An exciting time begins in Canadian politics

I’ve spent the last year obsessing on the American presidential election. Like a lot of bloggers, I’ve been wondering what I’ll write about next.

We also had an election in Canada this year. I think I published only two posts on that topic.

Why? In part, because the Canadian election couldn’t compete with the history-making campaign of Barack Obama in the USA.

But even when I tried to put the American election aside, the Canadian election was a big so-what. Prime Minister Stephen Harper wasn’t seeking a mandate to do anything. He just wanted to put the opposition back in a box, because they were throwing their weight around too much for his liking.

Likewise, the result of the election was a big so-what. The Conservatives still have a minority government. The Liberals lost support, but they’re still the official opposition; and once again they won more seats in Quebec than the Conservatives did. The Bloc Québécois survived to fight another day. The NDP and the Green Party continue to wield merely also-ran status.

Ho hum. Big change in the U.S. election; here in Canada, the status quo.

But that was then. I predict that the next year or two will be a very exciting time in Canadian politics.

Here are some of the possibilities that I envision:

  1. Prime Minister Harper may allow his Ministers to step into the spotlight more than he did during the first Conservative term. If so, it will make the Conservatives more interesting to watch. The Conservatives may even discover a vision of what they would like to achieve in government. (Instead of continuing to govern with uber-caution in the hope that, if they don’t make any blunders, Canadians will reward them with a majority next time.)
  2. We’re in for an exciting campaign for the Liberal leadership, with only two star candidates:  Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae. (Frank McKenna and now John Manley have decided not to compete.) Ignatieff and Rae — two political heavyweights — fought a bitter battle last time around. It won’t take much to re-open old wounds. (Stéphane Dion became the Liberal leader almost by accident when the other two candidates managed to stalemate each other.)
  3. The next election could break the ice jam that prevented either the Liberals or the Conservatives from winning a convincing victory in three successive elections (2004, 2006, and now 2008). I predict that voters will begin to rally to the Liberals when the party chooses a new leader. And I predict that the Bloc Québécois and either the NDP or the Green Party will lose a significant amount of support in the next election.

    Canadians won’t be stuck forever with five parties on the federal scene. Eventually we’re going to move back in the direction of three dominant parties (Conservatives, Liberals, and either the NDP or the Green Party).

The first two events will soon take shape. Conservative Ministers will begin to step out of Stephen Harper’s shadow by the end of 2008. The Liberals will meet to elect a new leader in May 2009.

The third event is relatively distant. The Liberals have a big rehabilitation project ahead of them, aside from merely choosing a new leader. There won’t be an election until the Liberals are ready to return to the polls — eighteen months at an absolute minimum. The longer the Liberals can hold off another election, the stronger they will grow.

Canadian voters are waiting for Liberal Party to clean up its act. The other parties had two opportunities, in 2006 and 2008, to supplant the Liberals as Canada’s “natural governing party”. It didn’t happen. The Liberals have been given another opportunity to regroup.

Before long, Conservatives will be looking over their shoulders at a revitalized Liberal Party. The Bloc Québécois, the NDP, and the Green Party will be growing increasingly anxious, too — with good reason.

That’s my prediction. And it’s going to make for a (relatively) exciting season in Canadian politics. Even if there’s no Barack Obama on our horizon.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. nebcanuck
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 00:29:19

    Considering the first two are basically “both of Canada’s major parties find a sense of direction”, I’m not certain I’d qualify the period as “exciting” 😛 .

    The point remains, though, that it’s likely to be critical, in determining the next couple decades of politics, that is.

    I’m not sure the Liberals are going to be in that good of shape by the next election, though. With no new candidates for the leadership, and even Rae talking about quitting for the sake of peace, I wonder if they won’t go back to being mild under Ignatieff. Harper, meanwhile, has shown he’s willing to be ruthless in the political games. If he thinks time will benefit the Liberals, I wouldn’t put it past him to call another early election — and for Canadians to give him the majority out of frustration at having no party worth choosing yet again.


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