The Tyee: Harper Let Loose – Political Panel Round-up


From – May 3, 2011

by Tyee Staff & Contributors

Colleen Kimmett

“It’s like winning bingo on the Titanic,”
said my fellow election viewer Mitch Anderson, referring to Elizabeth
May’s win and Jack Layton’s minority in the wake of a Harper majority
this evening.

Watching the election results roll in with a
handful of others in Anderson’s apartment in East Vancouver felt indeed
like a historic event, even Titanic in the realm of Canadian politics.
The Bloc Quebecois is virtually dissolved, its leader resigned, and the
Liberal party is, as Peter Mansbridge put it, “near destruction.”

What it signifies for the future of Canada
is less certain. While some in the room tried to look on the bright side
— this election is a historic first for both the New Democratic and
Green parties — other were worried that, like the fated ship, their
Canada is sinking into a deep, dark place. Especially the artists, women
and homosexuals.

Jack Layton has a big job ahead of him, but
I think he could unite progressives in this country to defeat the
Conservatives in the next election. Working with his new Quebecois
cabinet will be a challenge, but perhaps the bigger challenge will be
breaking through to those who don’t identify with either French or
English speaking Canada. A victorious Conservative MP Jason Kenney told
the CBC’s Terry Milewski that internal party polling showed the new
Canadian vote, especially in the Greater Toronto Area, was a hugely
important to the Conservatives’ win.

I am an optimist. When there is a growing
chorus for change there will be equal push for things to remain
constant. I predict the next four years will be a polarizing, but
interesting period in Canadian politics.

Colleen Kimmett writes about food and environment for The Tyee and others.

Charles Campbell

The biggest loser this election night is
not Michael Ignatieff or his Liberal party. It is the Canadian
electorate. As British Columbians should know rather well, the biggest
determinant in the outcome of many Canadian elections is which side of
the political spectrum splits its vote. In all but one of the last six
elections, the Conservative or Reform/Conservative vote has fallen
within two points of 38 per cent. The only true majority tonight is the
60 per cent of Canadians who didn’t get a government they supported at
the ballot box.

What happened to make this so? Of course it
began with that loveless marriage eight years ago of the two parties to
the right. Quebec yet again revealed its uncanny ability to vote with
one collective mind. Prime Minister Stephen Harper showed remarkable
skill in framing issues his way. The Liberals received the final payback
for decades of arrogance and, as Jack Layton so resonantly put it
during the English debate, sense of entitlement. Finally, the difference
in tone of the NDP and Liberal campaign ads revealed that Canadians are
more easily swayed by comedy than scare tactics.

And while the prognosticators and heir
apparent Bob Rae try and sort out the Liberals’ future, the rest of us
can now go home for four whole years, thankful we don’t have to face an
election we don’t want. Right?

Charles Campbell is a Tyee contributing editor.

Rafe Mair

There are a great many enormous questions
to be asked and answered. It would be foolish to think that Quebec
separatism has ended and indeed I would argue that the extent of the BQ
loss was bad news. While they were in Ottawa in some numbers, separatism
could be handled by dealing with the BQ across the floor. Now it is
leaderless even though their twin, the PQ, seems poised to win Quebec
provincially. It is as I said in a speech some years ago: “If there were
not a Bloc Quebecois we would have to invent one.”

 Separatism will be
different in Quebec. Although Stephen Harper has representation,
sovereignists will be looking at Jack Layton to express their ambitions
and he won’t do so. Prime Minister Harper will use the public purse as
best he can as is traditional, but I foresee a great deal of ferment

Separatism has always been a political
force in Quebec and, like poison ivy, its venom waxes and wanes with the
moment. The target of the next incarnation of separatism will be what
Jacques inelegantly called the “ethnics.” This has been going on but the
pressure will increase once the Bloc and PQ sort out, in a blood bath,
who will lead what and where. They can count and know that separation
needs these “ethnics.”

British Columbia will be an interesting study. I
think many British Columbians, much like Albertans, have shrunk from
voting NDP because they were seen as a party of labour leaders,
professors and what my father would call “parlor pinks.” Layton, now at
least officially leading the “government in waiting,” has the
opportunity to gain for the NDP the traditional slightly leftish voter
who once voted Liberal or Red Tory.

Former Socred minister Rafe Mair’s column runs every other Monday in The Tyee.

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About Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.