In the morning light of the day after, it's clear that the political landscape has shifted. All four leaders had press conferences, and only one had a vastly different tone than the others.
Michael Ignatieff was the first up with the annoucement that he is resigning as party leader. The caucus will meet on Wednesday next week to decide on an interim leader and a new leadership process (likely to culminate in the planned December convention). He then took questions about what went wrong (he didn’t connect with enough Canadians, and the attack ads did have an effect, but since Canadians don’t like sore losers, he’s accepting his responsibility and moving on); what’s next for him (he wants to go back to teaching young Canadians); more talk about “merging the left” (they’re parties with different traditions, the NDP was once called the “Liberals in a hurry,” but now it's out of his hands); whether the party is dead (possibly the best thing that could happen is four years of a Conservative majority and an NDP opposition to remind Canadians why they need a centrist alternative); and how he would describe the political situation right now (the winds of change, hopefully for the better; we ignited the desire for change, which the NDP benefitted from, and the Conservatives were able to get their majority). With that, he closed by saying that he hopes there is someone out there who says he didn’t make it, but that they will instead.
At Harper's press conference, he looked a lot more relaxed and even joked with reporters a bit – not that he actually answered questions directly. Questions included how long he expects to continue the six percent increases in healthcare transfers, and if he would require provinces to experiment with more private delivery (he’s committed to “universal public system of health insurance” – notice that change in language – not about the fundamentals, provinces have delivery experiments in that framework); how would he convince Canadians they've made the right move and could they expect a more centrist approach (expect more of the same); what lessons he took from Quebec, seeing as he'd lost seats (disappointed, will analyze it but perhaps now is not the right time, encouraged by the demise of the Bloc); and in terms of Quebeckers in cabinet, would they have to include someone unelected (too soon to say).
When Layton had his press conference, he was still jubilant at his gains and said that politics has to be done differently in Ottawa. (I’m sure he can rest assured that under a majority government, it will be.) He took questions about all of the rookies in his caucus (plenty of experience, fresh blood and energy, enthusiasm); his new role as the official Opposition (can influence government with strong opposition); the particular deficiencies in the Quebec caucus (voice of young people, something to celebrate); the added responsibility to Quebec after they destroyed the Bloc (excited by opportunity, treats it seriously, knows they’ll do a good job); how can he oppose a majority (opposition can influence); whether he’s even met all of his Quebec candidates, like those students (yes, in large groups, looking forward to getting to know them more); the fact that 60 percent of his caucus is from Quebec and how that may change his approach to Quebec, especially around the constitution (Quebeckers voted for our approach); and what he thinks about moving into Stornoway (doesn’t matter to me, institutional position in the system, carries responsibilities, the house I’m concerned about is House of Commons).