Monday, May 16, 2011

Election Post-Mortem: The Conservatives

Previously: NDP, Bloc, Liberals, Greens



A lot has been written over the past two weeks about the election that was, but nearly all of it has been about Jack Layton's victory. This may be a bit unfair to the election's actual winner, so let's pause for a moment to reflect on what Stephen Harper accomplished on May 2nd.

He became just the 7th man to win three elections in Canada's 144 year history. If he serves out his current term, he will sit 6th on the all-time list of longest-serving Prime Ministers, and second only to Sir John A among Conservatives. It's a safe bet there will one day be a Stephen Harper Calgary International Airport, and the man just turned 52 during the campaign, so the sky's the limit in terms of what he can accomplish.

Even more impressive is that Harper very much created his own "winning conditions". When he was elected Canadian Alliance leader under a decade ago, the Liberals were comfortably in power, facing a divided opposition. Harper's own party had just cannibalized Stockwell Day, with a dozen MPs breaking off to form a rebel faction in the House.

The prospect of a 200 seat Paul Martin majority lay on the horizon and there was no one out there who thought a dull reformer from Calgary with fractured French and a fairly "un-Ontarian" view of confederation would ever become Prime Minister.

Yet, here we are. Fewer than 10 years later, and Harper now leads a majority government, with the left divided and the Liberal Party decimated. Sure, there were breaks along the way, but from merger to minority to majority, Harper was largely the author of his own destiny.

So how did he take that final step, to get over the 154 seat hump?

In some respects, the election was won long before the writ was dropped. I know many will jump over me for saying it, but Harper has governed as a moderate. Maybe he's been forced into it, but whatever the reason, he hasn't done anything during his time in power to rock the boat or worry centrists. This left the ground ripe for a Tory majority, helped no doubt by a little fertilizer in the form of a 5 million dollar Just Visiting ad campaign.

Once the campaign hit, Harper did what he's always done. He found a simple message and stuck to it. Voters were offered more of the same, or an unstable jumble of opposition parties who would raise their taxes. This message was repeated over and over again, and it paid off at the ballot box.

As for the road ahead, I don't expect things to change much under majority rule. Yes, the gun registry will go and some "lefty" programs will be cut, but we're not going to see abortion legislation, two tier Health Care, or a blue flag. Harper's largest objective in politics seems to be turning the Conservatives into Canada's natural governing party and he won't achieve that by jerking the country sharply to the right.

The largest obstacle for Harper in the next four years may very well be his lack of obstacles. The opposition cannot be blamed for holding him back, and the Senate cannot be blamed for killing his crime legislation. Sure, the CBC might be good for a few fundraising letters, but Harper will need a new adversary to rile up the grass roots. A Quebec-dominated socialist opposition party may do the trick there.

The larger challenge will be explaining to his base why he can't go as far as they'd like him to. But in terms of problems Harper could be facing, that's a nice one to have.

36 Comments:

  • You're probably right about SH not shifting to sharply to the right (at least I hope you are) but if I were a member of the Conservative base I'd be deeply disappointed if, after working so hard for a majority, the issues that many grassroots Cons care about will not be addressed. They might wonder "what's the point of having a majority if they're not going to do anything with it?"

    By Blogger Kevin Powell, at 3:18 PM  

  • Don't forget the Premiers.

    There is a reason the Premier of Ontario has in the past been called "the other leader of the opposition", and might again if he wins another strong mandate this year.

    By Blogger Dan F, at 3:24 PM  

  • Do you mean he won't go sharply to the right on fiscal policy, social policy, or both?

    I think he will go right on fiscal policy.

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 3:51 PM  

  • What does going to the right on fiscal policy entail? Would it be what was seen under Chretien/Martin when they slayed the deficit? Or is there more to it?

    By Anonymous Jim R, at 4:27 PM  

  • I don't think Harper will shift significantly on fiscal policy either. He hasn't been averse to spending in the past, and they've already come out and said the deficit may take longer to slay than projected during the campaign.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 4:46 PM  

  • Dan F - Good point on the Premiers. A McGuinty/Harper feud could actually help both of them...

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 4:46 PM  

  • "You're probably right about SH not shifting to sharply to the right (at least I hope you are) but if I were a member of the Conservative base I'd be deeply disappointed if, after working so hard for a majority, the issues that many grassroots Cons care about will not be addressed. They might wonder "what's the point of having a majority if they're not going to do anything with it?"

