Before the campaign, I speculated on three things we might learn from the election campaign. So, now we need to assess how the campaign enlightened us.
Does anyone care?
Not enough do. The (preliminary) voter turnout, according to Elections Canada, is 61.4% of registered voters. This is up from the last election when turnout fell to an historic low of 58.8. But there is little reason to be buoyant about the potential turnaround. The turnout was lower than in 2006 (64.7%).
When the advanced polls closed, there was considerable speculation that turnout was going to rise significantly. The proportion who voted at the advanced poll voting increased by 35% but overall voting did not increase by much. Get my explanation here.
It is hard to argue the point here. Ignatieff’s defeat seemed as much about his failure to connect with voters (and the flipside – Layton’s ability to do so) than anything about the party’s stand or quality of the candidates.
A different example, which points to the perhaps declining role of actual candidates, was the stunning success of some of the NDP candidates in Quebec. Notably, Brosseau, who did not run a campaign, and does not speak French well, won. She, as many others were, was swept up in a Quebec voter rejection of the BQ and adoption of the NDP. Hard to see the role of the local candidate here.
The Conservatives Aren’t so Bad?
The majority aside, the election decisively cemented the idea of the Conservative party as a national party that is no longer just a regional expression of western alienation and politics (though it has work to do to appeal to Quebec). In Ontario, the Conservative party went from 39% to 44% of the popular vote. This continued its upward trend; the party won 35% of the vote in Ontario in 2006.
The Conservative majority sets up an interesting dynamic for the next election (presumably four years from now) and one wonders if the opportunity of virtually unfettered control of the agenda and parliament works to their advantage or ultimately sows the seeds of a backlash against the right.