Canada voted yesterday, and Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, at the head of minority governments after the elections of 2006 and 2008, has now seen his party win an absolute majority in the House of Commons. Here are links to the results from the Toronto Globe & Mail and here is the official Election Canada website.
What seems to have happened is that the Conservatives have picked up enough seats, particularly in Toronto and in the 905 area code belt around Toronto, to win an absolute majority. The Liberals, the governing party for most of Canada’s history, have been relegated to a third-place rump, holding onto Anglophone seats in Quebec, majorities in the tiny provinces of Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island as well as the same number as Conservatives in Nova Scotia, plus some in central Toronto, the headquarters or Liberal-biased institutions like the Canadian Broadcasting Company. Party leader Michael Ignatieff, who returned from Oxford and Harvard to lead the Liberal party, lost his Etobicoke Lakeshore seat (inner suburbs of Toronto, with a large immigrant population). The New Democrats surged to second place, largely by replacing the Bloc Quebecois in the vast majority of Quebec seats; they will be the official opposition party. The BQ it appears will be down to three or four seats and will lose official status as a national party.
What this looks like is the emergence of a two-party politics in what had been a four-party dominion. Conservatives have a solid majority and the left-leaning statist New Democrats are the relatively weak opposition, with a parliamentary base primarily in Quebec and otherwise dominating only faraway and culturally very different metro Vancouver. The Liberals, the party of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who dominated Canadian politics for most of two decades after his breakthrough victory in 1968, are relegated to minor party status. The decline of the BQ suggests that the Quebec separatist movement, stimulated by Charles de Gaulle’s 1967 cry in downtown Montreal of vive le Quebec libre seems dead. But the New Democrats seem to be a party dominated by Quebec, which is more favorable to big government policies than the rest of Canada it seems.
After the 2008 election I noted that Canada’s large metro areas were very different politically, with different parties competitive and/or dominant in each one in what was a four-party system. Now in what looks like a two-party system they’re more alike. Nothing says these results are etched in stone and will endure forever. The old Progressive Conservative party was reduced to two seats in the early 1990s and, after some party consolidations and mergers, has been at the head of government since 2006 and has a majority now. So perhaps the Liberals can recover over some similar period of time. But their old coalition of most of Quebec and metro Toronto is now in ruins; they’re winning or ahead in only six seats in all of Quebec and only seven in metro Toronto.
Here’s how I count the distribution (some of these results may change as final returns come in, and I think I’ve miscounted by one).
Party Cons NDP Lib BQ Green Total
CANADA 166 97 42 3 1 309
Maritimes 14 6 12 - - 32
Quebec 7 58 6 3 - 74
Ontario 73 16 20 - - 109
Western 72 17 4 - 1 94
Going into this election, center-right parties were in various kinds of minority status in the four major Anglosphere democracies, as the minority party of government in Canada, as the dominant party in a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in the United Kingdom, as the minority party by virtue of a couple of independent MPs in Australia and as controlling the House of Representatives but without a majority in the Senate and without the White House in the United States. Now the Conservatives are the majority party of government in Canada. An omen?