Saturday, May 7, 2011

Overview Of The Canadian Political Scene

On May 2, 2011,  Prime Minister Stephen Harper won a majority government in Canada. I thought I'd like to do a piece  on the journey of a party which seems has gone FULL CIRCLE , and the period of time it took to bring it about. As the saying goes, once upon a time, and  in a country just north of the great USofA  there was in Canada a Conservative majority government.  It's important to understand as one considers the political spectrum of parties, things of the same name may have different meaning from country to country.  To explain the United States of America has the Republican Party which are known to be conservatives. One should not consider the Conservative Party of Canada as sharing exactly the same values as the U.S. Republicans. 

The Conservative Party of Canada believes in universal health care for all of it's citizens something the U.S Democrats have long sought to establish. A U.S. President, having even the stripes of a democrat could very well feel comfortable being a member of the Canadian Conservatives, and might actually find Canada's Labour Party, the NDP,  too extreme. Once again I'd like to give an overview of the last 18 years, of a party which was tops, lost it all but came back once more to govern again.  I've defined the journey of the Canadian conservative party as passing through 8 stages, taking it FULL CIRCLE. Lets start....

Stage 1 >> In 1984 Prime Minister Brian Mulroney scored the highest majority government taking 211 seats a compared to the Liberals 40 and the NDP labour party taking 30.

Stage 2 >> In the next election of 1988, the Conservatives under Mulroney win another comfortable majority albeit somewhat reduced. They captured 169 seats with the Liberals taking 83 and the NDP 43.

Stage 3>> The next election was 1993. Mulroney had saw his popularity began to wane, resigned as the party head  and a leadership convention was called. The first female leader of the party Kim Cambell was brought in. Her acceptance speech ----> The popularity of the party once again began to soar and polls indicated that she'd do well and perhaps also win a majority. Certain blunders were made by Cambell that one can read about here on Wik which the opposition, Jean Chretien of the Liberals were  able to capitalize on, thus  causing  the Conservatives to be devastated.  The Conservative seat count went from 169 to a dismal 2,  essentially wiping out the party. 

Stage 4 >> The election of the year 2000 saw the Conservatives seeking to rebuild the party. They improved their seat count from 2 to 12. Liberals took 172 seats, Canadian Alliance 66, the Bloc Quebecois (a provincial separatist party in Quebec) 38,  and the NDP 13. As one can see the Conservatives still had a long way to go in returning to former glory. This particular election wins the prize in my thinking as an example of how it should be done; that is if you want to conduct a disrespectful campaign. I'll come back to it momentarily, but to get the feel of where we were on the timeline, south of the border the Americans were having their election with George Bush/Al Gore being  contenders.

The big problem in Florida was taking place, counting the ballots, and the hanging chads and many Americans felt the candidates had hit a new low in being disrespectful of each other. I thought at the time, the Americans are good at many things but holding disrespectful elections aren't one of them. In our 2000 Canadian election candidates were being demonized by each other, being referred to as being  on the dark side and one even accused another of being a cockroach. I didn't recall Bush or Gore demean one another by such derogatory terms. One Canadian newspaper agreed with me in my  letter to the editor and published comments that Bush and Gore actually had been pretty respectful. All this had a element  of humour about it for as  Canadians we tend to pride ourselves as being  rather laid back, apologetic not wanting to offend!  I guess the gloves slipped off  this year though! LOL  

Stage 5 >> The election of 2004 saw a major shift in the rebuild of the party. The Canadian Alliance, formerly the Reform Party merged into the new Conservative Party. The Canadian Alliance lost to the Liberals in 2000, and it's leader Stockwell Day was challenged by Stephen Harper in a leadership convention. Harper came out the winner and now led the party into the election of 2004. Liberals took 135 seats, Conservatives 99, the separatist party the Bloc, from Quebec 54 seats, and the NDP [Labour Party] 19.

Stage 6 >> In the election of 2006 Conservatives now rise to power albeit  a minority government.  Conservatives took 124 seats, Liberals 103, the Bloc 51, and the NDP 29. Back in 2000, the Conservatives had much infighting and contention within the party and were considered not mature enough to lead. 2006 saw their inward disputes resolved but the Liberals had fallen into the same type of infighting. Division within Liberal Party had taken root between it's leaders thus the Canadian voters cooled towards backing the party. Conservatives had not fully won the trust of voters however to grant them a majority, and  as some would say they were allowed to govern but on a short leash.  [Liberal Leader Stephane Dion in picture just below]

Stage 7 >>  The next election of 2008 saw the Conservatives win once again a minority government but seats are increased from 124 to 143. The Liberal Party dropped significantly from having 103 to 77. It appears they were on the downward slide. A couple of reasons for this a newly  elected Liberal leader, Stephane Dion was never really well received by the Canadian people.  The blame I'd say didn't totally rest with him, for the party itself still seemed to lack, as some would say, the maturity to lead. Power struggles still seemed to prevail from party members who ran against Dion for it's leadership. Again the results of this 2008 election were as follows : Conservatives 143, Liberals 77, Bloc [the separatist from Quebec] 49, and the NDP 29. 

 Stage 8 >> The last election, on May 2, 2011 Conservatives are given the nod by the Canadian people to have a majority! They had now come FULL CIRCLE! Stephen Harper took the party through rebuilding,  to the ultimate, finally another Conservative majority government. The results were as follows, Conservatives 167 seats, the NDP [Labour Party] 102, the Liberals 34, the Bloc 4, and the Green Party, 1.  The Liberals lost a great number of seats sliding down to 34. Another newly elected member of that party, Michael Ignatieff was not well received by the voters. In looking at the Liberal loss of 2008 and that of 2011 there's one thing Dion, and Ignatieff didn't have going for them. [picture below of Ignatieff giving Liberal leader Dion a comforting hug after the loss of 2008. Little did he know he'd need such a hug himself after the election of 2011] 

There's a rule of thumb in politics that once a leadership convention of a party is complete it's always best to have the Federal election as soon as possible. In so doing a new leader can still appear fresh,  one who hasn't made various gaffes or blunders thus losing their lustre. Neither of these two leaders had that benefit, so could they have done better if their federal elections were sooner? Perhaps.

While the Conservatives achieved their long sought after majority, the NDP increased their seat count significantly now up to 102. This came largely at the expense of the Bloc, the separatist party from Quebec which virtually got wiped out. From a seat count of 49 they fell to  4 seats. It's leader Gilles Duceppe resigned the same night steering away from interviews, stating he's now a private citizen. For those who believe in a strong, unified country with all of it's provinces, including Quebec this was a great day for Canada! Back again to the Liberals their leader, Michael Ignatieff resigned as well, the day following the election, and news today has it that he's received a teaching job at the University Of Toronto. Concerning the Conservatives, they have once again their majority. It took 18 long years to recover it, to come FULL CIRCLE , which many thought would  not be possible. The day came however and it finally has arrived.

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