By all accounts, this looked like it was going to be an election that would really change the political map in Canada, and it was. It looked like some political careers would be over, and a slew of new MPs would come to Ottawa. That happened too. It looked like an unstoppable wave would sweep through Quebec, then head west and not stop until we had a new Prime Minister with a new vision for a better Canada, and that’s exactly what happened – at least, the first part happened, then something went wrong, really wrong.
As the dust settles, we see a Quebec painted NDP orange with 58 MPs, a huge leap for a party that held just one seat (Thomas Mulcair in Outremont) after the 2008 election. We also see the party in second place nationally with 102 seats, something that has never come close to happening before.
There is now a strong, left-of-centre national opposition to the Harper Conservatives. Quebeckers have decided to stand up, en masse, for progressive social policy ahead of the sovereignty-versus-federalism, anglo-versus-franco dialogue that has dominated the discourse for so long in this province.
The Bloc is broken, reduced to just four seats from 49 in 2008. Even leader Gilles Duceppe lost his Laurier Sainte-Marie seat to the NDP’s HélÃ¨ne LaverdiÃ¨re.
The Liberals aren’t doing much better, falling to third party status with only 37 seats, something that has never happened to Canada’s “natural governing party.” Leader Michael Ignatieff also lost his seat in Etobicoke-Lakeshore to Conservative Bernard Trottier.
This was an election that saw many prominent politicians lose their seats and political careers, making way for a slew of new, mainly progressive candidates. A wave of change, an orange wave of change, was all around. The perfect storm, right? Well, there was one huge problem. This election produced a nightmare scenario that pretty much everyone on the now-united left dreaded happening. Stephen Harper got his majority.
Alberta and the rest of the Prairies were pretty much a lock for the Conservatives already and BC fell a little more into the blue column than expected, but that alone didn’t change the game. It’s southern Ontario and the Greater Toronto Area, and even parts of the City of Toronto itself, that put Harper over the top, bringing his total to 167 seats, enough for a majority.
A closer look at those ridings shows that Liberal support didn’t bleed to the NDP as anticipated, or at least not as anticipated by those like myself. We were hoping that strategic-minded anti-Harper people in Ontario would clue into the fact that Quebec and a good chunk of the rest of the country would vote for Layton, giving the NDP enough seats to take power with their help. The old two-party far right/centre-right-posing-as-centre-left dynamic still applied.
Some might claim that NDP supporters in Ontario should have voted Liberal to give the Grits a few more seats and the Conservatives a few less. Others argue, as my colleague Megan Dougherty does, that our voting system, which allows a party that doesn’t have the majority of votes to form a majority government, should be reformed.
No matter how you analyze it, one thing is clear. People living in and around Canada’s largest city actually voted for Stephen Harper.
Whether they realize it or not, they voted for corporate tax breaks, fighter jets, an endless war in Afghanistan, no more CBC, an internet unprotected against corporate interests, more prisons, less social programs, no federal funding for other political parties and a police state. Remember the G20? Remember the mass arrests for no reason? That’s what this guy did in a minority position. With a majority, who knows what he’s capable of.
He’s going to try and implement his far-right platform as soon as he can, so it’s up to the opposition NDP and all of us to stand up to it however we can.
For those in opposition, I have high hopes. If the energy in the Rialto at the NDP victory party isn’t reason enough, it’s knowing that people like LaverdiÃ¨re, whom I proudly voted for (not a chance to knock out Duceppe, my ass) and new Jeanne-le-Ber MP Tyrone Benskin, whose campaign I proudly helped out with, now have our back in Ottawa.
It’s also knowing that people without tons of corrupt political baggage like new Sherbrooke MP Pierre-Luc Dusseault (at 19, the youngest MP in Canadian history) and McGill students Charmaine Borg (Terrebonne-Blainville), Matthew Dubé (Chambly-Borduas), MylÃ¨ne Freeman (Argenteuil-Papineau-Mirabel) and Laurin Liu (RiviÃ¨re-des-Mille-ÃŽles) will bring new ideas to Ottawa.
We can only hope that this newly invigorated party will do three things: oppose, oppose and oppose! Whenever Harper tries to shove one of his unethical, destructive policies down our throats, let’s hope the NDP makes a huge fuss about it in Parliament and gets the rest of us energized, too, through the media, through grassroots organizing and through any (legal, of course) means necessary.
No, they can’t vote down any proposed laws, but they can make sure the rest of us know about them so that we can bring them down with our voices and our actions. It now becomes our turn to take action and hopefully that’s just what we’ll do. We know it’s possible to bring our voices to Ottawa, now let’s make sure they get heard loud and clear so that the next time around, with all the pseudo-progressives out of the way, Harper won’t stand a chance.
* photos by Cindy Lopez