Election 2011

I’m no political pundit, but a few observations from the sideline:

  • Attack Ads and Negative Politics. Frankly who isn’t sick of this? I’d say the Conservatives have been more effective in their attack ads, but certainly don’t have a monopoly on them. The “Contempt for Canadians” ads (Liberal depiction of Harper) are about as blatant and personal as any of the Conservative ads. If only we as constituents would reward those that would run a campaign exclusively on the issues… we have only ourselves to blame. The campaign managers are simply exploiting a tactic that works. And seems to work well.
  • Liberal Meltdown. It seems that the Liberal meltdown is not an issue of vote splitting. If you look at the Liberal seats lost this past election, more than half of them went to the Tories. That isn’t Leftist vote splitting… that is moderate “small L” liberals sending a message. It seems to a lot of people that the strategy the Liberals employed was to cover as much of the centre-left as possible by matching NDP policy (except for Afghanistan) so as to minimise the loss to the NDP. Unfortunately this played well for Jack Layton, clearly a strong leader and communicator, while Michael Ignatieff was considered a “me too” candidate”.
  • The “Orange Wave”. Again, the NDP’s success is almost exclusively in defeating the Bloc in Quebec. The challenge for Layton will be to be an effective Opposition Leader with a National/broad focus, while maintaining his (now new) political base in Quebec.
  • Increased Voter Turnout. So a 2.6% nominal increase increase in voter turnout isn’t something to celebrate over, but it is in fact about a 4.5% increase from the 58.8% levels of only a few years ago.
  • Increased Youth Participation. From personal observation I’ve seen more youth under the age of 20 engaged and participating in this election than I ever have. Perhaps this is an indication that we could “safely” lower the voting age to 16, knowing that those that DO exercise their right to vote, will likely not take that right for granted … besides, we only have 2 in every 3 people OVER 16 voting anyway!
  • Social Media. I don’t think any of the Canadian political parties took a page from the Barack Obama social media playbook… they should have. There were a few examples of guerrilla tactics (e.g. http://www.ShitHarperDid.ca), but by-and-large there was a wasted opportunity to have a consolidated, structured and focused engagement of the “digital demographic” leveraging younger people… by any party.
  • Quebec Sovereignty. It doesn’t seem that the Quebec Sovereignty issue is dead. The Parti Quebecois’ main platform is effective sovereignty, but this election seemed to be a resounding rejection of the Bloc’s track record, strategy and/or effectiveness to date. To be clear, the “Orange Wave” of NDP support in Quebec has more to do with an NDP platform that resonated the best of the three national parties. Maybe the Quebecers are tired of being represented by a regional party?
  • Only 40% of Popular Vote Makes a Majority!? Oh my! The number of comments on this is ridiculous. This is a “first past the post” parliamentary system… the chance of an absolute majority is almost impossible. Those on “the left” need to look at Cretien’s majority governments … each around 40% of the popular vote. I personally would love to see a Single Transferable Vote system in place, but unfortunately it seems to be too confusing for most to fully understand (and it would NEVER be embraced by the political parties).
  • The Green Party. Wow … Elizabeth May. More than a 7000 vote victory over a cabinet minister? That is deserving of praise and it will be good for a “green voice” (which in my estimation is consistent with most Canadians viewpoint) in Parliament.

All that said, congratulations to Jack Layton, I expect you and your party will form a very effective Official Opposition (albeit a rookie caucus); farewell to Michael Ignatieff, you’re gracious in defeat and I don’t think you own 100% of the failure … not by a long shot; and congratulations to Elizabeth May… I personally hope that they gain credibility and voice, though admittedly I didn’t (and won’t likely) vote for them for practical reason (I will however contribute to the Green Party).

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