The results of the federal election in Canada on May 2nd were satisfactory for a number of reasons. Firstly the ruling Conservative party under Prime Minister (PM) Stephen Harper attained its long awaited majority status, raising its total of seats from 143 to 167 in the 308 seat parliament, with 155 being the minimum number needed. This brings to an end the seven year period since June 2004, when the Liberal party under Paul Martin as PM called an unecessary election in the aftermath of the sponsorship scandal in the province of Quebec, and lost the majority it had enjoyed since 1993.The long suffering Canadian electorate has endured 4 elections in the last seven years, producing a Liberal minority government and two Conservative minorities. With each election costing about $300 million, the Conservative majority will ensure not merely continuity and certainty in policy, but also a reduction in government expenditures, especially as the Conservatives intend to scrap the government subsidy of $2 to political parties for every vote they receive.
More importantly from the perspective of foreign investors, the election saw the separatist Bloc Quebecois, which held 47 of Quebec’s 75 seats and has been the largest party representing the province in the Federal parliament since the wipe-out of the Progressive Conservatives in 1993, reduced to a rump of 4 seats. This meant it lost offical party status and the attendant financing, as Quebecers displayed their dissatisfaction with incumbents by replacing them with the left leaning New Democatic Party (NDP) and its charismatic leader Jack Layton. While the NDP shares many of the same big government policies as the Bloc, it is Federalist, not separatist, and assuming that it does a decent job of representing Quebec’s interest at Ottawa, the Bloc may be finished as a force in Federal politics. It was always ridiculous that a party dedicated to breaking up the country should be the Offical Opposition for much of the last two decades, but with the arrival of a new generation of Quebecers who are seemingly more concerned about the economy and other bread and butter issues, rather than leaving a confederation that has been exceedingly generous to the province, it seems probable that the Bloc’s time is over. This does not mean its provincial counterpart, the Parti Quebecois, will not remain and indeed, the PQ may well win the next provincial election due by 2013, but it seems fair to say that the danger of separation from Canada is now at its lowest since the early 1980s.
Finally the once mighty Liberal Party, which had won three successive majorities between 1993 and 2000, and had held power for 54 of the 70 years up until 2004, or over 80% of the time, was reduced to 35 seats from 77 and lost its status as the Offical Opposition for the first time to the NDP, which tripled the number of its seats to 102. In a similar fashion to what happened to the left wing opposition to Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives in the UK in the 1980s, when it split between the Labour party and the Social Democrats, the rise of the NDP took away sufficient votes from the Liberals to replace them as the largest left wing party. Moreover the vote splitting between the Liberals and the NDP allowed the Conservative to attain their majority as they won the election in the province of Ontario, which, with 106 seats, has a third of the total. The Conservatives won 24 out of 25 seats in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) suburbs, where their successful targeting of the “ethnic vote”, primarily new immigrants who had traditionally supported the Liberals, was capped by winning 8 seats in Toronto, formerly a Liberal fortress with them holding 20 out of its 22 seats at the last election in 2008. The NDP also won 8 seats in Toronto, leaving the Liberals with only 7. This is the first time federal Conservatives have been elected in the city of Toronto since Brian Mulroney’s second administration in 1988, and with the Conservative hold on the western provinces even stronger than before and having become the largest party in the Atlantic provinces, Stephen Harper is not dependent upon Quebec votes, having achieved a majority government with only 6 MPs from that province. He also becomes the third Conservative leader to win three consecutive elections after John D Macdonald and John Diefenbaker, and appears to have achieved his long held ambition of the Conservatives replacing the Liberal party as the natural governing party of Canada. Certainly, the Liberals will need all of the next 4 years in opposition to rebuild their party and vision if they wish to achieve the success they enjoyed for much of the last 75 years.