The votes have been counted, the results are in, and the analysis begins. Before the morning papers start screaming out their opinions, here are a few thoughts to leave the evening:
Liberals: The nominal winner, Paul Martin, managed to hang onto a plurality, pulling ahead of expectations in the final days of the campaign and making a stronger showing than many people thought. He’ll keep his job. But he also lost his majority, several cabinet ministers, and a whole lot of seats. He also lost his ability to move his party rightward and bring in fiscal reforms, now that he will have to deal with the NDP. He probably has mixed feelings tonight.
Conservatives: Harper’s campaign was the biggest disappointment of the night for his supporters, and his opponents are breathing a sigh of relief. Despite peaking numbers and some crazy-talk about a Tory majority, Harper will be relegated to official opposition status yet again. Despite picking up a few seats, he’s the big loser of this election, no question.
Bloc Quebecois: Duceppe’s virtual sweep of Quebec was a big victory for Duceppe, as he brought his party to levels not seen since the Bouchard days. Predictably, he’s now claiming that this was a vote for sovereignty, and it looks like we might be facing the prospect of another referendum here in Quebec. On the other hand, Duceppe has to be at least a little disappointed that his party will not be holding the balance of power in Parliament.
NDP: Layton and his ragtag bunch of lefties are the night’s big winners. Despite getting the least number of seats of the big 4 parties, and only 15% of the popular vote, it is the NDP that will be setting the agenda in Parliament with this minority government. They will hold the balance of power, and Paul Martin will be forced to make all kinds of concessions to them in order to govern. Layton’s camp is ecstatic tonight.
Overall: In a way, this was the worst possible result. The Liberals had an opportunity to win a majority and move the party closer to the center. Instead, they will be forced to deal with the NDP. In a way, I would have almost preferred a Conservative minority, because at least then the government would’ve been powerless to do anything, propped up by the Liberals only long enough for them to regain their popularity, and then soundly defeated in an election that would restore a Liberal majority. Now, instead of more centrist ideas getting respect, we will be hearing about all of the NDP’s nutty policies getting attention. Tomorrow’s Canada is worse off than yesterday’s, and that says a lot.
So I will head off to sleep, feeling a mixture of relief and disappointment. And then I will remind myself that none of this really matters all that much anyway.