Politics - Federal

Harper Buys Two More Years

By Ryan McGreal
Published October 15, 2008

By winning another minority government, Stephen Harper's Conservative Party of Canada have bought themselves another two years or so of power against a divided electorate and, quite possibly, a leaderless opposition.

Harper may have missed the best opportunity to win a majority earlier in the summer, but this snap election was still in his party's interest, if only to pull the plug on Parliamentary investigations into Conservative scandals, get in before the coming recession, and beat next year's constituency redistribution that will put more seats in urban strongholds.

Many pundits are saying that Harper's failure to capture a majority represents a clear failure on his part and a rejection of his policies by most Canadians.

There's plenty of truth to that sentiment, particularly given the weakness and inarticulation of his main opponent, but Harper still managed to achieve his main objective, which was to get the jump on bad news and win a mandate to stay in power a little longer, during which time he can continue to tweak the Canadian government in a more conservative direction: harsher laws, lower corporate taxes, more social wedge issues.

Dion: Unclear Future

At the same time, Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion will come under considerable pressure to step down after a disappointing campaign. He specifically failed to communicate his Party's Green Shift carbon tax plan and broadly failed to connect with voters on a personal level.

At the same time, he demonstrated some rapid on-the-job training and made a considerable improvement over the course of the campaign, especially once he began allowing other high profile Liberals into his campaign strategy.

If the Liberals do decide to keep him, it won't be the first time a duffer had a chance to mature into a polished, confident, competent leader.

However, if the pressure to replace him becomes irresistable, that will take the Liberals out of the Parliamentary picture for at least a year, during which Harper can continue to govern as if he has a majority.

FPTP Follies

Above all else, resignation seems to have ruled the day, as the new government emerged substantially the same as the old one. Turnout fell from 65 percent in 2006 to just 59 percent, possibly because many Canadians felt this election to be a pointless waste of time.

Demonstrating the distortionary effects of Canada's first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting system, the Conservatives managed to increase their seat count by 19, or 12.6 percent, over their 2006 results while increasing their share of the popular vote by only 1.4 percent, to 37.6 percent.

The Liberals, by contrast, dropped 27 seats or 20 percent with only a four percent drop in the popular vote.

The NDP jumped from 29 to 37 seats, or 23.3 percent, with less than one percent increase in the popular vote.

The Green Party increased their popular vote by two and a half percent to just under seven percent, but won no seats.

The Bloc Quebecois increased from 50 seats to 51, with their share of the popular vote dropping by half a point.

Local Results

Locally, all four of Hamilton's incumbent MPs will be returning to Ottawa.
Hamilton Results by Riding
Riding Party Candidate Votes % Votes
Ancaster Dundas Flamborough Westdale Marxist-Leninist Jamilé Ghaddar 158 0.28%
NDP Gordon Guyatt 9,632 16.98%
Liberal Arlene MacFarlane-VanderBeek 15,422 27.19%
Green Peter Ormond 5,209 9.18%
Conservative David Sweet 26,297 46.36%
Total 56,718 100.00%
Hamilton Centre NDP David Christoperson 19,945 49.27%
Libertarian Anthony Giles 529 1.31%
Green John Livingstone 3,625 8.96%
Marxist-Leninist Lisa Nussey 126 0.31%
Conservative Leon O'Connor 9,055 22.37%
Communist Ryan Sparrow 125 0.31%
Liberal Helen Wilson 7,074 17.48%
Total 40,479 100.00%
Hamilton East-Stoney Creek Independent Sam Cino 323 0.67%
Liberal Larry Di Ianni 13,445 27.93%
Green David William Hart Dyke 2,142 4.45%
PC Party Gord Hill 853 1.77%
NDP Wayne Marston 19,924 41.39%
Conservative Frank Rukavina 11,456 23.80%
Total 48,143 100.00%
Hamilton Mountain Conservative Terry Anderson 16,011 30.66%
Liberal Tyler Banham 10,531 20.16%
Green Stephen Brotherston 2,884 5.52%
NDP Chris Charlton 22,799 43.66%
Total 52,225 100.00%

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By gullchasedship (registered) - website | Posted October 15, 2008 at 10:58:08

It's a war of attrition. The Libs couldn't afford another campaign, yet it was forced on them. Their leaders can't afford another leadership campaign, and it will likely be forced on them as well. Harper is exactly where he calculated he would be. A stronger minority with a weakened Liberal party.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 15, 2008 at 11:28:33

so 41% of Canadians chose "none of the above". Sounds good to me.

