A month ago it seemed like this election was going to be boring and churn out exactly the same results as the last few elections had. Then a few things happened.
First: Rick Mercer’s call to action got student involved and vote mobs sprang up at campuses all over Canada. This movement was exciting then exams hit and the term ended. Students went back to home towns and started jobs and internships. The feeling was gone because we weren’t on campus anymore. The impact of these movements remains uncertain. Students and young people definitely seemed engaged and excited but I haven’t seen any statistics to prove that they turned up.
Second: My Facebook feed and Tumblr dashboard were flooded with ABC memes, videos and the like. People were upset with Harper and they were getting creative about it. Margaret Atwood wrote about vaccum salesmen, Canadian journalists complained that questions hadn’t been shut out and a bunch of scruffy hipster types told us about all the shit that Harper had done.
There were also less partisan sites like Vintage Voter and Happy Jack — which is NDP but just has pictures of Jack Layton being happy.
Third: The Globe and Mail released a poll that turned Canadian politics on it’s head. The NDP were in second place and the Conservatives were 25 shy of a majority. The Liberals were drowning but still keeping their head above water and the Bloc were in trouble. There were other conflicting polls but no one really saw the end coming.
Election day: Election day brought about surprises and firsts. The Liberals and Bloc lost their leaders and all of their support. The NDP are the official opposition and Layton has become a star of Canadian politics — although his support in Quebec may not be around next election. Harper got the majority he has been craving. I can say I was a little disappointed with the election results.
Iggy may have been a less than inspiring Liberal leader but performed well at townhalls. His tour of Canadian universities showed that he had an understanding of the issues and viable solutions to Canada’s problems. He couldn’t create a soundbite to save his life and I still can’t name a major campaign promise he had.
His biggest problem is that he let the Conservatives define him. Attack ads became his persona and he didn’t have enough charisma to deflect the naysayers.
All the campaigns were generally boring. None of the ads did anything original or creative. Few parties had positive ads saying why we should vote for them. The NDP generated the most compelling images of the campaign and were rewarded for their creativity.
Parties overlooked the power of creativity to make their message stand out. Hills covered in identical election signs have little impact on voters.
The Conservatives won because of a divided left and because of Iggy’s poor performance. Which leaves questions about the future of the liberal party, the potential for a united left and electoral reform.
The liberals lost almost their entire caucus and have just a handful of leadership hopefuls. This is a bad time to be a Liberal leader. The party is in crisis and will be financially strapped soon.
The NDP have a chance to prove themselves. The Liberals did a terrible job as official opposition. They had lots of material to work with and did very little. Hopefully Layton will do better.
The results were a surprise and a new era in Canadian politics has begun. It will hold many surprises but it is safe to say that there is not enough room for two left wing parties in Canada’s first past the post system. If the left remains divided vote splitting will continue and Conservatives will slip through the middle again next time.