|Appearances to the contrary, the Liberal Party was the big winner on election night
January 28, 2006
It should have been a blow out. All things being equal, the Harper Party ought to have crushed the Liberals, just as the Liberals crushed the Progressive Conservatives in 1993. At that time, public revulsion at the chicanery and sliminess of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s government led to the near annihilation of the PCs.
The luckless sacrificial leader Kim Campbell led the party to oblivion, falling from 169 seats to 2.. The Liberals ballooned from 83 to 177 in the first of three consecutive majority governments.
This is sort of wholesale house cleaning that happens when a public is sick of a corrupt, venal party and demands a change in government. Nothing of the sort happened this time. The 124 seats the Harper Party won does not denote victory. It is at best a probationary governing lease, granted solely because Ontario voters were so disgusted by Liberal scandals.
Had it not been for the above-mentioned scandals, Harper would not have achieved even this much, since his could not have won on its own merits. In fact, Harper lost seats in B.C. to the NDP.
Here’s what he faced going into the election:
• A governing Liberal party scandalized by the financial and political corruption of the Sponsorship scandal;
• A gun registry program that became a financial and administrative disaster;
• Charges of impropriety surrounding changing legislation regarding income trusts;
• A party ossified and bereft of ideas after ruling for 13 consecutive years; and
• A prime minister who appeared beaten, desperate and incapable of running a competent campaign.
The election was a gimme. The Liberal Party was like a tired battered, boxer barely able to stand up, and the smart-alecky challenger Harper couldn’t deliver a knock-out. His party won, but only on points—the Liberal Party was still left standing after the bell. The fact that the Liberals managed to retain 103 seats given these handicaps is the most remarkable and underreported success story of the election.
If Harper couldn’t convince the Canadian electorate to give him a clear mandate he never will, because he will never have another opportunity like this. Not only were the Liberals gift-wrapped, but Canada’s lazy, U.S. ass-kissing media were more interested in piling on Martin than in scrutinizing Harper’s dubious credentials.
Only when it was too late to make any difference did voters learn of collusion between the Harper Party and U.S. Christian bigot Paul Weyrich, who founded the Heritage Foundation in 1973 and later the Free Congress Federation. Eleven members of Heritage entered Ronald Reagan’s Republican papacy—what does Weyrich’s influence mean for Canada?
Weyrich called Canadians “Liberal and hedonistic,” but has hope that the same sort of theocratic obscurantism that destroyed U.S. democracy could happen here under Harper. If voters knew of this in early January, Martin might still be prime minister.
When the next election comes, likely within 12 months given the new government’s intellectual gene pool, Harper will have to account for things like the Weyrich connection, and hypocrisy toward democracy in the Middle East. No sooner had the Palestinians held elections as was demanded of them, than Harper dismissed the result. Not even sworn in and Harper commits his first act of stupidity. That must be some kind of record.
The other unobvious loser was the NDP, whose leader Jack Layton chose to defeat the Martin government over the question of expanding private health services. As a result of this decision, the NDP went from 19 seats and 15.7 percent of the popular vote in 2004 to 29 seats and 17.5 percent of the vote this time.
How does this represent failure, you’re wondering? Before the election Layton and his party held the balance of power in a Liberal minority. Even though the NDP now has more seats, Layton has no influence on policy because his ideological opposites are the government. The paltry 1.8 percent rise in the popular vote shows that most of the NDP’s success came from close ridings where the party had already a strong foundation; it did not indicate new strength.
The great unresolved question of the election is: “What the hell was Layton thinking?!” He wanted the new parliament to look pretty much the same as the old one, but with more NDP MPs, yet everything he did sabotaged any possibility that the Liberals could form another minority.
Layton brought the government down at the height of the hysteria over the Gomery Commission's enquiry into Liberal misconduct, instead of allowing Martin to call an election in the spring when people could vote more rationally. As the vote showed, the rise in NDP seats in B.C. came largely at the expense of the Harper Party. Had Layton waited, the Liberals might have been able to hold onto enough Ontario seats to form another minority.
Layton had to have known the Liberals were on the defensive, yet he went out of his way to bring up the income-trust scandal, even though he had no definitive evidence that Finance Minister Ralph Goodale or anyone else had done anything improper.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Layton suffers from an inflated opinion of his own importance and a thorough misunderstanding of the NDP’s place in the grand political scheme of things. The party will never form government; the best it can hope for is to be a hanger-on in a minority Liberal government, which it was.
Layton's pathetic “please vote NDP just this once—please, please" whine was aimed at voters who might vote NDP but would likely vote Liberal just to prevent the Harper Party from winning. Clearly, Layton was treating the Liberals, not the Harper Party, as Political Enemy #1. Did Layton really think he could achieve something by attacking the only party he could possibly support?
Despite Layton’s hubris and thanks to Harper’s innate stupidity, the Liberals have time to regroup, elect a new leader and put Canada's political house back in order.