Canada 2008: results, take two


So let’s start with the obvious.

Stephen Harper’s government was re-elected as another minority government. Harper gained nineteen seats on his 2006 performance, winning 143 seats, 12 short of a majority. Stephane Dion’s Liberal Party lost 27 seats, falling to 76, less than a quarter of the House of Commons. The Bloc Quebecois stayed fairly steady, winning 50 seats, down one from 2006. The New Democratic Party won eight extra seats to go to 37 seats. This is their second-best result, behind the 43 seats won by Ed Broadbent in 1988. It is also a remarkable recovery for a party that fell to 9 seats in 1993 and has almost tripled its representation since Layton was elected leader.

I’m going to dive into which seats changed hands in a moment, but thought I’d take a moment to examine the implications of the result. It’s important to remember that three minority governments in a row is generally very unlikely, and the Liberals were always likely to perform poorly in the campaign, meaning a re-elected Conservative minority is no huge result for the government. William Bowe at Poll Bludger has examined the idea that the performance of the Canadian government, as the first developed country to go to the polls since the global financial crisis, would give an indication to either the impact on conservative governments or on incumbent governments, regardless of their political orientation.

Most minority governments are defeated with a vote of no confidence, resulting in an early election. Yet Harper chose to go to an early election without a defeat in the House of Commons, suggesting he believed he could win a majority. The first half of the campaign suggested he would achieve it. Then the debates and the financial crisis saw the Liberals rise and the Conservatives fall. So increased numbers for the Conservative government does not indicate support for Harper’s economic policies, it rather indicates the dismal state of the Liberal Party. Harper won in spite of the economic crisis, not because of it. It’s easy to imagine that, without the crisis, Harper would have had more time to tear down Dion, and would have made greater inroads into BQ territory, enough to win the remaining 12 seats they needed for a majority.

So let’s go to the run of the board.

Newfoundland and Labrador saw a fierce “ABC” (Anything But Conservative) campaign from Progressive Conservative Premier Danny Williams over claims that Harper had broken a promise to the province. It has worked out. The Liberals retained their four seats and won two seats of the Conservatives, while the NDP won the last Conservative seat, wiping out the Conservatives and electing an NDP member in the province for the first time since 1979.

Prince Edward Island has four ridings, all of which have gone to the Liberals since 1988. This changed this year, with the Conservatives winning Egmont off the Liberals.

Nova Scotia saw very little change. The NDP retained their two seats. The Liberals lost one of their six seats to the Conservatives, and the Conservatives lost one of their three ridings with the re-election of the sitting independent, a former Conservative. Greens leader Elizabeth May fell well short of toppling Defence Minister Peter MacKay in Central Nova.

New Brunswick previously had six Liberal ridings, three Conservative ridings and one NDP riding. The places have been reversed, with the Conservatives winning three ridings off the Liberals.

Quebec saw very little change. The NDP and Conservatives each retained seats won in 2007 by-elections, while the BQ won one seat off the Conservatives in Quebec and lost a seat to the Liberals in Montreal.

Northern Quebec saw the Conservatives win Roberval-Lac-Saint-Jean, won by the Conservatives in a 2007 by-election off the BQ. Every other seat went to the BQ, as it did in 2006.

Quebec City, dominated by the Conservatives in 2006, saw the BQ win back the seat of Louis-Hebert.

Montreal, which was previously divided evenly between the Liberals and BQ, remains with a similar split. The seat of Papineau was won by the Liberals off the BQ by Liberal candidate Justin Trudeau. Meanwhile the Liberals failed to win Outremont back off the NDP, which became the NDP’s first seat in Quebec in many years at a 2007 by-election after being a Liberal stronghold for decades.

That’s enough for tonight, I’ll do British Columbia, Ontario, the Prairies and the Territories whenever I can. Also look out for final coverage of Super Saturday in the ACT and NSW coming up this weekend.

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