"Death or Victory" now await
By Mark Wegierski
The results of the May 2, 2011 election are now in.
Stephen Harper has won a solid majority government (167 of 308 seats) – only the third Conservative or Progressive Conservative leader in Canadian history to win a third term (the other two being Sir John A. Macdonald and John Diefenbaker).
The New Democratic Party has surged incredibly, winning 102 seats – including an amazing 58 seats in Quebec. It has thus become the Official Opposition, and has displaced the Liberal Party in this new Parliament.
The Liberal Party, which held 77 seats in the previous Parliament, has won a mere 34 seats – its worst showing ever. It has never before been the third party in the federal Parliament. Its leader, Michael Ignatieff, lost his own seat and quit the leadership the next day.
The Bloc Quebecois, the Quebec-separatist party, was annihilated by the NDP surge in Quebec, winning only 4 seats. Even its leader, Gilles Duceppe, lost his own riding, and quit immediately.
Also, the leader of the Green Party, Elizabeth May, won in her own riding, this being the first seat won in an election by the Greens.
After winning a parliamentary majority after decades of negativity, the right in Canada now faces a "world-defining" struggle.
In Canadian history since 1896, Conservative or Progressive Conservative majorities have been few and far between. The effect of such majorities was further muted when the leader of the party was not himself a visceral conservative -- as had been the case especially with Brian Mulroney.
Conservatives in Canada today might well fear a repeat of the Mulroney debacle. However, in his earlier endeavours, Harper had clearly shown some solidly conservative ideas, instincts, and feelings.
Also, the media environment today is considerably different than in the 1980s. Before the arising of the Internet as a mass medium, and before the media revolution of sorts initiated by Conrad Black in the mid to late 1990s (especially with the founding of The National Post), the megapolitan environment in a city like Toronto might well have felt, to any more conscientious conservative, as one where the only thing that belonged to you were the few cubic centimetres inside your skull (as Orwell had put it about his dystopian society). As of April 2011, there has even arisen a right-leaning news network in Canada – Sun TV News.
It would be unfortunate, in this author's opinion, if Harper surrendered over to his "moderate", "pragmatic" side. There are in fact multifarious left-leaning infrastructures in Canada (such as most of the mass media, and government bureaucracies; the highly politicized judiciary which some critics have called "the Court Party"; nearly all of the academy and mass-education system; nearly all of the so-called cultural industries) whose combined resources outweigh those that could be called right-leaning, by astronomical factors. Ironically, much of these left-leaning infrastructures, most notably the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), are funded by the taxpayer. High time for change in that regard!
Indeed, the centre-right government in the federal Parliament could be seen as virtually the only truly salient vehicle of expression for conservatives and conservatism in Canada. Keeping this in mind, Prime Minister Harper, in this author's opinion, should consciously strive towards a highly activist, transformational style of government. Tremendous amounts of energy are required to try to initiate what an earlier prominent critic (Ken McDonald) had called the necessary process of "recovery" from "the Trudeau revolution".
Insofar as Harper tries to blithely ignore the dynamic of ferocious left-liberal opposition to him and his party – which is likely to rise to crescendo after crescendo, no matter what he actually does -- he will likely fail in a fashion similar to Mulroney.
For long decades since the 1960s, left-liberals in Canada have been carrying out programs of sustained, total, thoroughgoing, radical transformation of the Canadian polity, society, and culture – smashing nearly everything and stomping without compunction on one tradition after another. Because of what amounted to Mulroney's diversion of two huge majorities, the democratically necessary alternation between left and right has not really emphatically occurred – until now.
Harper's Conservative majority, under a leader who may himself be a visceral conservative, is probably the last chance for Canada to at least temper some of the worst excesses of the so-called "Trudeaupia" that has increasingly enveloped us.
It could be concluded that Stephen Harper's winning of a federal parliamentary majority is, indeed, only the beginning of the real struggle he will face.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.
For the historical background of Canadian federal elections, see "The longstanding Liberal hegemony in Canada – and the challenges to it." (April 18-24, 2011)