Tuesday Morning

Canada had it’s national elections yesterday, and the picture this morning is near identical to the one we had yesterday. The pragmatic in all of us wonders what was the point of this if nothing changed, we certainly could have spent the projected $600m on something else. And there are still 800,000 mail in votes that need to be tabulated, so some shifts are expected.

The results themselves are generally in line with polls, which did undergo some minor swings in this 30-odd day period (that it was short was great!). There were a few hurdles for everyone in this battle, both in the concepts/promises and in the track history.

We have a first past the post (FPTP) electoral system here, so strategic voting makes a big difference. People will vote against someone rather than for, just to avoid splitting the vote. Long story here, but electoral reform is a sensitive subject which we have not yet solved.

The party in power is lead by someone who has a truckload of charisma, there is no denying it. He’s also made some horribly poor ethical decisions, or perhaps they seem anti-ethical when he says he wants to push for transparency and equality. And yet, his platform is very progressive, effectively eating into the platforms of the smaller left-leaning parties. Health care, climate change, national day care, gun control (for automatic weapons) are all part of the platform.

The opposition part is right leaning, with a relatively new leader. He’s a good speaker, but the least charismatic of the bunch. Looks matter in politics, and a old (still younger than the PM!) balding white guy doesn’t resonate so much with everyone. The platform presented was much more center than the last ones, with clear acknowledgement of abortion rights, LGBTQ+ support, and some climate change support. It still had traditional right side ticks, like lower taxes, more jobs, more choices for people. He was pro-choice on vaccine support, and at the provincial level last week, the 2 right-leaning provinces declared emergencies and support for vaccine passports. The problem here is not the leader, the problem is the party.

We then get into the 3rd party, which was traditionally the most left-leaning. The party in power has eaten into their base, so they opted to go farther left, into the ‘this can’t actually work’ space. They have a very charismatic leader, but their platform is utopian in a country that is traditionally financially conservative. When pressed as to how they would pay for all this, the answer was a simple sound bite ‘we will increase taxes on the rich’. While a good soundbite, there was no answer to the follow-up question ‘how do you keep the rich people in the country?’ This party suffered the most from this election, in that they are not viewed as a viable alternative across the country, and strategic voting moved towards the party in power instead. If we were a proportional-representation system, then they would absolutely be a viable strategic choice.

The last 3 parties are somewhat fringe. One is entirely focused on climate change, and has some serious leadership challenges over the summer. They lack any coherent platform. Another only exists in the province of Quebec, meant to represent their population’s distinct needs. This party is much more aligned to the right, but the national right-leaning party is headquartered in a province that dislikes Quebec and is anglophone – really fascinating dynamics here. And the last party is a bunch of white nationalist imbeciles, with the thought power of a bucket of rusty bolts. They are an extreme right-wing party and their sole part of this election was pushing anti-vax conspiracy theories. They took ~5% of the national vote, which was enough to “steal” some wins from the opposition party.

Lessons Learned

Each party is going to have to do some soul searching after this election, it’s a rare event that the pre/post results are so close.

  • Even with people not wanting an election and a leader that has more than enough bad decisions, they still came away with a “win”. This is the 2nd election in a row with this result…
  • It seems fairly clear that Canadians have accepted that a progressive agenda is here for the foreseeable future and are willing to absolve some poor decisions in that goal
  • There is no new mandate. Nothing promised here was “new” in the big sense. Which is sort of good in that there’s shift in government priorities in the middle of a pandemic.
  • It would appear on the surface, that this election was a quasi-referendum on the pandemic response (as we had during the 2008 economic crisis). The way the prior government handled it vs the style of the opposition was quite the contrast
  • This appeared to be a party-based election rather than a leader-based one, which is a slight shift from the prior one. Perhaps this is due to the shorter time frames and very weird debate format. Ideally this grounds our PM on the impact of his personality.
  • There is a growing regional political divide, as well as an urban/rural one. The inability for provinces and federal parties to “get along” is more striking.
  • That the right still has a significant “fringe” vote and voice that “scares” moderates. (There was a giant unification of the right 20 years ago, there’s the potential of a split)
  • This is still a minority government, which typically have a 2 year lifespan. And we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. This is a tentative endorsement of the party in power, with some checks and balances.

I look forward to see how the various parties adjust their platforms and messages, in particular as to how the provinces adjust.

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