    My opinion is that the harperites are planning for a long term transformation of Canada. Means that they will appoint the 'right' people here and there. Appease the business/oil interests. Use government power/money to fight the 'right' causes in the court in junction with the 'right' judges. Winning formula in the States.

    For that to happen, they have to hang on to power for another 10 years. Expect nothing too drastic fiscally or socially until their power play is ready.

    Who's going to stop them?

    By Blogger JimTan, at 4:59 PM  

  • This country is in a lot of trouble, with Harper at the lead. He is giving Canada away to, the wealthiest corporations in the world. He just gave the giant company's, ANOTHER tax reduction. This will come off Canadians paychecks.

    Harper was a bad enough dictator, with a minority. With a majority, he will be hopeless to deal with. And so do the Americans say so.

    Harper can't get along with anyone. He is too much of a control freak. The only one that gets along with Harper, is Gordon Campbell. They have identical personalities. I was turned right off Harper, when he said some very low down comments on, Ignatieff's family, that was despicable. Only low life people do that sort of thing.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:10 PM  

  • Wow Anon at 5:10pm. For your sake, I hope Harper sinks some more into education (even though it is a provinical responsibility) as clearly you need a course in "remedial commas" and "general grammar 101".

    Anyway, your "doom and gloom" makes me laugh at you even more. Harper will be fine - likely much better than simply 'fine' - in his next 4 years and will hopefully steam roll to an even bigger majority then. 10+ years of a stable, intelligent government after years of abuse by Liberals is what this country needs.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:27 PM  

  • Anon @ 5:10.

    WOW ! With mental muffinheads like you around this victory for Harper is all the more sweet.

    The cold dead hand of Trudeaupia has finally been removed from Canada's political life, Canada's future is bright and the next four years are going to just marvelous.

    Please enjoy the ride.

    By Anonymous Viva Harper !, at 5:33 PM  

  • All I have to say to Harper is, "Good luck with the lunatic fringe Stevie boy"! Lol. Can't wait to see what transpires over the next 4 years.

    Some of them were already on the Hill last week. Just wait until they embolden the back bench (and really, 2/3s of the Con bench) MPs in Harper's caucus. They'll all be quiet until the initial cabinet appointments. Let's see how long they can sit on their hands after the cabinet and budget moves...

    (Install big grin here)

    By Blogger WesternGrit, at 5:52 PM  

  • It's hard to take you seriously WesternGrit when you have a party that continues to count Hedy Fry among its members.

    How are those cross burnings by the way?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:14 PM  

  • I am burning a cross right now as we speak. The Grits at this site are exactly right:

    As a member of the Conservative base, I have worked my ass off to get a majority so we can go Toquemada on your asses. Ban tattoos. Forced brush cuts for all men. Drop the T in LGBT.

    Harper had better give big tax cuts to oil companies and eliminate EI. Out of a job? Tough luck, lazy ass. Move to Fort McMurray. No more handouts except to big multinationals with Houston headquarters.

    Why is it only Liberals get this? We only won a majority by lying to everybody and we only want our majority to screw everybody. It is as simple as that.

    If Harper doesn't follow this script, we'll boot his ass out so fast, he'll think he was Kim Campbell.

    By Anonymous DeGrassi Roots Conservative, at 6:38 PM  

  • Does anyone think - I know this is a crazy, unbelieveable idea - that the reason we Liberals got smashed to pieces on Monday night is that we don't have a frikkin' clue as to what the "Conservative base" actually thinks?

    Could it possibly be the case that living off a stereotype for so many years, we've sort of built up a bit of a fantasy world for ourselves and as comforting as it might be to live in that fantasy world, it is getting awfully lonely?

    By Anonymous Blue tinged Liberal, at 6:44 PM  

  • Anon 6:14, it's hard to take YOU seriously when you choose to hide behind "anon".

    Say what you will about Hedy, she is quite a bit more educated and worldly than the current Conservative caucus. While that statement she made was very bold, and while Calgary still leads Canada in hate crime, there are a very large number of hate crimes in BC. More so in suburbia. I think she was trying to make a point (that racism isn't dead) in the face of Reform critics, and it didn't come out quite the way she wanted. Want to know hate crimes that are REAL and do occur in her riding? Gay bashings. Several have occurred in the West End in the 4 years I've lived here.

