Elxn42: Death knell for an old way of doing politics

Justin Trudeau’s win has huge implications

This is my third opinion piece on the 42nd Canadian federal election and I’ve got to say, I’m pleased with how my predictions from last December and May have panned out.

I told the NDP to swing left to mobilize progressive voters, and when they swung to the centre instead they lost the momentum they had developed in May’s Alberta election.

I told the Conservatives to stay calm, and when they got excited with issues like the niqab and barbaric cultural practices the world shamed us in embarrassment and progressives united under a surprisingly resistant Justin Trudeau.

I told the Liberals to not screw up and not freak out and their passionate progressive approach resonated with voters to the point where for the first time in Canadian history, the third-place party from the previous election has formed a majority government.

This 11-week campaign was absolutely grueling at times, but I think it may have been the best national campaign in Canadian history.

At different points in the campaign, all three leaders were in first, second and third place in the polls and their messages informed a debate on both substantive issues and the politics of values and personality.

Like many Canadians, I went into this election not knowing who I was going to vote for and coming out of it, I am both proud of the decision I made and proud of the people around me who chose differently.

This election was not fought on one issue, it was fought on many different and competing priorities.

Stephen Harper defended his role in the current shape of the Canadian economy, rightfully putting the choice for voters concerned with tax policy that the Conservatives were the only choice people wanting no tax increases.

He also offered a vision for Canadian leadership in the world that neither Thomas Mulcair nor Justin Trudeau could find a good response to.

And on the issue of the niqab he found an issue that resonated with, if polls are to be believed, a large majority of Canadians.

Stephen Harper played to his base, and tried to play to those outside of his base yet his poll numbers never got much above 35 per cent.

This is in part because Mulcair put forward a vision for a fiscally responsible but socially progressive Canada.

While it would turn out to be his downfall, he did not shy away from his critics on issues like the Senate, the niqab and balanced budgets. But his poll numbers started falling in mid-September and they never recovered.

Trudeau was the ultimate winner of this election, and it was because he built a tent that pulled together Canadians looking for change with various different priorities.

Half of his support was already sold on his promises of electoral reform and his vision for a new way of doing politics.

Some old school Keynesian Liberals came back to the party when he promised infrastructure investment and deficit spending, some democratic socialists joined up with his talk of using taxes to better redistribute wealth.

And finally some people of all political stripes saw in him the politics of hope that they saw in Barack Obama’s presidential run in 2008 and Jack Layton’s campaign in 2011.

Trudeau and his team crafted a vision that understood how diverse Canada is as a country, and the 11-week campaign let him prove that he is in fact ready to be prime minister. It was a feat no one, not even Justin Trudeau himself expected, and yet here we are.

The question now is where do we go from here?

With this result the 42nd Canadian election will likely be the last decided by the first-past-the-post system.

Mulcair is going to stay on as leader of the NDP, but for how long we don’t know. The progressive vote in Canada is still divided, and this election has not resolved the deeper issues of what it means to be a Liberal or a New Democrat, especially in a more proportional system.

Stephen Harper’s resignation was swift and the Conservative Party is going to be in a chaotic struggle for its heart between the progressive conservatives and the social conservatives that both felt underserved by Stephen Harper’s leadership.

2015 is less the first election for a new Canada and more the death knell for a way of doing politics that Canadians are tired of.

If a new system of voting is implemented, the parties and all their supporters will be taking their first steps into uncharted territory.

The future is bright for new methods of engagement in Canadian politics.

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