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ANDERSON: Election post mortem

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October 27, 2015 - 8:15 AM

Well, now the election is over and it's time to look at the dynamics involved.

First, let's put the results in perspective, because I've heard the term "collapse" applied to the Conservative Party's (CPC) loss, and that's just plain silly. In point of fact the Conservatives emerged from this election with approximately the same number of seats as the national NDP's best showing ever in 2011, and roughly three times the number of seats the Liberal Party survived with in the same election. Further, in this election the Liberals took 39.5% of the popular vote to the CPC's 32%...hardly a vast statistical chasm.

Something far closer to a collapse took place in 2011, when the Liberals barely managed to hang on to 34 seats with a little under 20% of the popular vote, or 1993 when the Progressive Conservatives under Brian Mulroney were reduced from 169 to two seats...a drubbing from which the party never recovered. If there is a collapse in 2015, it is the collapse of the NDP from the heights of Official Opposition to numbers more resembling its traditional ankle-biting status on the left fringe of Canadian political culture. This election, in 2015, this was supposed to be the NDP's big chance and now it's gone, if not forever at least for a very long time.

The Conservatives took 5.6 million votes in 2015, which is a small decrease from 2011, but more votes than they received in either 2008 or 2006. A high turnout of new and hitherto non-voters put the Liberals over the top, which may bode well for them in 2019 - or ill - depending on the degree of long term engagement and loyalty of those voters. Will they show up in 2019 to defend their choice again or was this a one time surge? Whatever the merits of increased voter turnout, history suggests the latter.

But whatever happens in the future, nothing in this election suggests a Conservative "collapse."

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So what happened?  The NDP, not surprisingly, tried to make a silk purse out of a thorough drubbing by announcing that the Conservative loss was due to Canadians rejecting the "the politics of fear." A subset of the NDP argument is that the niqab issue "backfired" and drove Quebec voters into the arms of Justin Trudeau.

The Liberal narrative is that it had less to do with the Conservatives than the brilliance of the Liberal strategy. According to this construct, the Liberals cleverly positioned themselves as the least horrible choice which, for all its faint self-praise, is the best narrative they can come up with at short notice.

The Globe and Mail expended a pail or two of ink explaining that the loss was due to turmoil within the Tory campaign at the national level due to infighting and the unchecked power of the campaign director, Jenni Byrne.

Columnist Harry Khachatrian blames the loss on poor branding or, to be precise, the poor job the Conservatives did on branding the Liberals.

John Robson believes the Conservatives lost because they weren't conservative enough, while Infonews.ca editor and political scientist Wolf Depner, claim it's because they were too conservative. And finally, Andrew Coyne, in a long and uncharacteristically vituperative rant, castigates the Conservatives for not being the right kind of conservatives.

Others simply claim the Conservative mandate had passed its "best before" date and lost because, well, just because.

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There may be a little truth to most, but by no means all, of these memes. By almost all accounts most of the people who voted for a party other than the CPC did so for negative reasons; not because they liked the other party, but rather because they considered the party they voted for to be the lesser of available evils. The question is why?

Here's a hint: did you notice any "Stop Conservatives" stickers? Neither did I.

To be continued...

— Scott Anderson is a Vernon City Councillor, freelance writer, commissioned officer in the Canadian Forces Reserves and a bunch of other stuff. His academic background is in International Relations, Strategic Studies, Philosophy, and poking progressives with rhetorical sticks until they explode.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
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