Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Federal Final

We now have our final four. On the federal side, a pair of Tory election wins will duke it out - 1988's free trade election is up against the 57/58 fall of the Liberal dynasty. On the provincial side of things, the 1976 Quebec election (a winner with 53% of the vote against 1960 Quebec) will take on the 1944 Saskatchewan election (blowing out 1943 Ontario with 84% of the vote).

Voting is now open on the federal final until 10 pm on Wednesday - next week a provincial champion will be crowned, and then the two will go head-to-head for the title of Canada's Biggest Election.

1957/58 (6) vs. 1988 (1)

Arguments For The Two Elections: Click Here

What If...1988: The problem with writting a good "what if" scenario for the 1988 election is that there are so many plausible outcomes. But let's look at the obvious one: what if the Tories had been reduced to a minority and, having won the referendum on free trade, the Liberals and NDP decided to form a coalition government. The NDP would have had major influence on Canada's economic and foreign policy, NAFTA would never have come into being, and the Meech debate would have taken a bizarre unpredictable twist.

A minority government would likely have set up another election in '90/'91 - on the heels of a Bob Rae win in Ontario could the NDP have formed government federally? Prime Minister Ed Broadbent anyone? Would the Bloc and Reform Party have ever gathered critical mass to become legitimate political players? If not, could the Tories have returned quickly to power and, if so, would it have been under Mulroney's leadership? It seems likely that Chretien would have eventually replaced Turner regardless, but with no second term to give Campbell and Charest cabinet experience, who would have been the heir apparent to Mulroney?

What If...1957: Given that the Liberals were widely expected to win the 1957 election, it's not hard to imagine the King/St.Laurent dynasty being extended. It seems likely that the Grits would not have made good on C.D. Howe's promise to "run St. Laurent stuffed", so that likely would have meant a Lester B. Pearson Prime Ministership three or four years earlier. So the real question is, would Pearson have made the same reforms he did in a minority with a majority or would he have have employed the same cautious, gradual progress the Liberals had become known for over their 22 years in power? I'd suspect the later.

So if '57 hadn't happened in '57, when would it have happened? The Liberal dynasty had to end at some point but one wonders how it would have without a Tory who could campaign like Dief. Another interesting question, related to the provincial side of the bracket, is whether Jean Lesage would have left federal politics in '58 had the Liberals been in power? Would Lesage have stayed in Ottawa to replace Pearson as Prime Minister? Or would it have been Paul Martin senior? And how would all of this affected the goings-on in Quebec? Again, too many questions with very few answers.

Which Election Was Bigger?
(6) 1957/58 (Diefenbaker over St. Laurent, Pearson)
(1) 1988 (Mulroney over Turner, Broadbent)
See Results

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  • What If...1957

    The Avro Arrow making Canada a world leader in aerospace? A Canadian space program?

    By Blogger Jeff, at 11:11 p.m.  

  • Bah, the Liberals would have scrapped the Arrow too. They pretty much said as much.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:08 p.m.  

  • Zut alors! Two Tory elections? Why didn't any of the Laurier/King victories make it farther? 1896 would have been my choice.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:12 p.m.  

  • 1988 was bigger as far as realignment goes. The shellacking Dief gave to the Liberals in '58 was largely reversed within five years and (numerically at least) entirely reversed within a decade. It is true that the Liberal name has been Mudd in AB and SK since 1958 but we weren't doing all that well there before.

    Liberal hegemony was regained in QC (a few Creditistes aside) and we were fully back leading or in the game in the Atlantic, ON, MB and BC.

    In contrast, look at 1988's long-term implications - destruction of the Liberal Party's Quebec bulwark, first by the PCs, then a big fumble of the Regions into the hands of the BQ. The Liberal Party finds itself nearly shut out in both the Prairies and Quebec and the CPC struggles to make deeper inroads into Ontario.

    If anything, the legacy of Mulroney's majorities and his big one in particular may be a long, long string of minorities. The three subsequent Liberal majorities having been achieved largely by dint of the PC Party's remarkable performance in sawing itself in three pieces: Reform, PC and BQ, only recently pared down to two.

    By Blogger Karl, at 4:53 p.m.  

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