That was the winner in Michael Kinsley’s legendary “Most Boring Headline” contest. Tonight, it refers to the Canadian election results, where, for the first time since 1988, the electorate has returned an outright Conservative majority. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has governed with a minority, in coalition with the New Democrat Party, since 2006, but he will finally get a chance to govern with a majority of about 10 seats on his own.
Harper led the breakaway conservative-populist Reform party, based on the plains and his own province of Alberta, back into an Alliance with and eventually a reunification with the Conservative Party. The result has been a Tory party to the left of American Republicans, but to the right of where the Tories had been for the better part of two decades. On issues most of interest to Americans, he seems to be a relative free-trader, a strong supporter of the War on Terror, and a very strong and vocal supporter of Israel. Brian Mulroney was often compared to Reagan, largely because he won 211 (!), no really, (!), seats in 1984, the year of Reagan’s cakewalk over Walter “Mr. Warmth” Mondale. But in reality, Mulroney was more establishment, more like Eisenhower, where Harper is more like Canadian Reagan.
The story of the election was the rise of the NDP as the opposition party, benefitting mightily when both the separatist Bloc Quebecois and the “natural governing party (cough),” the Liberals, both folded like cheap suits. BQ went from 45+ seats in Quebec to 4 (all those seats went to the NDP), and the Liberals turned in their worst showing in history, getting less than 20% of the vote and about 35 seats in Parliament. Evidently, the NDP wasn’t hurt much by last-minute revelations that its leader, “Premature” Jack Layton, had been found some years earlier, in flagrante, by the police, at a
whorehouse massage parlor.
The deflation of the BQ is actually big news, probably bigger even than the implosion of the Liberals. I haven’t seen polling data, but is it possible, just possible, that the Quebeckers have killed all the English-speakers that they’re going to in traffic accidents (by changing the signs to French), and are now tired of seeing the remaining ones flee to Toronto, taking their belongings and business skills with them? They certainly voted like they want to rejoin the rest of the country. Historically, Conservative governments cow-towed a little to Quebec in order to get BQ support in Parliament. That they were able to win an ootright majority without them could mean realignment, or it could be their high-water mark.
Despite the fact that Harper has been accused of some heavy-handed tactics – asking the Governor General to prorogue Parliament, for instance – the Tories ended up with just a smidge under the traditional 40% needed to win a majority. They dominated Ontario, won the Maritime provinces, completely owned the plains. BC looks a little like California, with the lefties winning the coast and the Tories winning the interior.
(Note – some of these seats have been decided by fewer than 200 votes. There will probably be recounts, because every seat matters. Note how they handle this. Learn something. Please.)
Michael Igantieff, who was gracious enough, once he could get the Tory boot off of his neck to talk, didn’t say whether he’d step down as Liberal leader. Well, why waste your breath when you don’t have to. The fact is, while leading a party that’s completely bereft of ideas, the intellectual Ignatieff has comported himself as an honorable man. He voted to extend Canada’s tour in Afghanistan, voting with a relatively small – but decisive – minority to do so. And when he might have tried to form his own minority government, he declined, letting the Guy With the Most Bottom, er Seats, do the job.
At this point, there will probably be plenty of defections from the Liberals to the NDP, if not among MPs then among rank-and-file voters and party workers. Naturally, the Greens (who, sadly, won a seat for the first time ever) and the NDP portrayed this as a vote for “change” for them, but it’s hard to make that sort of claim stick when the party you’ve vowed to fight tooth-and-maple has just won everything that speaks English from sea to shining sea.
Still, there’s a lesson here. Don’t break your party up like the Titanic unless you’re willing to let the other guys run the place lock, stock, and barrel for about 15 years, with predictable consequences. Canada, which once had a spirit of the free press to match our own, despite that pesky little monarchical thing, now has hauled Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn in front of extra-judicial administrative “courts” because of things they said, wrote, or printed. Don’t think it can’t happen here. (Police Chief Haddad, paging Police Chief Haddad. Please report to the white courtesy phone.)
The glide path toward socialized medicine became a powered nose-dive, also with predictable results. The Canadian Supreme Court ruled the “your money or your life, ok, well, neither, then” system unconstitutional because it was killing people. Canada used to have a proud martial tradition; they were right in the mix on D-Day. While writers like Michael Yon remark favorably on the performance and professionalism of the Canadian troops in Afghanistan, it’s not exactly something the Grits have been campaigning on.
The fact is, Canada has changed beyond all recognition, not a little of it has been top-down, and there’s simply no going back without a generational effort to restore some level of cultural self-confidence.
CORRECTION: I am informed that the Canadian government was not officially a coalition, it was merely a minority government, meaning that there was no formal coalition agreement among the Conservatives, the BQ, and the NDP. The BQ and the NDP merely agreed not to force no-confidence votes or to vote against the government on what are considered “test votes” of the ability to govern, usually things like budgets and major pieces of legislation. Unlike in Britain where the junior partner Liberal-Democrats hold seats in Cabinet, all the Canadian ministers were Conservative.