The implications of last night’s election are by now a series un-knowable knows and hopeless speculations. I am going to make some comments based on a mix of the two.
The Conservative majority is huge. In the context of a minority government the Conservatives have already shown mass contempt for parliament, its traditions and contempt for agencies such as the PBO and Stats Canada which attempt to provide solid data and reasonably neutral analysis of that data. A majority has serious implications right down to committees. This is likely to be a very opaque and vindictive government full of hubris and the power to act on all those instincts. A hint of things to come was already in the air when one of the Conservatives
who actually managed to hold their seat in Quebec proudly smiled and said, to translate and paraphrase: “Quebec will be shut out of power for the next 4 plus years.” That is a very odd position to be taking for a supposedly federalist party. The watch phrase of this government is likely therefore to be: “reward your friends and punish your enemies.” And the enemy is fully sixty percent of the Canadian electorate.
The left-turn is being overdone. As I have already commented on, today’s NDP is not really left-wing. By any sober account the NDP is middle of the road and philosophically reform liberal in their ideological outlook. For the NDP the challenge going forward is huge. The English Canadian contingent of the NDP is more doggedly centrist then their francophone (and a majority of the caucus now) colleagues. So while the centrist strategists will declare victory and attempt to further alienate their left as they look towards mopping up the remnants of the Liberal party the Quebec caucus is likely to push in the other direction. Any talk of a merger with the Liberals is dead. I can’t see the Quebec wing having any interest in it. It was already a tough sell before last night’s results.
On the subject of Sovereignty is where my wild speculation comes into to play. Here it is for what it is worth. I do not think last night marks the end of the sovereignty movement in Quebec. As I have commented before, I think a conservative majority sets the stage for a renewal in the sovereigntist forces. Having thrown their lot in with a progressive federalist party many soft nationalist are going to get a harsh schooling on just how little the official opposition matters in terms of concrete policy. Over time this is going to fuel a sense of alienation and the sense that federalism is unworkable. Pauline Marois and the PQ are likely to be the direct benefactors of last night’s election. Expect a PQ majority in the near future. And this brings us full circle beck to the subject of a Conservative majority and hubris. If as the Conservatives have now proven that they do not need Quebec to win (which is a mistake) they are likely to be exceedingly intransigent vis-à-vis Quebec. This is of course the perfect storm to precipitate a referendum
Much of course depends on the economy and whether or not Harper can get outside his bunker long enough to think clearly. If the economy remains mediocre and Harper retains an essentially vindictive posture then a country that has been taken once again to the brink of break-up with a lack-lustre economy could very well set the stage for the next federal election.