I’m still absorbing the full damage of last night’s election, but suffice to say, Canada chose parochialism and populism, and democracy lost. Stephen Harper was rewarded for his contempt of Parliament with a majority mandate, which means that he now has one less impediment to implementing his agenda. The outcome also rewarded the less than democratic way in which NDP placeholder candidates in Quebec, who had no ties to the riding and were only names on a website (some of whom were on vacation during the campaign, some of whom don’t speak French and many of whom were completely absent throughout the campaign), conducted themselves.
And sure, I’ve played this hundreds of times throughout the campaign, but I am once again reminded of this scene in particular – people who didn’t care applauding when leaders acted against their interests and made it sound like a good thing.
Other than that, the Bloc is virtually extinct. Gilles Duceppe has lost his own seat and is stepping down as party leader. Michael Ignatieff has also lost his seat, but he may stay on as leader. For the sake of the party's unity, that may be a good thing, though it could mean jeopardizing one of their “safe” seats if they want to get him a place in the House. Elizabeth May won her seat, but as a sole voice with no official party status, her resources in Parliament will be few, and she will be lucky to get a question in during QP maybe once every couple of weeks.
We lost two gay Liberal MPs from the House – Mario Silva and Rob Oliphant. There are a couple of new gay NDP MPs to take their place. (I’m not sure who they are yet – you’ll have to give me until tomorrow.) While Scott Brison and Libby Davies kept their seats, this is nevertheless a blow for the queer voice, especially as both Silva and Oliphant had big human-rights backgrounds.
We lost a number of allies on the Liberal benches. Mark Holland and Mike Savage, who both helped get same-sex marriage passed in 2005, were defeated. Another aboriginal MP, Labrador's Todd Russell, lost his seat. And we lost Glen Pearson, who is not only a man with deep experience in aiding Africa, but also hands down the most decent man in Parliament.
And we’re about to lose a whole bunch of other things. Judicial discretion will be compromised after the government rams through a massive tough-on-crime omnibus bill, which would also turn over the building of new prisons to the private sector. Arts funding will become even more restricted – the CBC will take a huge hit (the government has been slowly starving it of funds and used creative accounting to claim its being funded at “record levels” when the only increases have been to salaries), and you can bet anything artistic and queer will be starved completely. Trans rights will be off the table. Gun control will be weakened. Status of women will lose any useful funding it has left; what is left will go to funding programs that tell girls how not to dress like sluts if they don’t want to be raped. The per-vote subsidy, which made our elections some of the fairest on the planet, will be on the way out. Cheap generic AIDS drugs for the developing world? Gone. A woman’s right to choose? Under threat as another bill will come from the backbenches, which Harper won’t have any particular need to oppose. An independent parliamentary budget officer – or any real government watchdog? Neutered. Any semblance of credibility we have left on the world stage? Gone – especially with an equally parochial and very protectionist NDP as the official opposition.
Yes, Canada – everything that made us a great, progressive country is now in very real danger as the party that lets evangelical heavyweights roam the backrooms has just been handed absolute power.
Oh, and if you think that Layton is going to be able to stand up to this, well, consider two things. First, Layton has very little in the way of bench strength (less than the already shallow Conservative benches, in fact), and second, Layton’s near-sweep of Quebec introduces a different kind of political wrangling to a party that isn’t known for its discipline at the best of times. Keeping them in line and on message is going to be a challenge. Not that this will matter much, seeing as Harper has a majority, and working with other parties will be little more than a formality.
Here are the final tallies of the leaders’ carbon footprints.
Here are some thoughts about what a Conservative majority means to the question of defence spending.
Maclean’s satirist Scott Feschuk reads between the lines of Harper’s speech about the death of Osama bin Laden.
And a sexual harassment complaint has been filed against Conservative Senator Brazeau.