Majority Government without Majority Support of Canadians
A big weakness of our electoral system reared its head last night as the Conservative Party formed their first majority government since 1988, but did not earn the majority support of Canadians. Prime Minister Stephen Harper‘s Party increased their seat count in the House of Commons to 167 while only receiving the support of roughly 40% of Canadian voters, creating a situation somewhat reminiscent of the Liberal Party victories of the 1990s.
In Alberta, the Conservatives elected 27 of 28 MPs while only receiving support of 66.8% of voters province-wide.
Back to two and a half
There are all sorts of predictions and speculative analysis that could be made about what the new dynamic means for Alberta. With the Bloc Quebecois decimated and the Liberal Party collapsed into third-party status, Canada has unexpectedly returned to a two [and a half?] party system similar to what existed before the 1993 election. It will be interesting to watch how this new old dynamic manifests itself and whether the Official Opposition NDP will be able to present a strong alternative to the probable Conservatives moves towards privatization of governments services and health care. It will also be interesting to watch whether the Liberals can recover from such a devastating electoral blow.
What could the new Parliament mean for Alberta?
With a Conservative majority government, Alberta will have a strong supporter of oil sands development in Ottawa, but it will also have a more vocal critic in the new and large NDP Official Opposition and Green Party leader Elizabeth May, who was elected in Sanich-Gulf Islands.
While visiting Alberta during the campaign, NDP leader Jack Layton only briefly mentioned his party’s position on the oil sands, which is quickly replacing the old Central Canadian industrial base as Canada’s economic engine. As Official Opposition lead with a large contingent of MPs from Quebec, Mr. Layton may feel stronger license to criticize the development of the oil sands, which appears to be a popular stance in Central and Eastern Canada.
Early in the election campaign, provincial Liberal leader David Swann and NDP leader Brian Mason were reportedly distancing themselves from their federal counterparts on this issue and Premier Ed Stelmach and Wildrose leader Danielle Smith weighed in during the election campaign.
As NDP Environment Critic in the last Parliament, Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MP Linda Duncan could find herself placed front and centre of any upcoming Parliamentary debate on the future of Alberta’s oil sands.