Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Canadian Election

Stephen Harper wins, with (as of right now) about 121 seats to Paul Martin's 105. Not the results he was expecting-he was expecting a much stronger minority, or even a majority-but he still won, nonetheless.

Yet it's important to remember in the coming months that this does not really show a wide swing to the right in Canadian political culture. Harper won by, essentially, painting himself as a progressive. He acted like a "middle-class guy", his GST cut prediction was actually progressive, and he soft-pedaled his conservatism.

When a majority or a strong minority was in the cards, the possibility existed that he would drag the country to the right, or reflected a move to the right. Neither is likely now, as instead he'll be focusing on those issues (like the GST cut, and increased provincial power) that appeals to parties like the NDP and Bloc Quebecois.

Instead, this election was really a combination of two factors: the internal rift in the Liberal party (which led to the Martin faction believing that they would escape blame for the Chretien faction's failings) and a dismal campaign by the Liberals, rooted in a lack of clarity as to what, if anything, the party truly stands for.

(That's the flipside of the "scary Harper" concept- he stands for something that Canadians aren't necessarily fond of, but they'll take that over a party that seems to believe in nothing.)

Martin is done as leader- the Liberal party is now embroiled in what will probably be the most important and contentious leadership race in decades. The key question a leader needs to answer is what the Liberal party is all about: and, if it decides that it is rooted in small "l" liberalism, what that truly means.

I have my own opinions on that, but they'll come later. Right now, the important thing is that the party that could, potentially, embody liberalism in North America is about to redefine itself. Time will tell as to what that means.

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