It was interesting watching the election coverage on the CBC last night. I think they did about 7 interviews with NDPers and maybe 3 with Conservatives. According to the coverage, the big story was the “orange crush” of the NDP.
But once reality sets in time will demonstrate that there is not much substance to the NDP’s success. Quebec maintained its stance of the last 20 years as the region-that-supported-the-other-guys. As I suggested yesterday, Layton will have even less impact now than he had before. Now that Harper has demonstrated he does not need Quebec to win a majority, Layton will have to take upon himself the Duceppian mantle of protector of Quebec’s interests. The NDP will now be dominated by young Quebecers and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Layton is replaced before the next election.
I believe this also makes it less likely that the Liberals will merge with the NDP although (obviously) I may completely wrong on that score.
Ignatieff made it clear last night that he was prepared to stay on as leader and fight to rebuild the party. But others in the party wanted to get the bloodletting over as quickly as possible. Bob Rea is salivating for a shot at the top job, and no doubt in his own mind is perfectly positioned to be a mover and shaker in the “unite the left” movement. In other words, the “uniters” have the upper hand at the moment.
But I don’t see Layton going for it. The only thing that would move him in that direction would be his own inability to run the radically realigned NDP caucus. If Layton cannot hold onto his (abnormal) support in Quebec, as well as turn last night’s gains into traction in the rest of the country his days as leader will be numbered.
Surely the centrists in the Liberal party are thinking the same thing. So they will hang on until the NDP starts to fall apart and then negotiate from a position of relative strength. The best case scenario for both the Liberal Party and the country will be a rejuvenated party with a more realistic appreciation for changing national interests. If they can put behind themselves their traditional subservience to Quebec and focus on appealing to the West they have a chance to survive and come back in a big way.
The present belongs to the Conservatives
So the big story both of today and the next few years is one of realignment. As of right now the present belongs to Harper and the Conservatives, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s a good thing. As Andrew Coyne said a number of times last night, there has been a realignment of power blocks in Canada with Ontario joining forces with the West for the first time in Canadian history.
This will make for greater stability – something we should all benefit from – and I will be very surprised if Harper pursues some kind of right wing “hidden agenda”. The agenda of the Reform/Alliance/Conservative Party has never been hidden. They have made a point of saying from day 1 that it was all about realignment – breaking down the Ontario/Quebec monopoly of power in Canada (manifested in the Liberal Party) and giving the West its appropriate level of influence.
Of course there has always been a strong whiff of “social conservatism” attached to the Reform/Alliance/Conservatives, but strategically for Harper those have been secondary concerns.
I just can’t see that changing. Harper is unlikely to force the issue on things like abortion or the death penalty – even though these are near to the hearts of many right wingers. Harper will focus on the economy, and possibly reformation of the Senate. He may even call a truce with Layton in order to gain brownie points in Quebec. All of these are good things.