Political Analyst and Observer, Bill Longworth's, Weekly "Eye on City Hall" Columns, as published in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada's Oshawa Central Newspaper

Monday, May 9, 2011

Election Results...Things aren’t always what they seem!

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and Unfiltered Opinion
Reprinted from Oshawa Central Newspaper

Bill Longworth, City Hall Columnist
May 9, 2011

So I was wrong in some of my prognostications about the Federal Election result in last week’s column submitted 3 days prior to the vote. I was in some pretty good company, though, as none of the major polling companies predicted a Conservative Majority, for example, even on the day before the vote and even the Conservative Party itself predicted only a minority win.

Certainly pollsters had to be surprised with the Harper’s runaway victory as even up to the day before the election, many said the result was too close to call.

All predicted the Harper Conservatives would win the most seats but even the Conservatives admitted in the days leading up to the vote that they could not secure a majority government and seemed resigned to be displaced by what Harper referred to as a reckless and dangerous coalition of the opposition parties.

The last poll before the election, predicted a minority government with Conservatives—143 seats, Liberals--60 seats, NDP--78 seats, and the BLOC--27 seats. All failed to predict the magnitude of the Liberal and BLOC collapse and the NDP surge.

The election results make it even more likely that there will be a “Unite the Center Left Movement” to form a new “Liberal Democrat Party.” This will give Canadians a clear two way choice in future voting.

Obviously my prediction of an NDP led minority government was incorrect, as was my prediction of a Harper resignation based on that NDP minority government. My prediction of Ignatieff’s resignation was correct but I failed to predict the utter collapse of the BLOC and Duceppe’s resignation.

As a side message of interest, Gilles Duceppe, the longest serving Member of Parliament, was elected in one of two by-elections in the country in August, 1990. The other by-election was the one in Oshawa in which I was Brian Mulroney’s first Federal Progressive candidate called upon to support introduction of the GST and the Free Trade Agreement, and to answer to other issues like the defeat of the Meech Lake Accord and the government response to the Oka Aboriginal uprising. No wonder Conservatives couldn’t win!

The vote result of the May 2, 2011 election looks massive with Stephen Harper’s huge runaway seat totals...but things aren’t always what they seem. Despite appearances to the contrary, the seemingly massive Harper win, is razor thin.

Harper’s win resulted purely from vote splitting with a realigned Liberal/New Democratic Party vote split allowing Conservative Candidates to come up the middle of the divided vote particularly in Ontario and the GTA.

Microscopic changes in popular support can factor into huge changes in seats. In comparing 2008 election results to the recent election results, for example, the 12.4% increase in NDP popular support brought them an additional 68 extra seats and the Conservative gain of 2% in popular support gained them 23 additional seats while the 7.3% loss in popular support by the Liberals cost them a loss of 43 seats and the BLOCs loss of 4% popular support cost them 45 seats.

The Conservative’s 2% popular vote gain (2 additional votes for every 100 cast) gave them their 23 additional seats and a majority parliament.

Equally obvious to Harper would be that a minimal loss of voter support of 1 or 2% would put him back in minority positions and a 2 or 3 percentage point gain could give the NDP a majority government.

As a result, I don’t think the world will fall with Harper’s majority. In the end, if a government is to retain the support of the majority of Canadians, it has to reflect its general will, and not just that of their died-in-the-wool supporters.

And getting re-elected is the number one priority of all politicians. Therefore, Stephen Harper will moderate his right wing agenda to implement change that he believes will retain the support of Canadian voters.

Despite this, reports are surfacing that Harper is being pressured by the religious right to open the abortion and “women’s right to choose” issues as well as abolishing human rights tribunals.

Governments always make the heavy lifting changes at the beginning of their mandate in the hopes that the short memory of the electorate will prevail in overlooking unpopular changes by the time of the next election. So we’ll see any results of Harper’s secret agenda earlier rather than later.

Realizing that only 39.6% of voters cast a vote for Harper’s Conservatives while 60.4% voted against him, it is clear that Harper is not close to having the support of the majority of Canadians. And surely he doesn’t want to wake up the 38.6% of eligible voters who were so indifferent they didn’t bother casting a vote.

In the meantime, Harper will move the government toward the right in tiny unnoticeable incremental steps as he’s already done such as cancelling Federal funding for NGO’s like KAIROS with the famous “not” inscribed in the PMO, after the fact on a funding document that had already been approved, because it supported abortions in its third world work---and this is against Harper’s, and his Evangelical Alliance Church’s, beliefs.

There were many factors leading up to the final vote result.

Pundits rationalize that part of reason for the liberal loss is they lost their bearings...under Ignatieff, they’d become another Conservative Party---and why vote for a conservative Liberal party when you can vote for the real thing.

In the election, they also theorize that many Liberal supporters deserted the party for the NDP and Conservatives. That certainly happened here in Oshawa with a dismal 7% of the vote, the poorest Liberal showing in years despite (or because of) a parachuted “star” candidate.

The desertion of many Liberals for parties on their left and right flank cost them 56% of their pre-election 77 seats dropping them down to 34 seats with the lost 43 seats being divided between the Conservatives and the NDP.

And Harper’s years of character assassination of Michael Ignatieff destroyed most chances of Liberal electoral successes, and just as importantly, they portrayed Harper’s character as far from Prime Ministerial.

Demonizing the opposition is part of the basic Conservative modus operandi. In Oshawa here, one Colin Carrie Conservative supporter continually referred to Jack Layton as “Taliban Jack” in conversation. I don’t know how widespread this terminology was in Carrie’s or the Conservative’s Camp, but it certainly speaks mountains about the bigotry and the irrational thinking of neo-con radicals. It reminds you of the Ku Klux Klan irrationality of the Republican South.

While Ignatieff was the early target of the Conservatives character assassination, it was too little, too late to attack Layton when they got around to recognizing the NDP’s surge.

In Quebec, the strength of the BLOC collapse was so dramatic that even “throw-in” NDP student candidates whose names were simply submitted to put an NDP candidate on the ballot were able to handily defeat Conservative Cabinet Ministers and long-time BLOC members often with little or no campaigning.

One 22 year old female non French-speaking barmaid famously got elected in French speaking riding while not visiting the riding and holidaying for part of the election campaign in Vegas.

The merging of the Liberals and NDP and the disappearance of the BLOC will produce a 2 party system to give a clear choice without splitting the center left vote among Liberals and NDP. The combined Liberal/NDP vote this election was 49.5% while the Conservatives got 39.6% support which logically would place them second behind a new merged NDP/Liberal Party.

While there will be some reshuffling of Liberal supporters as right leaning Liberals will align themselves with the Conservatives and left leaning Liberals will align themselves with the new Liberal Democratic party, it is likely that the combined vote of the new party would get the greatest public support and be able to form the government.

This possibility as well will place restraint on Stephen Harper equal to his minority government position in the last session...so we can expect Harper to moderate his positions to capture as many Liberals as possible leading up to the next vote.

So I see the May 2 vote result as positive in promoting long term benefits to the country by way of promoting national unity and promoting a “unite-the-center-left” party to produce a clearer two party electoral choice to provide a government that does have the support of more than 50% of voters.

The new opposition Harper can see for the next election will make him a more open, accountable, conciliatory, and honest Stephen Harper over the new term of Parliament.

Be sure to follow Bill’s radio broadcasts, “Eye on City Hall”,
every Monday, 6-9 pm EST, on http://www.ocentral.com/thewave/

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