|Stephen Harper - winning!|
|Jack Layton - Official Opposition Leader|
Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours/The Tyee column
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Long gun registry, "strategic" voting among many casualties
By Bill Tieleman
A majority is always better than the best repartee.
- Benjamin Disraeli, British prime minister, 1804-1881
In this stunningly exciting federal election two parties were devastated and two – the Conservatives and the New Democrats – absolutely elated.
NDP leader Jack Layton’s “Orange Crush” has fundamentally changed national politics and the near total Liberal and Bloc Quebecois collapse let the Conservatives easily gain their much-wanted majority government.
The NDP bashed the Liberals into third place to achieve their dream of becoming official opposition and absolutely devastated the Bloc Quebecois and their separatist goal.
The Conservatives get their first majority government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper despite his campaigning in a bubble and avoiding most media questioning. Harper’s voters really don’t care.
The results sadly vindicate the Conservative strategy of demonizing Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff with negative attack ads, damaging his credibility so much the NDP leapfrogged into second place.
But Ignatieff was also the overly academic author of his own demise.
Now the Tories and NDP have four years to solidify their positions – and marginalize their opponents.
Ignatieff’s failure to connect with voters means the party will seek its third new leader in three years.
Neither a discredited Bob Rae nor an unremarkable Justin Trudeau can rescue the Liberals.
But the Bloc’s near elimination by the federalist NDP is a death blow to separatism and Gilles Duceppe’s leadership.
Harper is now in the position he has wanted since becoming Conservative leader –a four-year mandate with control of Parliament.
And that's not a huge surprise. In my column of March 29 I predicted a majority Tory win was likely - and many readers strongly criticized me for doing so, but the results speak for themselves.
At that time I wrote:
"Friday's opposition vote to defeat the Conservative government for "contempt of Parliament" was an exercise in self-delusion, testosterone and faulty logic that will surely result in Stephen Harper returning after the May 2 election as prime minister -- and likely with a majority....."
"The Liberals, NDP and Bloc argued somewhat persuasively that the Conservatives were in contempt of Parliament over their disdain for democracy, openness and accountability."
"So why did the opposition parties foolishly believe that the best way to restore those values is to give Stephen Harper an excellent chance to win a four-year majority?"
"Now voters who deeply fear a Stephen Harper government with untrammelled power have to feverishly hope the Conservatives do what they will be desperately avoiding -- make a huge campaign mistake."
"Nothing less can stop their drive to majority power," I concluded.
So, will Harper wisely moderate his party’s right-wing red meat demands and instead occupy the centre of the political spectrum?
Or will he throw them steaks – like dismantling the CBC, privatized health care or slashing public services to pay for corporate tax cuts? Count on the long gun registry to die along with public funding for political parties and much more.
Also deceased – strategic voting. The idea of changing the results in ridings with small margins of victory with an ABC campaign – Anybody But Conservative – showed yet again it is a failing strategy, especially when two competing parties completely deflate.
Jack Layton won big. His appealing personality was backed with an excellent campaign that focused on key voter issues like job protection, retirement security, the environment and public health care.
Now Layton has four years to prepare for a classic left-right battle against Harper’s Conservatives – if he can dispatch the Liberals to political history before the next election.
And the election is a warning sign for B.C. Liberal Premier Christy Clark – the long-time federal Liberal may want to avoid a general election. at least until the Orange Crush runs out.