OUT ON A LIMB: Well, that was an election worth watching

What was it I said last Friday? Another boring, predictable election? Ho-hum?

What was it I said last Friday?

Another boring, predictable election? Ho-hum? Well, was I wrong or what?

Not about the Conservatives. I didn’t indicate it in my column but I was not surprised that the Harper government won the election and even got a majority. The NDP surge, however, was a huge surprise. Although, I have always thought that the NDP was the natural choice for Bloc Quebecois (BQ) voters, should they ever become disillusioned with separatism. I never thought they would actually ever become disillusioned with separatism but I was well aware that the BQ was a socially and politically liberal (small-l) party like the NDP.

That meant, ideologically, BQ supporters would be most compatible with the NDP. Especially since the Liberals (big-l) did nothing to appeal to Bloc voters and Harper is universally reviled in La Belle Province. So the NDP was the only choice. Does it mean separatism is dead? I doubt it but it will take years, perhaps decades, to regain the momentum it had when the Bloc had significant influence in the national parliament.

The NDP now has to appeal to – some might say appease – the nationalist identity in Quebec. It won’t be easy and a strategy of favouring Quebecois distinctiveness might threaten its appeal in the West, where the NDP has been strong, and in Ontario, another base.

Still, these are interesting times for the little third party that thought it could but never did quite. Now it’s the official opposition which means it gets to ask the first question in Question Period. Whoopee. Actually, the NDP’s position gives it top billing when it comes to criticizing the government but all it can do is carp from the sidelines because of the Tory majority. The NDP actually had more power in a minority government than it does as the official opposition, such is the tyranny of a parliamentary majority. Harper can do whatever he wants.

The esteemed Conrad Black actually made an interesting statement to the CBC that said the NDP success and the Liberal and Bloc failure means Canada is becoming a true two-party political system.

I see our national politics mimicking B.C. politics in that the federal scene will now have conservatives and leftists going at it with little middle ground. And we know what a whacky political reputation B.C. has because of its left-right conflict. Interesting times for sure.

Meanwhile, good riddance to Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. He just never could connect with the people in this country. A Liberal intellectual in the tradition of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Ignatieff just seemed aloof and distant whereas Trudeau at least seemed to revel in the adoration he received from the people.

I read one British opinion piece that suggested this election showed Canada was becoming too parochial for a modern, prosperous state. Ignatieff’s return to Canada from decades abroad was used as a weapon against him by the Conservatives and it worked. The resentment against a returning, arrogant intellectual gained some traction with voters and contributed to Ignatieff’s image. It means that perhaps Canada’s tolerance of internationalism is low and it doesn’t reflect positively upon us as a mature political society. It makes us look like a bunch of backwood hicks “who don’t like no uppity ferners.”

Our economy will benefit from a government that is perceived internationally as being stable and prudent fiscal managers. That will attract investors and help to keep the economic recovery going. Locally, we’ve re-hired John Duncan and if he continues to hold a cabinet post, we stand to benefit in Vancouver Island North. Given that the Conservatives were afraid they might lose this riding (and it was another close one), they may continue to lavish attention on it to strengthen the party’s hold. We’ll see.

Goodness knows, we could use a little federal help around here after they (and the provincial government) ignored the effect of the forest industry downturn on this riding until it was too late. But it’s going to take a little more than highway improvement projects and lacrosse box contributions to restore the local economy to its former glory.

Duncan has his work cut out for him.

Alistair Taylor is Editor of the Campbell River Mirror.