Canadian PM Steven Harper and his Conservative party were trounced yesterday night by the Liberals, coming far back from third place to push aside moderate Tom Mulcair and the New Democratic party. Canadian voters wanted real change from ten years of Harper, and with Justin Trudeau, they are going to get it.
Speaking in Calgary, Alberta, Mr. Harper conceded defeat but vowed to supporters that the Conservatives would rise again.
“The disappointment you all so feel, is my responsibility and mine alone,” he said. While Mr. Harper made no mention of his plans, the Conservative Party issued a statement saying that he had resigned as its leader.
The election became something of a referendum on Mr. Harper’s approach to government, which, in the view of his critics, has often focused on issues important to core Conservative supporters, mostly in the West, rather than to much of the population.
Dominic LeBlanc, a prominent Liberal member of Parliament who was handily re-elected in New Brunswick, attributed the party’s extraordinary revival, following a period during which many people forecast its extinction, to Mr. Trudeau, who became the party’s leader in 2013.
The focus of the campaign fluttered among issues, including a scandal over Conservative senators’ expenses; antiterrorism measures Mr. Harper introduced; pensions; the stagnation of the economy brought about by plunging oil prices; the government’s handling of refugees; the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact; and Mr. Harper’s attempts to ban the wearing of face veils known as niqabs during citizenship ceremonies.
The key to the Liberals' win? Turnout baby turnout.
While the Canadian election was initially met with summer-vacation indifference when it was called on Aug. 2, the dramatic ending appeared to have attracted voter interest.
Turnout fell to as low as 58.8 percent in 2008 and was 61.1 percent in the last parliamentary elections, in 2011. The agency that supervises federal elections reported that 68.5 percent of the country’s 25.6 million voters cast ballots in this election.
News reports indicated that voters faced unusually long lines at some of the 66,000 polling stations on Monday. A rush of traffic temporarily overwhelmed the website of Elections Canada, the agency responsible for federal votes.
Can you imagine how any Democrats would be elected here with 68.5% turnout? It would be an absolute wipeout of the GOP and they know it. But there's another reason why Trudeau did so well. Ed Kilgore explains:
One wrinkle in this campaign that center-left parties everywhere should note is that Liberals broke with the other two major parties in refusing to pledge a balanced budget, instead promising to run short-term deficits to finance needed infrastructure projects.
Another possible ripple-effect from the vote is to cast a pall on the appropriation of American-style cultural conservatism by Harper’s Tories. It’s fitting that Harper’s last political acts as PM were to demagogue Muslim apparel and campaign with Rob Ford.
And without question, the ejection of Harper is a boon to the Obama administration, especially on energy and environmental issues where Canada had become problematic in its resistance to climate change action and its advocacy of the Keystone XL pipeline.
In other words, the Liberals presented themselves as a clearly different choice from not only Harper's Conservatives, but from Mulcair's NDP as well.
There's a lesson there if Dems want to learn it.