Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Conservatives Win Minority in Canada

From the Globe and Mail of Toronto:

OTTAWA — Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have won a stronger minority government on the strength of gains in Ontario and British Columbia.

But the Tories paid dearly for campaign missteps in Quebec, as their failure to make gains there was a big reason they fell short of outright control of the Commons.

In two and half years of minority government, Mr. Harper had sought to woo Quebeckers, seeing them as the path to a majority government.

With almost all of the results in, the Tories lost one of their 11 seats there. The Bloc Québécois again defied early-campaign predictions of collapse, winning almost two-thirds of the province’s seats.

Mr. Harper had called the election on Sept. 7, appealing for a stronger mandate to manage the economy in uncertain times. He won more seats, but not clear control, although as he took the stage in Calgary for his victory speech, he appeared elated, not disappointed, with his larger minority — and struck perhaps the most non-partisan, co-operative tone of his political career.

Mr. Harper pledged to fulfill his party’s election platform, but also to govern for Canadians who had voted for other parties, too — and at a time when a faltering economy poses challenges for any government, offered co-operation with opposition MPs.

“This is a time for us all to put aside political differences and partisan considerations and to work cooperatively for the benefit of Canada. We have shown that minority government can work, and at this time of global economic instability we owe it to Canadians to demonstrate this once again,” he said.

I am guessing that Stéphane Dion will be out as the leader of the Liberals.

Lest anyone on the right here in the U.S. take this as a harbinger of things to come, remember that “Conservative” in Canada doesn’t mean the same thing it does here. The Tories are flaming liberals compared to the likes of Tom DeLay or Sarah Palin.

I’m trying to remember the last time a party had a majority in the House of Commons in Canada. It’s been a while. Readers?

UPDATE: Michael at The Reaction answers my question:

The Liberals had a majority under Chretien and (briefly) Martin from 1993 to 2004. Chretien won three majorities in a row (1993, 1997, and 2000). Martin then won a Liberal minority in 2004. Harper has won back-to-back minorities in 2006 and 2008.

There isn’t really a norm, though there have been majorities more often than not. Mulroney won majorities in 1984 and 1988. With the exception of a Conservative minority win in 1979 under Clarke, Trudeau won four elections between 1968 and 1980, winning three majorities. The exception was 1972, when he won a slim 2-seat victory over the Conservatives. Even in 1979, though, the Liberals still won the popular vote by a wide margin.

Trudeau’s Liberal predecessor, Pearson, won minorities in 1963 and 1965.

Harper’s Conservatives have a fairly strong minority now, though, and with the focus on the economy and with the Liberals in disarray, or at least facing what could be a contentious leadership race (should Dion drop out or be pushed out), they’ll have a bit of a honeymoon. And it’s not like the three opposition parties like each other all that much. As long as Harper doesn’t over-reach, they likely won’t put up a united front against him.