To listen to the experts, this election would change nothing. The same parliament, in the same proportions – give or take a few. Instead, it went from, as the media were so fond of repeating, the “election about nothing”, to the most significant realignment of the Canadian political landscape in decades. The Bloc Quebecois dropped from a commanding 47 of Quebec’s 75 federal seats to 4, leading them to lose even their status as an official party in the House of Commons.
The Liberal Party, long considered “Canada’s natural governing party” by the entitled mandarins within its slowly desiccating husk, reduced to a historic 34 seats and the humiliation of becoming the dreaded third party. A position they derided the NDP for holding for as long as my memory serves.
The NDP, propelled by an outpouring of support in Quebec without precedent in Canadian history, surged to a record 103 seats, more than double their previous record. Quebec’s “bon Jack” will now move his contagious energy and enthusiasm into Stornoway, the official residence of the leader of the opposition.
But even for those who bleed Orange, the election is a bittersweet pill to swallow. Despite record levels of support across the country, the NDP lost dozens of achingly close races and were unable to block Stephen Harper from finally attaining the majority government he has been so doggedly pursuing ever since his ascension to leader of the Canadian Alliance Party in 2002.
The prospect of Stephen Harper wielding the sort of absolute power a majority provides is terrifying. For women, for the LGBTT community and for Canadians of all stripes who value just and democratic government. That he was able to gain it with the support of a sliver under 40% of those who voted is perhaps the most depressing aspect of our current predicament.
If you harbour any doubts about the urgent necessity of replacing our anti-democratic and antiquated voting system with a proportional one, then consider this. In Saskatchewan, the birthplace of the NDP, the New Democrats won exactly zero seats, despite the support of over 30% of voters. When our choices are not reflected in our government, we begin to lose faith in the democratic process. Little wonder then that so many of our fellow citizens, especially young ones, don’t vote.
If we had a proportional system right now, we would likely be looking at a coalition of the NDP and Liberals under the leadership of Prime Minister Jack Layton. An outcome that an obvious majority of the country prefer to a continuation of Harper’s reign.
But while this tragedy of democracy must inspire us to redouble our efforts towards a voting system that honestly represents our intentions, the system is what it is (for now) and we need to buckle up for four years of unchecked Harper.
The one silver lining gleaming through this dark cloud is the position of the NDP. For the first time in our history, the official opposition, called upon to hold the government to account and shine light on its missteps, will be formed by New Democrats. While the Liberals so often supported Stephen Harper that it was increasingly difficult to distinguish between their policies and his, the NDP can be counted upon to represent those of us whose priorities revolve around health care, the environment, social justice and equality.
We are certainly in for four turbulent and trying years, but after that time Harper will be forced to go before the people again. The NDP will have then had four years to prove its ability and earn its role as the Conservatives main opposition in Ottawa.
I believe the NDP will succeed on both counts, and form the next government of Canada in four years time. I believe this because I know many of the amazing MPs elected in Quebec and across the country. Even in a majority situation, the caliber of the men and women chosen to represent Canadians for the NDP will shine through, and prove sharp contrast to the often muzzled characters on the government benches.
There will be many protests, many fights ahead, as we try to counter the impending Harper attack. We will lose more than we will win, but we will win some, and we will come through it all stronger and more united than ever before. So fear the storm, but don’t despair. There is sunshine on the other side.