The polls are pointing to another Conservative minority – but that will very rapidly translate to an NDP minority or NDP/Liberal coalition. (All this assumes that current polls are roughly accurate. And as a disclaimer, I admit that I am in favour of an NDP-led government this election.)
Even if the Conservatives manage a minority, they will be pulled down by the NDP; they really don’t have a choice. It’s not some big conspiracy; if the Conservatives did not have the confidence of the other parties before the election, they certainly won’t have it now. Put another way, the NDP and Liberals voted non-confidence in the Harper Government about 30 days ago, and so they cannot support that same government now without losing tremendous credibility.
Mr. Harper may get a week or so, but will be shot down at the first opportunity. It may be a defeated budget (budgets are always confidence motions), or the NDP and Liberals may simply put forward another motion of non-confidence.
Following that, Jack Layton will approach the Governor General and ask to form a government. The Liberals will certainly agree to support them, as Mr Ignatieff will be in the process of stepping down as leader and the party will need time to re-rebuild after two disastrous elections. The first one they blamed on Stephane Dion; this election shows that the problem was not Dion, but the Liberals themselves. They failed to inspire Canadians with any sort of vision and many Canadians still don’t trust them.
What will Mr. Layton and the NDP do once in power? This, I admit, is an open question. I suspect that they will fairly quickly reverse some of the Harper Government’s less popular decisions, like the no-bid fighter jet purchase, reinstate the long-form census, and so on.
I hope he will also publicly unmuzzle Canadian government scientists; even if the NDP do not, I suspect that the civil service will feel free to speak out under a worker-friendly NDP government. This is good news for truth and government transparency, and certainly for getting some action on climate change.
The NDP has also committed to redirecting tar mining subsidies to renewable energy, and they would be wise to make this a priority. If Jean Chretien had done this the day he signed Kyoto, many thousands of ‘green’ jobs would have been created in the prairies by now and Canada would be a world leader in renewable energy.
There will be a lot of people nervous about an NDP government; they are either CEOs of major corporations or they are average folks who bought the line about the NDP being spendthrifts.This is not true; the NDP has done decently governing the provinces they have led, for example. It would be a smart move for Mr. Layton to have several ‘fireside chats’ to explain to people what his government is planning and why. It will settle nerves and reduce resistance to change.
Because, in reality, an NDP government will change Canada – I think for the better. In many ways, it will be a return to values so many of us hold dear, from peacekeeping to a sound public health system. We will be less influenced by the United States and instead will align more with European/Nordic values.
This latter is very good for Canada, as the United States is in economic and moral decline while over the pond there are several examples of sound economies embracing the future: Germany, Norway, Denmark, and others are aggressively moving to renewable energy, net-zero housing, walkable cities, and much more. All of this is vital in a world where the price of oil keeps going up – along with concerns about climate change.
The reason that the Harperites are so terrified of an NDP-led government is this very reason. The last time the NDP had a significant influence, we got universal health care, the Canada Pension Plan, the 40-hour work week, and a whole lot more. Another stint at the wheel by the NDP could forever sink Conservative dreams of following the U.S. in every possible way, from participation in various wars of occupation to mandatory imprisonment for minor transgressions to slashing the social safety net to ribbons.
The Cons are petrified that Canadians will start to take a serious look at countries like Germany, Denmark, and Norway, and then wonder why we can’t have six week vacations, union members on the Boards of Directors of corporations, and a solid resource and manufacturing economy.