It is Wednesday, October 15, 2008, and it looks a lot like it did on Tuesday. The political map has not really changed despite the federal election. We still have a minority Conservative government, the Liberals are still the official opposition, and there are no Green representatives in the House of Commons. To top it all off, every Ottawa-area incumbent held on to his or her seat. Ho-hum… I guess it is business as usual until the next election – or is it?
The 2008 campaign may not have been very newsworthy as far as significant events go, but there have been a few hints at what may be to come in the future. Here is a party-by-party breakdown of what could or should happen if current voter trends continue.
Illustration by Adrian Steeves
What was supposed to be a breakthrough election for the Greens turned out to be fruitless, as far as sending members to the House is concerned. Many predicted that the Greens, polling well in some areas, could have taken as many as half a dozen seats. The silver lining on the cloud is that once again, the Green Party's share of the popular vote increased from the last election – up to 7% from 4.5% – and they finished second in several ridings in British Columbia. Green Party leader Elizabeth May can claim a victory of sorts for finally getting included in the leaders' television debates. In order to actually win seats, the Greens should stop running their better-known candidates against high-profile incumbents, such as the last two elections where the leaders, Jim Harris and Elizabeth May, ran in ridings held by Jack Layton and Peter MacKay respectively.
Leadership: For now, it appears as if May will continue as the face of the federal Greens, but her longevity could be determined by the party's ability to elect members under her leadership.
Next election: If the Greens focus on the ridings where they showed the strongest support, they could realistically win two or three ridings in the next election and continue building from there.
NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY
The NDP just keeps gaining seats under the leadership of Jack Layton. This election, the share of the popular vote increased only slightly, but the number of seats jumped from 30 to 37. If the Liberals continue to lose support in Quebec and the west, the NDP may become the first choice of left-leaning voters and actually become the official opposition within six years.
Leadership: Layton, with his partner Olivia Chow at his side, shows no signs of slowing down. He very well could be the most secure party leader at the present time.
Next election: Watch for the NDP to move ahead to third place for the first time since 1988, ahead of the Bloc Quebecois.
The Bloc once again dominated Quebec and sent virtually the same number of representatives to Ottawa as after the last election. It is difficult to pinpoint where the BQ sits on the political spectrum, as it was founded by mainly disgruntled Progressive Conservatives and a sprinkling of Liberals, and is currently led by a former communist. Also under scrutiny is whether sovereignty for Quebec, the Bloc's raison d'être, is relevant in the present-day political climate. This term will determine the future of the party on the federal stage.
Leadership: Gilles Duceppe's shelf life is about to expire. He may survive until the next election, but in order for the party to continue the sovereigntist cause, it needs new blood. If Mario Dumont does not end up as Quebec's next premier, look for him to jump to the federal stage.
Next election: The Bloc is likely to slip to back under 40 seats, especially if Duceppe is still leader and the Conservatives make further inroads into Quebec.
The most newsworthy story of the 2008 election was the continued decline of the Liberal Party, as they won their lowest number of seats since the days of John Turner. It is safe to say that the Liberals have become politically insignificant in the west as a whole and continue to lose support in Quebec and rural Ontario. The leadership qualities of Stephane Dion have been heavily scrutinized since his first day as leader, particularly in the English media. The once impregnable Big Red Machine needs to regain support in the west and the electorate's trust in Quebec, and stop the bleeding in rural Ontario before even beginning to think about a victory in the near future. The Sponsorship Scandal continues to plague the Grits.
Leadership: There will be a new leader of the federal Liberals chosen in 2009. Current frontrunners include Michael Ignatieff, Bob Rae, and Gerard Kennedy.
Next election: It will be a tough task, but if the next Liberal leader can guide them to such a showing where they do not lose any more seats, it will be a victory of sorts.
The Conservatives gained a few seats, but a minority government is still a minority government. The only saving grace is that the sole real threat to power, the Liberal Party, is not going to be in any shape to wage another election for a while. National support increased only marginally, which is cause for concern for Tory strategists as the party's goal is to form a majority government. This does not seem possible under Stephen Harper. If the Conservatives fail to win a majority in the next election, look for Harper to step aside for the good of the party.
Leadership: Westerners love him, Ontarians tolerate him, and Quebeckers do not accept him. Simply put, Harper is not a leader that the whole country can rally around. Blame it on his image or western-centric Reform/Alliance roots, but the Conservatives need a new face for the party in order to make that big Quebec breakthrough. As a side note, former New Brunswick premier Bernard Lord, an oft-mentioned potential successor, has been making the rounds on Quebec television talk shows this year.
Next election: The Conservative Party wins yet another minority government in 2010, but with fewer seats due to a surging NDP and re-grouping Liberal Party.
And another thing: The presence of the Bloc Quebecois presents a significant obstacle for both the Liberals and the Conservatives forming majority governments again. If the BQ survives the next election and the Greens continue to build support, we could wind up with European-style coalition governments and witness strange bedfellows as the Conservatives team up with the NDP. Some say that the only reason the Conservatives won the last two elections is because the left is divided, much like how the right was divided from 1993 to 2003. I say that the only true left-leaning party is the NDP, with the Liberals constantly shifting depending on the mood of the electorate, and the Greens and the Bloc being narrow-issue parties. Another future scenario could see the dissolution of the Bloc and/or the merging of another party with the Greens, most likely the NDP, and we could once again see majority governments in Canada as the rule instead of the exception.