Another minority government, but will there be change?

Much will be made of this week’s federal election results, with parties, pundits and political scientists sifting the ashes for meaning. Practically, there will be no change in governance, as the Liberal minority in place when the election was called remains in place.

Justin Trudeau will have to explain why, after much expense and fuss during a pandemic, Canadians are simply back where they started. Conservative leader Erin O’Toole will be looking which way the wind is blowing, dissecting his strategy to move the party back to the center. Jagmeet Singh’s NDP remains stagnant, a long way from 2011’s orange wave.

Perhaps the most interesting tea leaves to be read involve the fall of the Green Party, which saw its national support drop to about 2.2 per cent from seven per cent in the 2019 election. The People’s Party of Canada, though failing to pick up a seat, saw its share of the popular vote rise to about five per cent from less than two per cent in its first election in 2019.

Green leader Annamie Paul was already facing internal strife before the election. Having seen the party’s popularity fall and finishing a distant fourth in her own riding, Paul is likely destined to be replaced.

PPC leader Maxime Bernier once again failed to regain his seat in Quebec’s Beauce riding, which he held as a Conservative from 2006 until he left the party in 2018, but the surge in the number of votes must be encouraging – the party is just three years old.

The Conservatives will be less enthused about that development, however, as a challenge from the right threatens O’Toole’s centrist approach. It also raises the spectre of a vote-splitting right, though the progressive side – the Liberals, NDP and Green – already faces that issue. Still, there are some parallels to the rise of the Reform party, for instance.

If nothing else, the election highlighted the growing regional divides between the parties, particularly east-west and urban-rural. O’Toole’s move to the center was in part to counter a trend that would see more people moving away from the Conservatives – whether his attempt to enlarge the tent continues remains to be seen.

The results in Kitchener-Conestoga are something of a microcosm of both the divide and voting trends. It was another tight race, with incumbent Liberal Tim Louis retaining his seat by a few hundred votes. That’s nothing new, as Louis first won in 2019 by edging out long-time incumbent Conservative Harold Albrecht by fewer than 400 votes, which was a reversal of the 2015 vote when Albrecht outlasted Louis by some 250 votes. Poll-by-poll analysis shows the Liberals do better in the urban areas of the riding, while the Conservatives win more support in the rural areas.

The local riding also provided a surge in popularity for the People’s Party, with candidate Kevin Dupuis picking up 7.5 per cent of the vote, a much larger tally than the PPC candidate’s 1.5 per cent in 2019. The Green party, on the other hand, saw its support drop dramatically to 3.6 per cent from 9.6 per cent two years earlier. The NDP picked up slightly more support, 11.7 per cent from 10.1.

Nationally, Trudeau’s bid for a majority government fell short. The essentially status-quo results doesn’t provide him with a new mandate, despite his assertions. We can expect to see more of the same, particularly in relation to spending and regulations around the pandemic, with yet more spending in the post-pandemic recovery period. The Liberals’ reliance on the NDP will continue to give Singh leverage for more progressive programs.

Whether we’re going to see good, responsible governance remains to be seen, but the players will be preparing the set for the next election, so we can expect the taps to remain on, with entitlements galore, pushing accountability down the road.

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