Conservatives Rebuked, Harperism Repudiated
It was an interesting election. If you haven’t heard, the Liberal Party of Canada won a clear majority in yesterday’s national poll. It was not the optimum result. Despite all the cries for “change” it was really only a return to the status quo ante. Ho hum. A Liberal government with a Conservative opposition with the social democratic NDP back in third place and a small rump of Bloc Quebecois legislators. Oh yes, and one Green. But at least Mr. Harper has been sent packing.
This was an election about values, and not economics. “It’s the economy, stupid!” as a political principle revealed the limits of its applicability and relevance. Despite all attempts by the ruling party and the corporate media to make it an election exclusively about economics and managerialism, the majority of Canadians tacked the other way.
Conservatives have been rebuked, and Stephen Harper’s authoritarianism and wedge-politics have been repudiated. That’s as simple an assessment as it gets. Stephen Harper’s malicious efforts to “force march” Canadians rightwards in their values and identity — to “learn to drink pig’s piss” as one Conservative operative put it quaintly — has met its Waterloo.
The election showed that Canada’s values generally are what we might call “left-liberal”. The social democrats led by Tom Muclair also fell heavily, and were bumped from official Opposition status as “the government-in-waiting”, not just because of the ABC (“Anyone But Conservative”) and “strategic voting” campaigns against Harper that came to favour the Liberals, but because Mulcair and the NDP tacked towards the “mushy middle” of public opinion, normally territory held by the Liberals.
Mulcair was side-swiped by the Trudeau Liberals who then tacked leftwards of the social democrats! Trudeau was saying things that appealed to the social democratic base, while Mulcair was saying things to appeal to the small-c conservative vote. The dissonance and contradiction between Mulcair’s platform and the NDP’s policy programme was so stark, in fact, that the NDP removed its own party policy programme from its website as being in contradiction with their leader’s campaign platform. Ironically, it was the Liberals who then moved into that territory abandoned by Mulcair and the NDP.
That tack rightwards by Mulcair and the NDP was a clear and major error of judgement, amongst other things. For one thing, it was even seen as a weak and shameful concession by the social democrats to Harperism — the attempt to move, by authoritarian methods, Canadian’s values and political identity rightwards.
So, not only were the Conservatives (and Harper’s right-wing Stalinism) rebuked (and completely wiped out in the Atlantic Provinces). So were the social democrats, who even lost official opposition status although they were at one time leading in the polls.
The Liberals now have a majority. We’ll see what they do with it. Trudeau has made “real change” his slogan, and maybe there is even a modicum of truth in that — more than just cynical politicking and electioneering. I’m uneasy with majority governments because just as soon as a party wins power, it seems to “forget” its promises of electoral and democratic reforms. Trudeau has promised that this election will be the last first-past-the-post election, and he may have to be forcibly reminded of that as the Liberals become comfortable with their majority.
The three issues that I consider of utmost urgency I have already made plain: a) socioeconomic inequality, b) the attendant “democratic deficit” and c) environmental health. All three are connected, of course, but only Elizabeth May of the Green Party made these central issues of the campaign (and she was excluded from most of the national debates!). Trudeau has indicated he will address all three issues in some manner or another and he’ll have to be held accountable for that.