Tuesday, May 03, 2011

What a night

Last night was the most remarkable Canadian election since at least 1993, possibly since the dawn of television.

Here is my round up of thoughts....

Winners and losers all face challenges

The big winners are obviously the NDP, the Greens and the Conservatives (and I would argue in that order).

But all 5 parties face major challenges going forward.

The Conservatives will no longer be able to use the minority situation as an excuse to their base when justifying not pursing some policies that might not be politically palatable. They will have to walk a difficult balancing act in order to hold their electoral coalition together without risking losing their majority in 2015.

The NDP has a caucus with 60 MPs from Quebec, the vast majority of whom are inexperienced. The party has an opportunity to cement itself as the Canada's new second party, but will have to avoid the pitfalls that brought down Mario Dumont's ADQ after their 2007 breakthrough. Moreover, the NDP will need to be careful to not alienate Quebecers, who gave them their status as the official opposition, with a party that has long been dominated by Ontario operatives. Some of that possible resentment has already started to appear on Twitter.

The Greens get their first MP and Elizabeth May is owed congratulations for succeeding at her risky gambit of going all in on her local campaign. However, the Greens stand to lose half of their vote subsidy (having lost half of their national popular vote). Though, if the Conservatives cancel or phase out the subsidy that may be moot. In any event this cash loss will be offset by May being able to use her Hill office budget to employ the brightest lights of the Green Party, and her platform as an MP to get lots of free media.

Now, on to the Liberals and Bloc. Their challenges are more obvious, and more stark. The Liberals face the risk of following their UK forebears into perpetual third party status. The Bloc has only 4 MPs and limited financial resources. Will either be able to rebound from these low water marks?

What does this all mean for New Brunswick?

The Liberals have been reduced to 1 seat for the first time since 1984. And they placed third in 7 of the 10 ridings. The NDP won a remarkable share of the vote and came close to picking up seats in Moncton and Saint John. Is this a good omen for Dominic Cardy and the provincial NDP? Or is it solely a federal phenomenon? If the latter, is it a one time thing or is the NDP poised to make gains here in 2015 as they look to solidify their status as one of the country's two major parties?

And with Harper's new majority holding only 6 seats in Quebec, will unilingual ministers Keith Ashfield and Rob Moore be pushed aside to make room for needed francophones in the cabinet? Bernard Valcourt and Robert Goguen are likely already making that pitch!

What's next for the NDP?

The NDP seems to have lots of potential growth potential. It's birthplace and former stronghold of Saskatchewan eluded them for the 4th straight election (my prediction quite foolishly thought they could rebound to 10 seats there last night's scenario) and were held to only 2 seats in Manitoba. This is highly unusual territory for the NDP and those areas should be worked hard over the next four years if they wish to expand/secure their position.

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