative campaign manager, at the beginning of the campaign, suggested that if Trudeau showed up for the first debate wearing pants, he'd exceed expectations. And the NDP's Tom Mulcair often referred to Trudeau by his first name only, mimicking the Conservative tactic, and spoke in a condescending manner to the Liberal. Trudeau kept his composure and showed a steady grasp of how politics really works. He is not the intellectual giant his father was, but he is highly intelligent, very disciplined and has a political acumen worthy of any Prime Minister.

Second, anyone who thinks the Conservative Party have suffered an irreparable setback are woefully mistaken. The Conservatives play hard-ball politics all the time. They are never quiet, never satisfied, always looking for ways to attack their opponents and always ready for a fight. Many find this attitude offensive, but one has to tip their hat to the Conservative fighting spirit. Stephen Harper has worn out his welcome ( probably long ago: he will undoubtedly be remembered as one of Canada's least likeable Prime Ministers ), but the Conservatives have a wealth of people to tap for a leadership role. They are not done, not by a long shot.

Finally, what is abundantly evident is that our electoral system is in need of an overhaul. One of the loudest criticisms levelled at the previous Conservative government is that, despite the fact that it enjoyed a majority, it only had around 40% support among those who voted. Now, in 2015, we have a strong Liberal majority .... with around 40% support of the electorate. Clearly, the "first past the post" system needs to be modified by a type of proportional representation. Otherwise, vote splitting and strategic voting will result in governments that do not accurately reflect the will of the people. Add to this the very real need for Senate reform, increasing voter turnout, reasonable political advertising ( also known as propaganda ) and Mr. Trudeau will be pressed to seemingly work against his good electoral fortune and bring about reforms that will make Canada more democratic.

As we digest the results, other realities will need to be addressed: our relationship with Indigenous Peoples, the disparity between rural and urban Canada, our role in the world, and our environmental policy come to mind. Justin Trudeau cannot solve all of these at once. But he will be sorely pressed to get to work on them soon. Hopefully, he will get a short "honeymoon" period in which to set priorities and plan. Then, facing fierce opposition from both Conservatives and NDP, he must get down to real work.  He shouldn't get a free pass from anyone. (That includes me, despite the fact that I like him and think he'll do well.) He must deliver. It is imperative that he not fail.

And for the rest of us, we must calm down, get on with real life, but observe closely. It's our Parliament, after all. We must insist that ALL parties make it work effectively.

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