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By Rusty (registered) - website | Posted October 15, 2008 at 13:43:43

'Buys' two more years is right...and we paid for it! 350 mill of our money just to get his party a short-term extension and get us right back where we started...

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By adam1 (anonymous) | Posted October 15, 2008 at 22:19:39

350 million is nothing compared to the Conservative mandate to increase military spending every year for the next 20 years. By the time it is done, we will have spent 490 billion on dissolving Canada as peace-keeper

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 15, 2008 at 22:53:20

hey, at least our election campaign was only 5 weeks long. I think the US is approaching 2 years on theirs. Nothing is easy down there anymore. Lol.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 16, 2008 at 10:40:27

Well, it looks like Dion's out:

http://thespec.com/News/BreakingNews/art...

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By Rusty (registered) - website | Posted October 16, 2008 at 14:43:16

So he's lying low for another day...there's no doubt he's out.

I don't know where this leaves the Libs. I'm not sure any of the prospective replacements can unite - and dare I say excite - the party faithful. And if the party itself can't get excited about a leader then how will the public get engaged.

People keep saying 'it's not about the leader' and for sure the Liberal party has other problems. But how do you solve these problems without a firm hand at the top?

Perhaps if Barack Obama fails to win the US election he'll run things for us up here?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 16, 2008 at 15:10:48

Michael Ignatieff has matured a lot as a politician over the past couple of years. When he first ran, he actually sounded a lot like Dion (albeit without the crippling language barrier): a stilted academic intoning formal treatises in complicated, inaccessible language.

He also suffered from credible accusations that his support for the Afghanistan war and his role as Harvard University human rights professor and de facto apologist for American imperial war crimes rendered him unfit to lead the Liberal Party of Canada.

Yet his speech to the Economic Club of Toronto during this campaign was some truly inspired stumping. He's not my ideal Liberal candidate, but I think he's the best they can put forward and arguably the most articulate defender of Liberal centrism.

http://www.liberal.ca/story_15003_e.aspx

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By nicky nacky nine-doors (anonymous) | Posted October 16, 2008 at 16:17:21

why do they call it a stump speech anyway? (I've always wondered)

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 16, 2008 at 20:15:12

My understanding is that it comes from the 19th century practice of political candidates going into the town square and using a sawed-off tree stump as a raised podium from to give political speeches.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted October 17, 2008 at 11:49:05

Ignatieff also supported the Iraq war. I don't believe he ever really backed away from that unequivocally. Also, a Lib insider of my acquaintance doesn't think he has much support outside TO. That was an inspiring speech, though. Old-style philosopher king stuff that's been MIA in Canadian politics for too long. Don't know how well it plays with the kids these days.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 17, 2008 at 12:18:09

highwater wrote:

Ignatieff also supported the Iraq war. I don't believe he ever really backed away from that unequivocally.

Quite true. He was that most despicable of creatures, a "pro-war liberal" who managed to convince himself that it's possible to to the right thing the right way for the wrong reasons - or as Ignatieff himself put it, "if good results had to wait for good intentions, we would have to wait forever."

Too late, he discovered the folly of this belief: "Now I realize that intentions do shape consequences."

I hope at least that this discovery was humbling for him - that human rights aren't a subject to be debated but the very stuff in which and through which human beings live, suffer, triumph, and sometimes die.

Then again, that's why I identify more as a progressive conservative libertarian social democrat than a Big-L Liberal. :)

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By highwater (registered) | Posted October 17, 2008 at 19:08:53

He was that most despicable of creatures, a "pro-war liberal" who managed to convince himself that it's possible to to the right thing the right way for the wrong reasons...

Yes. It's frightening what intellectuals can do with their intellects. Summer '07 I had an extremely disagreeable discussion with a Mac history prof who was summoning all her intellectual gifts to justify Israel's outsized attack on Lebanon. Wow.

Too late, he discovered the folly of this belief: "Now I realize that intentions do shape consequences."

Oy. I learned this in high school 20th Century History class. The end does not justify the means. Scary that Ignatieff had to witness the Iraq debacle to relearn this simple lesson.

I have been following the Ignatieff boys' exploits since the '80's. Michael has always struck me as weirdly unempathetic. (Is that a word?)

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