Thank God for Danny Williams. And for the people of Quebec. And for Bill Casey. And, of course, for Stephen Harper, whose stubborn, sweater’s-off-now arrogance helped save us all from a fate worse than George Bush—which is to say a Stephen Harper Conservative majority government.
It is easy to imagine what might have happened Tuesday night if Harper had not so royally pissed off Danny Williams last year. It was because Harper broke his promise on the Atlantic Accord that the Newfoundland premier launched his Anyone But Conservative campaign during this election. And last night the Tories lost three seats they might have won.
What if Harper had made nicer with Bill Casey? The Nova Scotia Tory MP broke ranks with Harper last year over the same Atlantic Accord. Even after Harper had renegotiated the deal with Nova Scotia, implicitly acknowledging Casey had been right all along, Harper couldn’t bring himself to invite Casey back into his caucus. Casey, of course, won election Tuesday as an independent.
Put Casey’s seat and the three from Newfoundland in the Conservative column. And then add in the five to 10 Quebec seats the Tories were sure they had in the bag…
Until, that is, Harper decided to diss Canada’s cultural industries (and, by extension, the importance of culture to Quebeckers) while pandering to his own Neanderthal base with a promise to toss young offenders in jail and throw away the key (another policy that didn’t play well at all in more compassionate Quebec).
But put those broken pieces back together and you have the makings of a… Yikes.
We came that close to giving Stephen Harper free rein.
Actually, that’s not quite true. Our archaic first-past-the-post system in which candidates with the most votes in each riding take the prize and everyone else—and their supporters—end up with nothing is really to blame for the mess in which we almost found ourselves.
The truth is the Tories’ share of the national popular vote in this election only increased less than 1.5 percent to 37.6 per cent. (In fact, all of the major parties, with the exception of the Liberals, ended up with roughly the same percentage of the popular vote they had after the 2006 election.)
By the luck of the electoral skew, however, the Conservatives were able to sneak up the middle in enough ridings to translate that tiny overall increase in popular vote into a disproportional 20 additional seats and a near-miss majority.
Unfortunately, that good-for-the-government outcome makes it even less likely that we will see any move to implement some form of more democratic and representative proportional representation in this upcoming parliament.
What will we see?
Well, it’s probably time to start the office pool on just how long it will take Stephen Harper to discover that his government—whose economic fundamentals were just fine, thank you very much, before Tuesday—is actually already in a deficit.
And, well, we can’t afford those tax reductions he promised. Except for major corporations. Ooops. Sorry.
And, oh yes, you remember all that scare-mongering about how much Stephane Dion’s carbon tax was going to cost you. Well, now Stephen Harper will finally get to tell you that his own greenhouse gas policy will cost you too. And considerably more than he has led you to imagine.
So we have gone through a 38-day election campaign and spent $300 million of your tax dollars on a campaign for the purpose of… what exactly?
No wonder fewer than 60 per cent of eligible Canadian voters—a record low—even bothered to exercise their franchise.