Election aftermath and the defeat of Ignatieff and Duceppe

The May 2 federal election gave Canadians an important opportunity to decide the future representation of their country. With a Conservative majority government officially in our future, The Cord asked political science associate professor Barry Kay to provide some perspective on what exactly went wrong for Michael Ignatieff and Gilles Duceppe on Monday night and the future of the Liberals and Bloc Quebecois.

A loss like this means different things for each party, Kay explained. “I think the Bloc has outlived its usefulness, and after having sat in parliament for 20 years as a separatist party, it’s not making sense and that’s why Quebec has deserted it.” The Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe stepped down after losing in his own riding Monday night, defeated by a large margin by NDP candidate Hélène Laverdière.

“Federally, I just don’t think the Bloc is relative anymore, and that decision was made by Quebecers who deserved it in droves,” Kay said, adding that the Bloc lost its relevance long ago due to the core view of separatism that alienated them from the other parties.

“Quebecers appreciate that the time had come to try something else. The irrelevance of the Bloc to political change, after 20 years some have suggested that it was a long time coming,” Kay elaborated, as the movement was initially meant to be short term.”Quebec would be out, and that would be the end of it. 20 years later, it just became a sinecure for separatist politicians.”

The Liberals were seen as a failure on a large scale, Kay explained that the failure had more specific factors. “[It was a result of] the wrong leader, the wrong message, [just] not an effective campaign. Anybody who goes down to 18 per cent for a national party is just a failure. There’s no question about it—Michael Ignatieff was not an appropriate person to lead the party.”

Kay continued that party leader Ignatieff was the issue, not a matter of platform or campaign technique, stating, “The problem with the Liberals is that Michael Ignatieff did not catch on.”

“Whether it was that he wasn’t seen as ‘genuine’ or whether he was too elitist; the message that he provided was rejected widely by people who would have otherwise voted Liberal,” suggested Kay.

“In 2008 the Liberals were at 26 per cent or thereabouts, and that was the lowest performance in the history of the Liberal party. I couldn’t imagine they could do any worse, and in fact they did much worse,” said Kay, reiterating that in losing nearly a third of that vote was a reflection of the popular rejection of Ignatieff.

The Liberals have announced there will be a leadership race this fall. Kay concluded that the Liberal Party will be around for a long time to come. “I think they’re going to have to have a serious re-think, in particular as to who their next leader is going to be, but the Liberals are not going to disappear in Canadian politics.”