The Liberal Party under Justin Trudeau managed to galvanize Canadians eager for a change from nine years of Conservative rule into a majority of seats in the House of Commons.
By Ryan McGreal
Published October 20, 2015
A gusty, giddy wind blew through Hamilton yesterday, auguring the wind of change that blew through Canada's electorate in a dramatic conclusion to the longest, most unpleasant election campaign in Canadian living memory.
Anti-Stephen Harper poster in Southwest Hamilton by artist Bob Preston
After a 78-day campaign, during most of which the three main parties - the Conservative Party, Liberal Party and New Democratic Party - were statistically deadlocked, the Liberal Party under leader Justin Trudeau swept the country, winning 184 seats out of the recently-expanded 338 seat House of Commons for a clear majority.
|Party||Seats 2015||Seats 2011||Change|
A jump in early voting - 3.6 million Canadians cast ballots over Thanksgiving weekend - carried through to election day with a big boost in voter turnout as 68 percent of eligible voters participated, up from just 61 percent in 2011.
After nine years in power, the governing Conservative Party under Prime Minister Stephen Harper doubled down on fear of change, threatening that a victory for one of the other parties would potentially mean an end to the economic performance of the past decade.
This allowed the competing parties to point out that the country's economic performance has been fairly dismal, with mediocre growth and a long decline in stable, well-paying jobs. Canadians learned during the campaign that Canada is officially in a recession.
The campaign started with a buoyed NDP Official Opposition enjoying a slight edge in public opinion surveys, but that advantage steadily ebbed away as the Liberals built a head of steam, particularly in the final two weeks.
It's a mug's game trying to determine exactly what went right for the Liberals and wrong for the NDP, but Trudeau and the Liberals seem to have benefited from framing their platform as a sharper, more sweeping break from the status quo in an election driven primarily by the public's hunger for change.
The NDP tacked into the centre to assuage public fears about what a social-democratic government might do, with leader Tom Mulcair insisting that his government would neither raise taxes nor run deficits, leading observers to wonder how the party could afford to keep its campaign promises.
Meanwhile, Trudeau attacked the politics of austerity head-on, promising to run modest deficits and raise the top income tax bracket in order to invest in growth.
The NDP's base of popular support was in Quebec, which the party swept in the 2011 election to become the Official Opposition. This time around, the Conservatives exploited a divisive wedge issue by promising to appeal a Federal Court decision allowing a woman to wear a niqab during her citizenship ceremony and proposing a ban on federal employees wearing the face covering.
This position is popular in Quebec, which has a provincial policy banning women from wearing a niqab while dealing with the government, and Mulcair's principled stance in opposition to the ban cost him some support there.
Among non-partisan Canadians who were driven mainly by the desire to vote the Conservatives out, the dip in NDP polling support may have become a turning point: once it looked like the Liberals were gaining ground, voters started to conclude that they would have a better chance of beating the Conservatives, which attracted more people to support them, which further cemented their status as the party that could beat the Conservatives in a positive feedback loop.
The momentum from that feedback loop culminated in a majority win for the Liberals beyond the predictions of the survey aggregators.
This election changes Hamilton's political landscape, both at the federal and municipal levels. After a decade of being locked out of Hamilton ridings, the Liberals have won two seats. Former mayor Bob Bratina won Hamilton East - Stoney Creek, defeating NDP incumbent Wayne Marsten. Filomena Tassi won the new riding of Hamilton West - Ancaster - Dundas.
Incumbent Hamilton Centre MPP David Christopherson continues to hold his seat, and Scott Duvall, currently the City Councillor for Ward 7, won Hamilton Mountain for the NDP. That means the City will hold a Council by-election to fill the Central Mountain vacancy.
Conservative David Sweet won the new riding of Flamborough - Glanbrook, which contains part of his current riding of Ancaster - Dundas - Flamborough - Westdale.
|DiLivio, Mike||NDP-New Democratic Party||7773||14%|
|Urquhart, David Allan||Green Party||1870||3.40%|
|Baldasaro, Michael James||Radical Marijuana||348||0.8%|
|Christopherson, David||NDP-New Democratic Party||18,722||45.6%|
|Schmid-Jones, Ute||Green Party||1,845||4.5%|
|Davis, Erin||Green Party||1,294||2.6%|
|Marston, Wayne||NDP-New Democratic Party||16,465||32.7%|
|Aman, Raheem||Green Party||1,283||2.5%|
|Caton, Andrew James||Libertarian||763||1.5%|
|Duvall, Scott||NDP-New Democratic Party||18,046||35.8%|
|Enos, Jim||Christian Heritage Party||438||0.9%|
|Johnstone, Alex||NDP-New Democratic Party||10,144||16.2%|
|Ormond, Peter||Green Party||2,832||4.5%|
In Niagara West, Conservative incumbent Dean Allision won reelection with 48 percent of the vote.
|Frere, Sid||Green Party||1,512||3%|
|Jonker, Harold||Christian Heritage Party||1,234||2.40%|
|Rahman, Nameer||NDP-New Democratic Party||5,805||11.40%|
|de Roo, Allan||Libertarian||797||1.60%|
In Burlington, Liberal Karina Gould edged out incumbent Conservative Mike Wallace to win with 46 percent of the vote.
|Fiorito, Vince||Green Party||1,701||2.40%|
|Laird, David||NDP-New Democratic Party||6,334||9%|
Once again, we must note that the allocation of seats to the various parties diverges sharply from the proportion of votes cast for each party, due to Canada's continued use of first-past-the-post vote counting.
The Liberal Party received 39.5 percent of the popular vote but secured 54.4 percent of the seats in the House of Commons, giving them a clear majority. If the number of seats they received was proportionate to their share of the vote, the Liberals would only have received 134 seats and would have to cooperate with one or more of the other parties to achieve majority support for its bills.
|Party||% Votes||Perc. Seats||Prop. Seats||Actual Seats||Difference|
It was the Conservatives who took advantage of this effect in the 2011 election, when they secured 54.2 percent of the seats with 39.6 percent of the votes.
The major parties have traditionally opposed changing Canada's first-past-the-post voting system, in which it is possible for a candidate to win a riding with only a plurality of votes, because it disproportionately favours mainstream parties with a small edge in votes while disproportionately hurting smaller parties.
However, the Liberal Party announced in their platform policy on open government that they intend to replace first-past-the-post system before the next election in 2019. The policy states:
We are committed to ensuring that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system. As part of a national engagement process, we will ensure that electoral reform measures – such as ranked ballots, proportional representation, mandatory voting, and online voting – are fully and fairly studied and considered. This will be carried out by a special all-party parliamentary committee, which will bring recommendations to Parliament on the way forward, to allow for action before the succeeding federal election. Within 18 months of forming government, we will bring forward legislation to enact electoral reform.
Now that they have come out as the big winners under the current system, I hope their enthusiasm to reform that system doesn't get sidelined.
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