Canada's election

The Canadian election result is not as surprising as it seems. Although the Liberal Party has dominated Canadian politics for decades, Canada has been swinging to the right for years. The Liberal Party's grip on power, and even on existence is precarious. Its strength is in just two of Canada's two provinces: Ontario and Quebec. Granted, Ontario and Quebec are much the largest provinces, but in Ontario the Conservative Party is a powerful rival as is the Bloc Quebecois in Quebec. If Quebec were ever to leave Canada, the Conservative Party would dominate the remaining nine provinces.

But how can I justify the assertion that Canada has been swinging to the right for years when the Conservative government of the 80s was wiped out in the 90s, and left with only two seats in Parliament? The answer is that a huge swing to the right - one of the largest in a mature democracy - led to the election of a more leftwing government. Such are the vagaries of the first past the post electoral system!

The 1993 election started with the two main parties - the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives (PC) - running about even in the polls. A few weeks later PC support had fallen in half, with their votes swinging mostly to the more conservative Reform Party. Liberal support was slightly up, mostly at the more leftwing NDP. The result was that the Progressive Conservatives were left with only two seats and the Liberals took power.

After much rivalry and on-again-off-again negotiations the Progressive Conservatives and the Reform Party (later called The Alliance) finally merged as the Conservative Party of Canada, and this year swept to a strong lead over the Liberals. Finally the rightwing plurality has taken power.

The Conservative heartland is in the West, and resents the endless concessions ot French speakers in Quebec. There is a real chance that after several failed attempts, Quebec will finally vote to leave Canada. That would leave a permanent leftwing majority in Quebec and rightwing dominance of Canada.

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