Historic Election Changes Everything

Posted: May 3, 2011 in Current Events, History, Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

I know, the title of this post reads like a newspaper headline, but it’s truly how I feel about last night. Canada is different place this morning and for a number of reasons.   When this election started I was very much of the opinion that it was unneeded and would turn out to be a waste of time. I, like many people, felt we would likely just get more of the same, a Conservative minority government.

However; as you have likely noticed even if you didn’t stay up till 2 am to see the final results as I did, the face of the nation underwent a significant facelift last night.

The Conservatives have their majority mandate, largely centred in the west but with significant presence in Ontario. Harper’s place in history is secured with three Conservative victories in a row.

Jack Layton’s place in history is confirmed as well, leading the NDP to it’s most prominent place in Parliament ever – Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. He has good reason to feel proud this morning. With its base in Quebec it is a historic accomplishment. It will be interesting to see how he performs in this situation.

Micheal Ignatieff is more than just a footnote as well. He must wear forever the mantle of being the leader who took the Liberal party to the back benches for the first time in its long history. I’ve read two of his books and was impressed with his writing. I wonder what the title of his next book will be.

Giles Duceppe likely has the most to answer for. He not only lost the election but the Bloc has lost official party status. We will not be hearing from them in Parliament any time soon. The question now is will the voters of Quebec compensate for this massive turn by putting the Parti Québécois back in power provincially.

And for the fifth change in a single election, unprecedented in any previous election at any level of government, Elizabeth May has won the Green Party’s first seat in Parliament, earning her party a limited voice and a seat at the debates four years from now, provided the media types don’t change the rules in the meantime.

But there is one more change that took place last night that cannot be seen in the popular vote, the number of seats, or who does or does not have official party status. In previous elections, as the night wore on, I would find myself sitting in front of the TV set watching the results come in essentially by myself as Roberta dosed off on the couch beside me. But last night I had company.

Sarah, and Carlo, and Darby, and Brian and a host of others were watching right along with me. We commented and cajoled, lamented and wept, cheered and boasted back and forth without even being in the same room together. Through the medium of Twitter, Facebook, Skype and Messenger I was able to watch the results and converse about them with over a dozen friends and strangers from all across Ontario, from Guelph to Ottawa; across the nation from New Brunswick to B.C.; and even heard from friends in the United States and as far away as the British Isles in real times, only a few key clicks away.

It will change the face of Canadian elections forever, as it has done in other jurisdictions. Last night the major broadcasters followed the rules and refrained from sending out results across the nation until the polls were closed, but Canadians did not. From the beginning Tweeters and Facebookers sent out the word 140 characters at a time. As soon as the first ballot box was counted in Goose Bay, people in Vancouver knew the result.

Broadcasters, pollsters, political parties, Elections Canada even everyday Canadians are all going to have to spend the next four years figuring out how to conduct an election under this new reality. This new level of connectivity has the potential to make strategic voting a tactic that will skew and slant election results even more than our antiquated first-past-the-post Westminster model of government does already.

The results last night do, I believe, demonstrate the need for electoral reform. An 8% increase in the popular vote garnered the Conservatives and additional 13% of the seats in Parliament. An 11% drop in the popular vote in the GTA cost the Liberals nearly half the seats in Toronto. There does seem to be a valid reason to seriously consider proportional representation.

But what isn’t known yet, and won’t be known until the statistical analysts have had time to crunch all the numbers, is how much did Tweeted results from Charlottetown affect voter response in Burnaby. How much was the slight increase in voter turnout from 2008 inspired by the Social Voting movement and how much was due to Frank in Kingston screaming on Facebook, “Harper’s winning! Get your ass out there and VOTE!”

The pundits will pontificate for months on why we have the results we do. Did Harper get his majority because Canadians care more about the economy than they do about honesty and transparency? Or did he get it because we hate elections and punished Ignatieff for forcing one? Did Jack gain in Quebec because his attack on Micheal’s attendance record hit home? Or because he bloom has fallen off the Separatist rose? I’m not certain we’ll ever truly know for sure.

But what we do know is this, for better or for worse the people have spoken and we are going to have to live with it for the next four years. And I am fairly certain that last night’s results will change the way elections are conducted in this country, one way or another.

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