    Your little sidetrack/personal hatred of Hedy still doesn't begin to challenge my very firm position on Harper's dilemma. He either has to appease his base, or face a lot of internal strife. I personally know a few Cons (who are active in the party). All I keep hearing is that Harper got a lot of people to shut up so he could have his majority. Now that he has it, the Christian right wing and the nutbar squad will see this as their ONLY chance to have their way.

    And if you think the right doesn't see it that way, you're smoking something. There is NO party in Canada further right than the Conservatives. The religious right have no other home. Any right wing ideologues have nowhere else to go. Harper also happens to be from the Reform Party that is at the right fringe of the old Canadian Conservative movement. That pretty much was a given when the old PC party was swallowed up by the Reformers.

    No matter what Harper tries to do (even if be his deep down personal conviction) his wacko benches will begin to speak. When they do, all bets will be off.

    By Blogger WesternGrit, at 8:11 PM  

  • Your defense of Hedy Fry is lame, Western Grit, very, very lame.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:43 PM  

  • @ Blue tinged Liberal:
    - Bingo!

    @WesternGrit:
    - Liberals like you are the gift that keeps on giving. Keep it up!

    By Blogger Michael Fox, at 8:54 PM  

  • "It's hard to take you seriously WesternGrit when you have a party that continues to count Hedy Fry among its members."

    I'll take Hedy Fry over Rob Anders any day.

    I'll also take her and the rest of the caucus over the anti-career politicians who are now career politicians. You know the ones I mean. Yeah, back in the day they complained about career politicians but now that they ARE CAREER POLITICIANS neither they nor the whiny Reform base seems to nary a wit.

    Stephen Harper - career politician
    John Baird - career politician and loud Harper acolyte (obviously some form of compensation)
    Peter MacKay - career politician
    Stockwell Day - career politician
    Jim Flaherty - career politician
    Tony Clement - career politician
    Jason Kenny - career politician who doesn't know the definition of impartiality in the media (or elsewhere)
    Pierre Poilievre- career politician and SMUG personified
    Rob Anders - career politician and a BIG TIME BIGOT

    All of them and more have been drinking at the trough all of their adult lives. They're all charter members of the "Don't do as I do, do as I say!" club. Name a private sector job that any of them has had for any appreciable time as adults. Yeah. I thought you'd come up blank because there's nothing there. NO 'real-world" experience. ˆNOTˆ here for you.

    CuJoYYC

    By Blogger Curtis, at 9:50 PM  

  • Nice comebacks! Harper's gotta hope you're not the "brain trust". Unable to sustain an honest debate certainly illustrates your favored party's Parliamentary principles.

    Enjoy it while you can!

    By Blogger WesternGrit, at 10:49 PM  

  • oh the whining of the Liberal party is music to my ears.

    Yes, you can keep the "there are crosses burning right now in Prince George" Hedy Fry and continue to defend her outlandish, moronic positions all you want. The party of "no ideas" will continue to flounder for the foreseeable future.

    Can't wait for Bob Rae to lead you to the promised land - hahaha.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:51 PM  

  • OK WesternGrit, I'll give it a shot:

    In 1996 the Liberals said "don't vote for Harper, he'll put the military on the streets of our cities with guns, we're not making this up... booga booga". Then Harper was elected to a small minority and, surprise surprise, no military in the streets with guns. The Liberals were, in fact, making things up.

    Then in 2008 the Liberals said "don't vote for Harper, he's a devil and bankrupt Canada and start wars with other countries, booga booga. Oh, and we'll never entertain a coalition government, don't be ridiculous". Harper was voted in with an even bigger majority and almost immediately the Liberal party tries to form a coalition with the NDP and Bloc. Surprise, the Liberals made things up again.

    Now, in 2011, the Liberals were saying "don't vote for Harper, he'll outlaw same sex marriage, end abortions, spend all our money on super-prisons and jets without engines, booga booga". Well, Harper won a majority government and I guess we'll see if, yet again, the Liberals are making up things including more complete fabrications like "oh noes the crazy back benchers, theys gonna be rapin and killin yer women folks".

    Of note, the Conservatives have increased their popular vote and seat count in each of the last three elections. How about the Liberals?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:07 PM  

  • Opps, should have said "an even bigger minority" in 2008, not a majority.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:08 PM  

  • @Blue tinged Liberal: Could it possibly be the case that living off a stereotype for so many years, we've sort of built up a bit of a fantasy world for ourselves

    The Cons also live in a fantasy world. From all the conservatives I've spoken with, they don't know what the current policy or platform is (but they do know sound bites).

    I happen to live in a riding where voters actually got upset because there were two candidates on the ballot with the word "Conservative" in the party name. They were confused as to who to vote for.

    That says a lot about fantasy worlds too.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:10 PM  

  • No. of seats held by Liberal Party in 2000 - l72 seats
    2004 - 135 seats
    2006 - 103 seats
    2008 - 77 seats
    2011 - 34 seats

    Enough said

    By Anonymous Lindsay, at 12:00 AM  

  • If the Conservatives haven't balanced the budget before the next election, they're screwed, and rightfully so.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:44 AM  

  • Anon:

    "In 1996 the Liberals said "don't vote for Harper, he'll put the military on the streets of our cities with guns, we're not making this up... booga booga". Then Harper was elected to a small minority and, surprise surprise, no military in the streets with guns. The Liberals were, in fact, making things up.

    Then in 2008 the Liberals said "don't vote for Harper, he's a devil and bankrupt Canada and start wars with other countries, booga booga. Oh, and we'll never entertain a coalition government, don't be ridiculous". Harper was voted in with an even bigger majority and almost immediately the Liberal party tries to form a coalition with the NDP and Bloc. Surprise, the Liberals made things up again.

    Now, in 2011, the Liberals were saying "don't vote for Harper, he'll outlaw same sex marriage, end abortions, spend all our money on super-prisons and jets without engines, booga booga". Well, Harper won a majority government and I guess we'll see if, yet again, the Liberals are making up things including more complete fabrications like "oh noes the crazy back benchers, theys gonna be rapin and killin yer women folks".

    Hmmm... let's see:
    2006 - Harper wins MINORITY. No chance of him actually fully and forcefully acting on anything that would hurt his majority chances.

    2008 - Bankrupt the country? Bingo. Harper launches the largest deficits in Canadian history. He creates a structural deficit after only 2 years in power, and WELL BEFORE the recession that supposedly caused it. The nation had burned through the record $13 Billion Martin-Goodale surplus in a few short months under Harper. The Canadian economy ONLY survived due to the banking regulations that Martin-Goodale instituted - and for which Martin is still receiving global accolades (Martin is currently consulting the UK and EU on various financial debt matters).

    2011 - Well... Here we are. We don't actually know what might happen under a Harper majority. One can certainly count, however, on the troglodytes to come out of the woodwork.

    We can all hope that Harper is anything like Mulroney (ideologically - not ethically), however, it is most likely that he will be having to "dance with the one that brung him" (to quote Grant Devine)...

    By Blogger WesternGrit, at 12:49 AM  

  • Perhaps, CG doesn't appreciate the political tactics used BEFORE the elections. In the absence of substance from the grits, harper launched attack ads against Iggy. The content wasn't important. What was crucial was Iggy's response to the personal attacks.

    Harper could allow his government to fall because he was confident of Iggy's weakness as a political leader. His gamble paid off. He has his majority. The conservatives behaved like politicians. Iggy behaved like a college don..

    Some grits say that they had a well run campaign. Was it really?

    By Blogger JimTan, at 1:36 AM  

  • Its amazing more ! With psychological effects like you about this conquest for Harper is all the more sweet.

    By Anonymous addiction treatment centers new jersey, at 6:39 AM  

  • "Some grits say that they had a well run campaign. Was it really?"

    I certainly want to continue to encourage that delusion.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:40 AM  

  • "however, it is most likely that he will be having to "dance with the one that brung him"

    Exactly.

    And if you'd just get yourself out of Kensington Market and into the suburbs, you'd meet the freaks and wing-bats that brung him. They're the folks in the extreme right-wing minivans, trucking around those odd little creatures we call "children". They go into those things call "offices" and do something called "work".

    Now, take a look at yourselves, Grits:

    Too nerdy to be Dippers. Too unencumbered by responsibility to be Tories. Too few to matter!

    By Anonymous Barbarian Tory, at 9:06 AM  

  • Did anyone read Kinsella's latest column?

    Talking about Liberal leadership contenders, he knee-jerk laments that the short list is only white guys --- no women or "new Canadians".

    that's what's so terrifically hilarious about Liberals.

    If you are not white, you are automatically a "new Canadian". Your family could be generations in Canada, but if you ain't white, you are "new". But don't worry, liberals love "new" Canadians.

    Conversely, despite the fact that France and the UK are still Top 5 countries of source for our immigrants, being white - according to Grit Kinsella - means you cannot possibly be a "new" Canadian.

    You're out of touch. You're out of time.

    By Anonymous Forever New Canadian, at 9:09 AM  

  • I agree with everything WesternGrit had to say. There is no other home for the right-wing fringe, which are undeniably present in his caucus, and with a majority they will be more difficult to silence.

    All that being said, Hedy Fry is a left-wing fringe. Do NOT defend her. Simply acknowledge that every party has its undesirable fringe element, and move on.

    Don't accept a racist fringe element just because it's on the left instead of the right, they're equally offensive.

    http://vollman.blogspot.com/2006/06/hedy-fry-for-pm.html

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 10:45 AM  

  • Kevin Powell said... They might wonder "what's the point of having a majority if they're not going to do anything with it?"

    I'd like to back to the very beginning with Mr Powell's point.

    Mr Vollman got it earlier. The only 'hard-right' turn I expect to see out of Stephen Harper over the next four years is a turn towards finally practicing fiscal conservatism.

    The deficit is something that needs to be addressed now that someone finally won a majority government again. Liberals recognize this too (at least the blue ones that seem to have switches sides on May 2nd). Harper now has a mandate to do something, and should, or else he will be facing some tough questioning by his own supporters in 2015.

    But that's it for hard-right turns. Yes the LGR will be scrapped (junk law really) and some costly jails and tough-on-crime legislation will be passed (more tough on taxpayers that is), but nothing really severe.

    Harper wanted the CPofC to become the new natural governing party, and he has succeeded. He's not about to piss away his legacy by doing anything stupid.

    So with this new majority, I do in fact see his greatest challenge over the next 4 years will not be with Jack Layton & the rookie dippers, or a potential re-surging Liberal party (who need to rebuild a lot just to get back to 2nd place); but rather his own caucus.

    Once 2015 comes up and all those SoCon backbenchers who never received cabinet positions (or other assorted goodies) realize they are not likely to either, then Harper's mastery of MP control will be properly tested.

    He's been very good at keeping everyone on message, but I think Mr Powell is 100% correct. Harper's biggest problem will be with his own SoCon backbenchers who will be asking "what's the point of having a majority if they're not going to do anything with it?"

    By Blogger Tof KW, at 2:14 PM  

  • Forever New Canadian - I agree the Liberals need to do a better job promoting diversity in their ranks, but it's not like the Tory or NDP leaders are overly diverse, unless you count "mustached Canadians" as a visible minority.

    If we jumped into a leadership race for them right now, a white man would likely follow Layton (Mulcair) and the contenders for Harper's job would all be white men.

    All the parties need to improve here.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 2:31 PM  

  • **All the parties need to improve here.**

    So why not school them by beating them to it?! :)

    PS The Liberals are the oldest party and the only one to never have a female leader. Get Louise Arbour and Kim Campbell on the phone. Get Michael Jean - she's got political experience and a great heart. I admit I like Garneau though. Astronaut PM? I'm sold.

    Point is - sure the others can improve. But you can't effect change with them.

    You have a Liberal voice tho.... :). And a highly respected one, in my books.

    Dan you know I feel many Liberals just haven't woken up. But I'd 100% look at an LPC with a strong respected smart woman at the helm.

    It's the federation's oldest malest old boy's club. Change is scary but fun and worthwhile.

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 1:40 AM  

  • Anyway, your "doom and gloom" makes me laugh at you even more. Harper will be fine - likely much better than simply 'fine' - in his next 4 years and will hopefully steam roll to an even bigger majority then. 10+ years of a stable, intelligent government after years of abuse by Liberals is what this country needs

    By Anonymous viagra online pharmacy, at 12:59 PM  

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